When the Money Gets Scarce

A lot of dot-coms are getting to know what it feels like when the cash runs dry. And all are facing some tough choices.

What do you sacrifice first? Who do you fire? What planned developments do you put on the back burner? What survives and what gets shredded?

In my humble opinion, here’s what should go and what should stay.

What should go:

Anything you like, as long as it isn’t on my list of what should stay.

What should stay:

Anything involved in making your customers happy. Whatever it takes to keep their trust. To maintain the relationship. To improve their experience.

Because if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if you do have a future, you’ll depend absolutely on the relationships you have with your customers between now and then.

Here’s why:

1. Your customers define your brand.

The experiences your customers have, at every stage of interaction with your business, frame who you really are.

You’re not who you think you are. You’re not who your PR and ad agencies present you as being. You are no more and no less than what your customers perceive you to be. That is the nature of branding and doing business online.

And that’s why, regardless of whatever else suffers, be sure to maintain your customer experience at the highest level possible.

2. Your customers have a voice.

Yes, you’re slashing your promotional budget. But you’d still like to get word out about your site and see some growth in site activity.

No problem. Because your customers have voices, too. And if you give them a great experience at your site, they’ll be happy to spread the word on your behalf. Of course, it makes sense to facilitate this. Even if that means just adding a “Tell a friend” link on each page.

Better still, you may want to add a viral component that adds some value to telling friends.

But you’d better have something worth talking about. And you’d better understand that customers use “Tell a friend” links only when it amuses or interests them. They don’t do it on your behalf. They don’t give a donkey’s nostril about your funding problems.

3. Your customers will build your future.

You may think that you have the future of your company mapped out pretty clearly, but you don’t. It’s your customers who are the true architects of how and if your company will move forward.

They’ll compare their experience at your site with how they feel about every other site they visit. If they feel better about you guys than the other guys, you’re pointed in the right direction.

So how do you get a clue as to whether you’re moving in the right direction? Ask your customers. Encourage feedback, complaints, interaction. Listen. And, of course, track how visitors travel through your site. Where they arrive, what they do, from which pages they leave.

Find out what’s working and what’s not.

In conclusion:

While you’re tightening your corporate belt, drop everything except for all those things that make the customer feel good.

It’s the customer experience that is the core asset of your business.

Build it. Protect it.

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