I printed up the above question, in all capital letters in the largest font that would fit on a single 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper, and I posted it on our bulletin board before we signed up our first client.
This ugly print up asks a question that we try to ask ourselves before we make decisions that might impact our customers, or our future customers. This might sound more altruistic than capitalistic, but I assure you that we started SnapGrow with the goal of building a profitable and successful business. I believe that using the question - Is this in the best interest of the customer? - as the primary filter for decision making at SnapGrow will help us accomplish our goal for 2 reasons:
1) It Makes Decisions Easier
Decision making in startups is hard. We don't have the benefit of well-established jobs, with specific responsibilities, and minimum deliverables to hold ourselves to. We're all experienced professionals, but we are figuring some things out as we go along. Those who have started companies are likely familiar with this predicament. It is tremendously helpful to have this go-to question to ask ourselves when we're faced with important decisions.
Example A: Locking our customers into long-term contracts would help us project cash flow more accurately, but would that be in the best interest of the customer? No. So we structured everything from the amount of work required to launch campaigns to the wording of customer agreements around the idea that we wouldn't require our customers to commit to more than one month at a time. Choosing term-length was a potentially tough decision and we could have filled up many pages listing pros & cons and held several meetings discussing it at length before semi-confidently moving forward. Instead, we asked our big question, and the decision was made for us pretty much instantly.
Example B: Keeping all user names and passwords for accounts we create on behalf of our Essential Optimization clients might prevent some customers from canceling, but would doing so be in the best interest of the customer? No. So we never even considered going live with this offering without committing to provide user names and passwords for customers who decide to quit or pause Essential Optimization, so they could take over managing profiles we created on their own.
I could cite many other examples of how this go-to question eases decision making at SnapGrow, but I'd like to move onto the other reason we ask ourselves this question before making important decisions:
2) We Believe It Will Make Us Money
Saving time can be quite profitable in a startup, but the time saving benefits were addressed amply in reason #1. What I'm talking about is the value of good will. I'm referring to staying on good terms with all customers - past & present. Asking ourselves our go-to question means that seasonal businesses won't resent us for being forced to pay for and keep LeadLoop live during off-seasons in order to get their phone to ring during peak seasons. Relying on this question means that our satisfied clients will feel comfortable recommending us because they know we don't lock people into lengthy agreements, or make it difficult for people to take over managing their internet presence without us should they decide to cancel our services.
Simply put, building SnapGrow around what's in the best interest of our customers, rather than what's in the best short-term interest of our bottom line, makes us the opposite of most options available to small and mid-sized companies looking to generate more business from the internet. If you've ever purchased internet marketing from a phone book company, a large telco, or a churn-and-burn, hard-closing internet marketing company, you don't need me to elaborate. Sticking to our guiding question ensures that we won't forget our value system, and sticking to our value system will make us money in the long-term while making our clients happy they chose to do business with SnapGrow.