Hopefully, you’ve missed the screed enough over the last couple of days to wonder why I haven’t posted. I’m on the first full day of my annual golf trip with my happy band of a dozen brothers from various other mothers. I’m reposting something inspired by this group way back in 2009. A few things have changed – the social member doesn’t take the trip anymore (I can see how he might have got sick of the golf stories) and none of us hit the ball as far as we used to, but the love we have for one another has grown, as has the importance of what I wrote about in the post. The original was called The BOA, and what I wrote then I believe even more now. Enjoy.
I leave tomorrow morning on an annual trip I take to Myrtle Beach. In theory, it’s a golf outing but it’s more of a 5 day stay in a rest home getting my batteries recharged. 13 of us go, 12 of whom play golf. The other guy is a “social member” – most golf clubs have them – who enjoys the non-golf activities – cards, movies, and general guy banter. Like “Fight Club“, the first rule is we don’t really talk about it. However, what I can talk about that these are the guys whom I trust, to whom I can turn for advice, and who are honest – often brutally so – with me about everything from my golf game to my attitude. For all of the social networking tools available out there, nothing beats the face to face contact with this group for me. There is a business lesson in this as well.
Every businessperson needs a “board of advisors” for themselves, not their business. While your significant other is a great start, like a business BOA, you need multiple diverse points of view. My group has a few lawyers, an accountant, a few “money” guys, a restaurateur, another digital media expert – you get the idea. Ideally, these are people who can get past how you say things and hear what it is you’re saying. They are comfortable enough with you to know that their candor will be taken in the open, supportive spirit in which it’s offered. When their advice isn’t taken, they’re not offended and are smart enough to hold their tongues when it turns out their advice was right.
So off I go to meet with my BOA. I’ll try to keep posting over the next few days but if I don’t, please understand it’s because I’m in a Board meeting. When is your next meeting? Do you have a board to gather?
One of the most basic things we should do in business is to identify the group of people that is most likely to buy our product or service. That’s not a profound insight, I know, but because it is a “duh” moment, I wonder why more business people don’t really do it? How you define your audience is something that influences everything from marketing to product. Understanding how those customers and potential customers interact with your business is incredibly basic and yet it often goes undone.
One reason I hear for that, particularly among earlier stage businesses, is that it’s expensive. Putting aside what I’m about to tell you, it’s critical no matter the cost. While we may have self-driving cars, there are no self-operating businesses of which I’m aware. However, the cost isn’t really an issue. There is a lot of free infomration available from the government. Maybe you thought all the Census Bureau did was count us all once a decade – check out their free stuff and I’ll bet you’re surprised. Do you have analytics on your website? Google Analytics is free, at least until you become a high-traffic site (and you won’t mind paying at that point). Finally, if you’re a physical location, you can ask people to fill out surveys about basic demography. Heck, you can have an employee jot down who they see. Online questionnaires are easy to implement and also are free.
My point is this. I rail from time to time in this space about the overwhelming amounts of data we confront these days. It’s often hard to make sense of it and we often get conflicting information. That, however, is a far better outcome than having NO data. Getting to know our customers and their behavior, likes, media habits, who they are, where they are, and why they buy from us is an important part of business. It’s not optional!
Unless you’ve been off the planet for the last few days, you’re aware that Prince passed away last week. While the word “genius” is overused, it applies in his case. I hope you’ve seen some of the examples of his art – they’ve been everywhere as the tributes pour in. It’s one of those tributes I’d like to discuss today because it is instructive when it comes to business.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Before we get to that example, let me remind you that one aspect of Prince’s genius was his foresight in seeing how the internet and digital technology would disrupt the music business. This is an excellent overview of his relationship with the Internet from the Washington Post. While Price was an early adapter, appreciating how music could now be sold directly to fans without a record label, he also recognized how that very process could wipe out a revenue stream for musicians. As he put it: “Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?”
Prince recorded an unreleased song called “There’s Something I Like About Being Your Fool,” and that gets us to our business point today. One of the “tributes” to Prince came from AMC Theaters. They announced that they would play Prince’s film “Purple Rain” in their theaters this weekend to honor him. In my mind, this is the furthest thing from a tribute: it’s greed. There is no mention of AMC letting patrons see Prince’s work for free. They are charging full price. There is no mention that all of the admission proceeds will be donated to any of the numerous charities Prince quietly supported throughout his career. I might be totally off base here and AMC might be doing something honorable, but even if I am, the business point still applies.
As businesses, our motives can’t be questioned. It gets to the issue of trust, and trust is a critical currency these days. If we’re not believable, whether it’s with respect to our products, our customer service, or our alignment with our customers, we’re in deep trouble. Maybe AMC is letting people in for free or donating the proceeds but they’re being awfully loud about the film and quiet about the rest. Unlike the Prince lyric, people don’t like being your fool. Sure, show the movie, but don’t call it a way to honor anyone when you’re lining your pockets using a tragedy. I’m not that kind of fool. You?