When my sister Katherine and I launched our software company Allocadia in 2010, we had a clear vision of what marketers needed help with: tracking their spending and results and demonstrating ROI to the C-suite. Because we were bootstrapping our company’s launch, we focused on our customers from the very beginning. We were driven every day by the pressure to get customers on board, figure out what they needed to be happy, and learn from their feedback.
Many technology company founders are more comfortable working on their products than selling to customers. But your product doesn’t talk back or give you direction on what you should be doing differently. Customers do. And that’s why Katherine and I pushed ourselves to get comfortable talking (and selling!) to customers from day one.
Fast-forward five years. Allocadia has grown a lot and now serves enterprise customers around the globe. We’ve been very careful to keep our eyes and ears on those customers — after all, they’ve truly helped build this business. They’ve enabled us to grow into what we are now. Even as we’ve expanded our team, we’ve used some deliberate strategies to keep our culture customer-focused. Below are five of them.
Don’t Stray From Your Core Mission
From the beginning, our mission was to help marketers become more revenue-driven. Hundreds of customers later, that mission is exactly the same. We knew who we wanted to target (CMOs) and the problems we wanted to help them solve (analyzing marketing performance). Because we’ve kept a laser focus on those goals and listened to our customers along the way, our product has evolved to become even more in tune with what our target audience needs.
As a business leader, it’s easy to get into trouble when you change direction, start selling to different audiences and lose sight of your core vision. Collecting valuable feedback gets harder, and it takes longer to learn the important lessons you need to improve your offerings. I firmly believe that our singular focus is what has made Allocadia successful.
Build Your Product Based on Customer Feedback
All of our product features are built with our customers in mind. Every time we develop a new feature or make a change, we solicit multiple customers to help us understand the best possible use case for their businesses. These conversations enable us to learn together and work alongside our customers to build a great product.
It takes commitment to build a product that is based on customer engagement, involvement and interaction, but it’s worth the effort. If you don’t have this kind of visibility and interaction with customers, you may find yourself left with a product that fails to address the business needs of your target buyers.
Have Everyone in the Company Talk to Customers
When you’re working online all the time, it can be easy to lose touch with the human stories behind the product. Our customers are around the world, and it can be tough to connect a face to an email address and make a personal connection. And some employees don’t have a direct customer-facing role, so they rarely have a chance to hear feedback directly from customers. So, we’ve taken steps to overcome these challenges and keep every Allocadia employee in touch with customers regularly.
Once a quarter, we have a customer visit. One of our customers comes to our Vancouver office and all of our employees attend a “fireside chat,” where they can ask questions, hear about the customer’s experience as an Allocadia user, learn what’s working and what’s not, and get ideas about how we can improve. We encourage customers to share stories about how they use Allocadia to make an impact on their own businesses so that our employees can understand the impact of their work.
We also make sure our senior leaders stay plugged in to our customers. We’ve created an executive sponsor program to pair every customer with one of our executives, so our leadership team shares the responsibility of driving win-win partnerships with our customers.
Design Your Office Space With Customers in Mind
When we designed our new office space in downtown Vancouver, we wanted to send a clear message to employees every day that our customers are our priority. Our office features a wall full of customer logos that everyone walks by when they come in. We have screens around the office that display customer images and quotes. And, our custom mural wall reminds us of our core vision: helping marketing organizations transform and become more revenue-driven.
Include Customer Stories in Every Team Meeting
On Friday, we have team meetings. Every week, we put a customer story front and center on the agenda. Our sales team might share what they learned from customers at a trade show that week, or our product team might report on new feedback they’re hearing. We share every customer story we can find to drive home the reminder that customers are our number one priority.
From my perspective, you can never focus enough on your customers. The work to keep improving and responding to customer feedback never stops. As work becomes easier to do online, without making a face-to-face connection, it can be easy to forget that your customers are people. For that reason, collecting customers’ stories is more important than ever.
As CEO of Allocadia, Kristine leads the team in the accomplishing the company’s vision of helping CMOs achieve better Marketing ROI. Kristine Co-Founded Allocadia with her twin sister, Katherine Berry, after experiencing a business pain first-hand and setting out to solve it. As a marketing manager in a global marketing team, Kristine and her colleagues managed their multi-million dollar marketing budget in multiple spreadsheets spread throughout the organization. It was difficult to answer basic questions such as what their spend forecast or commit was, or to get visibility into where they were spending. Most importantly, it was virtually impossible to understand or communicate the ROI on their marketing spend. With this inspiration, Kristine and Katherine set out to build Allocadia. They built a prototype, flew down to a tradeshow, and signed their first customer. Today, Allocadia has enterprise customers including F5 Networks, Juniper Networks, StepStone and Trimble that use Allocadia to manage their marketing budgets and plans, and improve their ROI.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.