Archive of ‘Business’ category

Reshaping our cities into fluid communities embracing change

dsc00043I just came across the Oil City Aftermath. A short video on the story of a small city that became huge in oil and then fell apart as the oil companies left. I have seen the effects with my own eyes and even back in 2001 did some street photography there to document the demise when I visited my friends there.

To me, the story of Oil City is one of many towns and cities and one that will be repeated over and over in the near future. With the rise of automation in jobs and daily life, this is closer to us than we think. And we need to step up to rethink who we are and what we are as cities. I think Judith Etzel formulates it very well in this video when she says: “This is what can happen to a community if you don’t diversify, if you are not open to new ideas, if you can’t think outside the box, if you can’t be innovative.”

That is why we need to step up. We need to rethink cities as set entities, but regard them as fluid. And as water takes different routes to get somewhere, the flow of jobs, income, identity, relationships and everything that shapes a city needs to change course continually. We need to be ready for that, now and in our near future, because so much is changing. Look at retail, look at care, look at the upscaling of businesses, look at automation, at the sharing economy, at augmented and virtual reality. These are things that are going to shape our future if we don’t shape our future to incorporate these things to serve us.

Nobody wants cities to decline, retail areas to be empty and businesses to close. But it is up to us to reshape our cities into vibrant communities where we embrace change, where we work with it to improve our standards of living as a community. But we need to do that now and we need to do that continually.

Oil City Aftermath from Danny Yarnell on Vimeo.

Zeg ANWB, waarom is mijn partner niet mijn partner?

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 09.46.27Een poosje geleden begon de ANWB een actie rondom de ANWB Partnerpas. Mijn eerste gedachte was dat we eindelijk niet meer afhankelijk waren van waar de pas was, maar dat we allebei konden profiteren van de €140 die we elk jaar aan deze fijne vereniging overmaken. We zijn tenslotte ook in gemeenschap van ANWB lidmaatschap getrouwd. Of tenminste, dat dacht ik.

De week na mijn aanvraag viel onze nieuwe partnerpas op de mat. Verheugd opende ik de envelop om de pas aan mijn vrouw te geven, toen mij iets opviel. De ANWB vind mijn vrouw helemaal geen volwaardig partner. Hoewel we al 14 jaar samen gezellig de premie overmaken, ziet de ANWB mijn vrouw als een nieuw lid. Een glimmend blauwe pas staarde mij aan vanaf de brief. Overduidelijk verward door mijn gezichtsuitdrukking, leek de glans er ook een beetje af te gaan. Teleurstelling aan beide kanten. Zelfs het nummer is niet hetzelfde. Hoewel mijn vrouw en ik als een eenheid worden gezien door de staat, de kerk, de buurt, onze familie, blijkt dit voor de ANWB niet te gelden.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 09.47.59Natuurlijk klim ik dan in de telefoon, want ik wil natuurlijk dat mijn vrouw ook al een volwaardig betaler van onze premie gezien wordt. Een vriendelijke stem aan de andere kant van de telefoon legt mij uit dat het systeem alleen maar toelaat dat mijn vrouw als nieuw lid wordt ingevoerd. Vandaar de nieuwe pas. Na wat aandringen beseft zij ook dat dat eigenlijk vreemd is. Ik kan me voorstellen dat de pas alleen geldt voor de gezinsauto. Dat is voor ons overigens prima. Wat ik niet snap, is dat haar hiermee ook de mogelijkheid ontzegd wordt om te profiteren van alle voordelen die het gouden lidmaatschap ons zou brengt. Zij mag dus weer helemaal vanaf 0 beginnen en als ze naar de ANWB winkel wil, dan moet ze toch weer mijn pas meenemen. Dat vind ik toch vreemd.

ANWB, kunnen jullie nou geen beter excuus bedenken dan “het systeem kan het niet”? Natuurlijk kan ik me voorstellen dat het een hoop gedoe is om een extra persoon toe te voegen aan een lidmaatschapssysteem waarin blijkbaar elke naam een uniek nummer heeft. Dat kan wat werk opleveren. Maar zorg er dan tenminste voor dat het aantal lidmaatschapsjaren overeenkomt met de werkelijkheid. Want nu komt het over alsof mijn vrouw nooit heeft bestaan voor jullie. (Dat is duidelijk ook zo, maar dat hoeven jullie niet zo duidelijk te laten merken.)

Mocht u nou ook nadenken om een partner status te koppelen aan uw product of dienst, bedenk dan eerst even wat het partnerschap precies inhoudt. Niet alleen van uw kant, maar ook vooral vanuit het standpunt van uw klant. Daarmee voorkomt u dat het lijkt alsof u een partner op een heel ander niveau neerzet dan uw klant verwacht. Daar wordt uw klant gelukkiger van. En u uiteindelijk ook.

Update:
Kort nadat ik deze blog publiceerde, kreeg ik een reactie van de ANWB. Ze blijken er over nagedacht te hebben. Of tenminste, zij vinden van wel. Ik denk daar anders over:
Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 10.36.35

Marc Andreessen and how a VC sees 6M in seed funding

Marc-Andreessen-6M-A

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.20.46On Tuesday, Marc Andreessen tweeted an insight into how VC’s treat the amounts of money raised and the labels attached to them. His tweet said:

Cautionary note: No competent VC is actually fooled when you show up after raising $6M in seed financing and say you’re now raising an A!

Obviously he was quickly answered by lots of people offering examples of companies that raised more than 6 million dollars in their seed round. However, if you follow the conversation, I do not think that the amount raised in a seed round was his motivation to tweet about this. It was about making startup founders aware about the way VC’s look at startups. Startup founders need to be aware that VC’s will put you in their own naming of your round, regardless of what you call it yourself.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.20.46In one of his later tweets, he puts the limit for seed funding at about 3 million. Saying that if you go beyond that, it will be seen as raising an A round. And with that statement he also shows how he feels competent VC’s should look at a company that has raised beyond that 3M mark. Because even though you might knock on their doors to raise a round A, in his opinion a VC should be looking at you as raising a B. The difference being that you will be judged much harder on your progress, your product and your traction. They need to be up to B standards to be able to raise that extra cash.

To me, this also shows that startups have to be intelligent about the amount of money they are raising at which stage. Even if you have an opportunity to raise more, that might not always be beneficial. Because you might not have the insight that raising 4M will get you ready for being judged to B round standards. Which might mean that raising under 3M and be able to raise more in future rounds might be much more beneficial to your startup.

Reading up on the taxi protests has made me wonder whether any of them ever downloaded music

Though you might find this a strange title, please bear with me. Since the launch of Uber, I have been following the company with interest. I love the service. If I am somewhere where I need a taxi, I will first check if there is an Uber available. Why? Not necessarily because of the service itself, but because of the way it fits me.

I like things to be easy for me. I dislike standing in the streets of Paris at night and having to wave my arms off to get a taxi to stop, only to almost experience a case of involuntary kamikaze. Ok, granted, there are many great taxi drivers. Honest. But I like the convenience of a service that I can call wherever I am, that comes to me and that allows me to pay regardless of whether I am carrying cash. And that has changed the way I use taxi’s.

Great. But how about those protests? Are they stupid? Not really. In a way I can see their point. But then again, I cannot. After all, the world is changing. Technology has given us opportunities to do things in ways we had never thought possible 10 years ago. In 2009 I sat at a dinner with the CEO of a large newspaper who was complaining about newspaper sales going down. I asked him why he was surprised. After all, newspapers and their business models have been around since around the 12th century. It was bound to change someday. A couple of months later, I was at a table with several Swiss bankers that assured me that the world would always need banks. Naturally, I showed them that there were initiatives around that could make them completely obsolete.

Times are changing. Business models are changing and the expectations of our customers change faster than most of our businesses can. After all, the taxi licensing system cannot just be scrapped overnight. However, both the taxi drivers as well as the governments need to be prepared to consider doing just that. And I know that that is going to be hard. But creating a way to keep your business profitable against the expectations of your customers is not going to work for long. After all, how many of those artists will have benefitted from (il)legal downloading of songs? Not too long ago they only expected to be purchasing full albums at record stores. And if I may remind you, many of those have had to close. I never saw those on strike either. Not that anyone would have noticed.

The whole idea here is to move on. Yes, you are in an old profession that has cost you a large investment, but what are the earnings in the future? If the only way you can earn money is through the protection of your industry, I am sorry, but you have lost already.

Your tone of voice defines you

The tone of voice in the contact you have with your customers defines you in their minds. This is much more serious than most people think. Because their return business relies on how they feel about you. And that could very well be different from what you believe has been your attitude towards them.

As an example, I just sent an email to a vendor in the US that I have bought an item from. I thanked him for the item, but also told him that Dutch customs read the paperwork he included with the item and charged me extra duties for it. I thought it nice to inform him of this matter because I had never had that happen with his colleague vendors. So, I reckoned he might like to know. Then the return email arrives in which the vendor basically tells me that I just need to suck it up and that it is not his fault.

Granted, he is right. It is not his fault that I got charged extra and he did list that taxes and duties are my responsibility. However, it is the tone of voice of the email that makes me unhappy. By the end of the message, I was feeling as if it were my fault that I bought from him in the first place. And that is the message that will stick. Meaning that I will not do business with George again, if I can help it.

If you get something that you might feel is a complaint from a client, make sure you respond to it correctly. Sympathy goes a long way in securing a next order. If this guy had told me: “Hey, I am sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing and next time I send something out, I will check whether there are other ways to do this.” That would have made a world of difference. I would have appreciated the response and would have bought from him again.

Be friendly and be compassionate. You often don’t have to offer anything that costs you anything. But if the client feels like you care, that will make all the difference.

Why I believe crowdfunding could be great for your startup

I read an article on The Next Web today with the title: “Why crowdfunding isn’t funding anything at all“. The author, Yaniv Tross, reasons that crowdfunding is not that at all. He renames it as a group pre-ordering platform and puts it squarely in the marketing corner. And I disagree. Let me tell you why.

I strongly believe that crowdfunding could be great for your startup. You have to read that correctly. I do not believe that crowdfunding is the best way of getting investment into every single startup, but it could be great for yours. Or not. But you will have to read on to find out which is the case.

First off, crowdfunding is different from most other types of funding. Even though both versions include pitching your ideas, products or services, the actual transaction is very different. An investor is a professional. He will judge your startup on a completely different level than end users will ever do. And that, in my opinion is part of the great opportunity that crowdfunding is giving your startup. Lets face it, people that are into crowdfunding rarely do it because they love the team, or because they think you would be great at doing a pivot and building something completely different. Those are two arguments Yaniv Tross holds against crowdfunding. For me, those are solid advantages. It is a clear case of people voting with their wallets.

If you are connected to the startup world in any way, you will have heard about lean startups and minimum viable products. Crowdfunding might be one of the fastest and most effective way to see whether people are willing to spend money on your product or your services. You pitch it and you offer them to be able to take part in what you are achieving or are going to achieve. That, to me, is brilliant. It is not down to the whims of an individual investor, or a group of investors, but it is down to your end user to vote whether or not they think you are important enough to them to survive at all. In many ways, that is the ultimate test. Instant customer feedback, plus the marketing opportunities that go with it.

Depending on the platform you are using, crowdfunding might allow you to pivot sooner than you ever would have otherwise. At Kickstarter, you need to raise your full amount to be able to get it. At other platforms, like Indiegogo, you don’t have to. Even if you raise less than your goal, you can still continue and deliver on your promise. But the great thing is that you can now contact your backers to see what they liked about your product and where they found it lacking. It is market research that is paying you, instead of you paying an agency. With the added bonus that you have early adopters that can introduce their friends to it once it is at a level where they wanted it to be. Plus the added bonus of your early adopters feeling like the in-crowd. They know they have made a difference and that the product they are using is there because of them. That is empowering customers.

And lastly, crowdfunding is not about equity shares, legal structures and other troubles that most startup owners really don’t want to deal with. I know that you will have to at some point. But why rush it? The money you raise is related to the use of your product or your service. That is also where your passion is. And yes, raising more would mean that you have to include all kinds of extra perks. But those can be found in defining extensions to your services or having access to the team and its dreams. After all, if you are building a service or product that addresses your own needs, chances are that you have the same interests as your early adopters. So, use that.

As an added bonus, when you get crowdfunding in, you will have users. They will give you traffic and traction. And there is nothing like having a startup with traffic and traction when the time comes to really raise funds.

Fred Wilson on investments, trends and opportunities

LeWeb-FredWilsonFred Wilson is kicking off the talks at LeWeb. As a VC he is sharing the way in which he is looking at opportunites and how their firm chooses what to invest in. His first statment is one that I absolutely agree on. If you have ready the post I wrote before LeWeb, you will see that I wrote about the fact that I said that society changing is much more important for the next 10 years in technology than the actual technological developments are. And Fred came out and says that they do not think in technologies, but they think in trends. Tech is important, but to him trends in behaviour and society are a lot more important to base their choices on.

The first big macro trend Fred talks about is the move from burocratic hierarchies towards technology driven networks. It is no longer about the hierarchical structure. It is no longer about one person at the top making the decision, then feeding that down through the pyramid to wait for feedback to come back up to help him make more decisions. For a long time, that actually used to be the most efficient way to work. But now we see technology driven networks replace those hierarchies. As an example, Twitter replaces the newspaper. A newspaper is a very bureaucratic product. The content is decided upon by the chief editor of the paper and he filters and decides the content of the things you are reading. That makes it a slow process to produce the news and it also filtered based on the prerferences of the ediitor. And then you have Twitter that allows networks to decide what the news is based on the people they follow, the retweets they do and the way they interact with messages that make it news. News is created by the interest of the crowd and at great speed. The first place we have seen this was in the field of media. But we now see it in hotels with Airbnb and others. We see it with Kickstarter and others. It is in learning with Codecademy and others.

The second big megatrend Fred names is unbundeling. It is a bit about the first trend, but it is even more about how products and services are delivered. In the traditional world, it was expensive to get things packaged up and delivered. But now we are unbundeling that and you can buy products that are much more focussed on what you need. And you pay just for the things you need or want. The product is usually better as well, as it is created and provided to you by people that are doing the things they are best at. Which means that you get the economic news from the guys that specialize in economic news. Or the sports news from the people that are specialized in sports news.
Fred also names the banks as one of the examples of this. And I completely agree with him on that. In fact, back in 2009 I was on a table with a number of bankers in Zürich, Switzerland with a number of bankers and they stated that we would never be able to do without the banks. And at the time I told them that we could if we were to pick separate banking functions from separate startups through the internet. At the time they thought that I was kidding. And now Fred Wilson also states that the unbundeling of banking services has started. You used to go to a bank and then get everything from that single bank. Now you might do international payments through PayPal, get money for a project through Kickstater etcetera. You can now pick parts of what the bank has been providing you as a complete service from other service providers. The same goes for education where you no longer need to have the building and all the equipment for research, but you can also bring those things together from various sources and get to a better result than you could have before.

The third trend is that we are all nodes on the network. We are all connected to each other all of the time through our smartphones. Look at Uber where we are a node on the network and so is the driver. You can connect together and get a ride. Or get transportation. And that will change the way things and people are going to be transported in the future. And that is the same thing with many new services.

Fred obviously sees more opportunities. One of them is on money and new money systems like Bitcoin. Another opportunity will be the way devices are going to monitor our health and wellness and change the way in which we live our lives and improve on our health. Another opportunity is in big data. However, Fred has a very different angle than what we would normally hear. Fred calls big data the pollution of the information age. Our data leakage through online services is also what allows organisations to spy on us. And as trust and identity are big things, or at least should be, this is something that we ought to be aware of. If we would have realized at the start of the industrial revolution that polution would cause so much damage, we would have addressed it from the start. Yet we are allowing Twitter and Facebook our identity services on many other services. We are allowing data leakage that way. So Fred sees a huge opportunity for a identity system that is set up in the same way that Bitcoin has been set up. Not controlled by anyone, but a place where we are the one that controls our own identity and the related data. He has not seen that solution yet, but he is looking forward to finding it.

Guy Kawasaki on the future and entrepreneurship

LeWeb-GuyKawasakiFor the first time, Guy Kawasaki has made it to the LeWeb stage. Fortunately, Loïc and Guy reached an agreement that he is going to be back next year. And that is a good thing as this session had great content and it also as a great laugh.
Guy looked back on the past 10 years and said that back then everyone said that myspace was going to be the operating system of the internet. And some 7 or 8 years ago nobody really thought we needed twitter. In fact, I personally remember a conversation I had with some Dutch early adopters back in 2008 when we said that Twitter was probably not going to be there in three years time. And as Loïc and Guy reminded everyone, Twitter is worth about 20 billion. And Guy went on saying that if we would look at his past at Apple, who would have thought that they would have become the most valuable company in the world. It is really hard to predict the future. That is hard for the next 10 monts, but impossible to do for the next 10 years.

Guy feels that Bitcoin is a lovely idea. Even if for nothing else than that it is completely outside of the grasp of Goldman Sachs. There have been people questioning the Bitcoin because it can be used to fund illegal things as it is not traceable. However, Guy says that there are a lot of technologies that are coming up that will be enabling that. And they will have a balance where some of what they are used for will be for good, and some will be used for bad things. But all of that technology is important to have as that helps us grow and develop new things. And sometimes it can even evolve from something that starts without control and evolves into something that grows something that goes into a control situation. It is when we started with Napster which grew into a movement which has then helped a whole new industry grow. Including iTunes which is very controlled.

Loïc triggers the social media card stating that Guy is a social media powerhouse. Guy answers that his approach is very different from most ‘experts’. And he adds that he uses the term experts very lightly. Social media for Guy is a means to an end. He is not looking to make more friends and more relationships. He says that he has a wife and four kids and that is enough for him. He is not looking to meet new people and have more friends. Social media for Guy is about building a platform. He has embraced the public radio model. At NPR they provide great content 365 days a year and then they gain the privilege to run the telethon once a year. So, his model is to constantly provide great content. He also has a team constantly curating great content, so that he is constantly able to provide his followers with great content. And that also gives him the opportunity to run the Guy Kawasaki telethon, because he has earned the right to do that. That is why he is constantly sharing great content, so that when he publishes a book, he has gained the right to promote his book. Or a new Evernote function as he is an advisor to Evernote. He does read all the interactions and every response from the account is done by him himself. Nobody on the team does that. Guy also repeats all of his tweets four times eight hours apart. The reason for that is that he does not believe that everybody is going to be awake and looking at Twitter at the moment a tweet is posted. Plus, he is not assuming that people are going to be scrolling back through their timelines to find that one awesome tweet. And even though that might piss people off, his reasoning is that if you are not pissing off people on social media, you are not using it hard enough. Also, he has found that posting a tweet with a link four times, really does deliver four times the clicks. He is not using different links for those four links as people rarely see that same tweet and that same link twice. And with a smile he adds that if you see that same link more than once, you probably do not have a life.

Loïc asks Guy to share some tips on entrepreneurship with the audience. He believes that the most important thing an entrepreneur can do, is to make a prototype. If you build a prototype you may never have to prepare a pitch, powerpoint deck or a projection. Because at a pitch, everyone everyone says is that they are going to be doing 100 million in 5 years. If you say you will do 500 million investors feel like you are overestimating yourself and if you are saying you will do 25 million, they think they do not take yourself serious. So, the best thing you can ever do with an investor is to show them a demo that is already in use with actual users and signup numbers. His second tip is that the challenge for European entrepreneurs is to create a product or service that is so good that American entrepreneurs want to copy it. Not to make your own local version of a great American service, but to create something awesome yourself. And there are a few European startups that have made that status like Soundcloud or Spotify. The fun part was that then Loïc took this as an insult to European entrepreneurs where he felt that Guy was saying that European startups just copy American startups. Where Guy is just saying to look beyond the Americans and paying a compliment to the companies that did just that and are defining the playing field they operate in. And his third advice to businesses is to never ask anyone to do something that you would not do yourself. Because that will never work.

Guy shared that the richest vein for Sequoia investment is two guys of girls building something in a garage that are building something they want to use. That is very different from people that build something from a business point of view to earn money. Again, I personally agree with that and that has been a point I have been pushing since 2008. If you want to build a startup, make it something that you want to use yourself and that addresses a problem that you have yourself. If you are just doing it for the money, you will have a hard time making it.

A guy from the audience asked Guy what he thinks about an investor offering to invest money if the startups would move to their area. And Guy said that if this would be the decisive factor on whether or not you can get the investment, they ought to drop the investor and find another investor that will work with them However, he does offer a middle ground where you keep your developers local, create a Delaware corporation and a west coast head office in Silicon Valley. Because it allows you to have the best of both worlds for both parties as investors do not really want to fly for 11 hours for a board meeting. And that is a factor for Guy himself as well. He is not specifically looking for opportunities that are far away. His statement literally was “why fly 30 hours to loose money there, when you can loose the same amount of money closer to home”. Mich Atagana came back to that statement and asked Guy whether he thought that not investing further away from your home town is a potential for lost opportunity? Guy agrees, but from the investors perspective it is a slightly different issue. They do not know a thing about the financial laws for investments or IPO’s and then the board meetings are 30 hours away. That is just throwing up speed bumps while you are the one looking for investment. But he does agree with Mich that the next Google might be in South Africa for instance and an American investor would not know about it.

Why I believe most startup accelerators will not help your startup

plastic-rocketWith startup accelerators popping up all over the world, this might not be the most popular thing to write. However, it is something that has been on my mind for the past year. As a mentor for one startup accelerator and a visitor of many, I have gotten to know the inner workings and discussed them with others. And they all lead me to draw the same conclusion. Most accelerators do not fit the needs of startups.

So where is that gap between the holy grail in startup growth and my own statement? Well, let me put it this way. There is a distinct difference between the way forward for a great startup and the goals of an accelerator. This might sound strange to you, but unfortunately, it is very true. The biggest problem is the way in which most accelerators focus on the business model and their demo day. The success of most accelerators is judged on the performance of its startups on a podium on the last day of the program. And most see the number of startups leaving the accelerator with funding as the biggest factor for success. Unfortunately, this is often much further from true success than you would think.

Through the years, I have worked with, spoken with and advised a lot of startups. They all had their share of challenges and even though many saw their funding as their primary problem, it seldom was. I will not deny that you need money to pay your team and improve on your startup. However, more often than not, money will not solve the problems, but only make them bigger.
As a startup, your first focus should be on product development, finding a connection to your market and launching and developing the leanest product you can. Most accelerators agree with this up to this point. After which they will then go and work with you on your business models and marketing strategy to make sure that you are going to get funding down the road. For most startups, this time is put to much better use if they can focus on product development and finding the connection to their market through the feedback of their users. After all, money will only speed up the process and if the direction of the startup is not 100% right, it will only send your startup on a course to distance yourself from the market more and more.

That, to me, is another problem that comes with startup accelerators. Usually, the founders of the accelerator are paid, but none of the mentors are. And there is a problem with that strategy. Naturally, I am such a philanthropist that it never bugged me. But I know that not getting paid brings out the worst in people. I know that many mentors in accelerators only mentor startups in which they see a possible monetary gain over time. Subsequently, they try to steer the startup onto the course which they believe will bring in the big money. This might not be in the interest of the startup at all, but as the mentors are part of the program, their advise is followed. And before you know it, your startup has turned into something that is chasing the possibility of big money with a super smooth pitch, while alienating itself from its potential user base.

So, are all accelerators evil? No. I think the original idea of a startup accelerator can still be successful. But we need to remember what the original intention of an accelerator was. It was meant to speed up the process of startup development and launch the startup into a higher orbit than it could have obtained in the same timeframe otherwise. If you read this correctly, you will see that there is no specific mention of money or business model in there. Those can be part of the process, but should never be leading. The leading factor in an accelerator is whether they can help you develop both your team as well as your product beyond what you would be capable of yourself.

If you ask me, this is the best -and only- way a good accelerator can work. In my opinion, this is also the only way in which an accelerator can make sure that the startups that go through their program will become exceptional and will achieve great successes. Unlike startups that are built up on a diet of business models and the chase for investment money. It is rare to see those rise beyond average bread and butter companies.

If you are considering joining a startup, make sure you ask the right questions and have a clear idea what is going to happen. And if it is not purely aimed at developing your team and your product, you are better off gathering your own team of mentors around you. It will allow you to grow faster and be a better quicker than you think.

Nuts bedrijf Delta wil mij graag langdurig als klant. Mijn voordeel? Euhm, niets.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 18.10.42Vorig jaar is mijn leveringscontract voor energie verlopen. Wij zitten al bijna 11 jaar bij Delta NV en zijn daar op zich best tevreden mee. Heb ik dan een speciale band met de Delta? Nou, nee, dat nou ook weer niet. Het is natuurlijk een lokale onderneming en daarmee lijken ze wat minder onpersoonlijk dan de grote concurrenten uit het midden van het land. Maar verder kan ik eigenlijk niets bedenken. Al is het gevoel dat je bij een kantoor binnen kunt stappen wel prettiger dan een onpersoonlijk 0900 nummer.

Maar goed, vorig jaar verliep het contract waarmee we ons voor 3 jaar aan de Delta verbonden. Een goed moment om over te sluiten. Dat dacht ook de Delta en ze stuurden ons een mail. “Wilt u uw contract oversluiten?” Ik heb er toen eens goed naar gekeken, maar ik zag eigenlijk geen enkel voordeel. Een vaste energieprijs is natuurlijk leuk, maar hoeveel voordeel haal je daar nou precies uit? Dus ben ik ook eens bij andere leveranciers gaan kijken. De een geeft je een cadeau, de andere een korting. Er is nogal wat te doen rondom het winnen van klanten in de energiebranche. Zo niet bij de Delta. Desgevraagd reageert de Delta in een tweet met “Het is een bewuste keuze om niet te stunten met kortingen. Wij bieden u de zekerheid van een laag tarief en goede service.^P” En daar kun je het als goede klant dan weer mee doen.

Nou ben ik wat betreft energie toch wel weer trouw. Dus blijf ik lekker zitten waar ik zit, laat het contract verlopen en ga verder met een variabele leveringsprijs. Op zich niets mis mee. Maar voor de Delta is het niet genoeg. Gisterenmiddag ontving ik opnieuw een mailtje van de Delta om mij aan te sporen om opnieuw de keuze te maken voor een leveringscontract. Gestimuleerd door mijn ongeremde optimisme besloot ik opnieuw de website van de Delta te bezoeken. Want als ze, zoveel maanden na het verlopen van het contract, ineens nog een mailtje sturen, dan hebben ze misschien begrepen dat het behouden van klanten je wat waard moet zijn. Dus klikte ik vol verwachting op de link in de mail.

Een emmer ijswater daalde neer in mijn nek. Om te beginnen moest ik opnieuw registreren om mijn persoonlijke aanbiedingen te krijgen. Vervelend, want dat had ik vorig jaar ook al eens gedaan. En aangezien mijn klantnummer en mijn adres niet veranderd zijn, had dat dus best bewaard kunnen blijven. -Vlak na ik dit probleem had, is gebleken dat de Delta hun Mijn Delta offline hebben moeten halen, omdat mensen de gegevens van anderen te zien krijgen. Maar de site voor de energiecontracten is nog steeds online, dus die zal daar niet onder vallen.- Na opnieuw geregistreerd te hebben, krijg ik mijn die opties voor mijn neus. Ik kan mijn contract 1 jaar vastleggen, 3 jaar vastleggen of 1 jaar variabel houden. Tussen 1 en 3 jaar vastleggen zit precies €0,- verschil. Als ik het contract variabel hou, dan verwacht de Delta dat ik zeker €1,53 per maand duurder uit ben dan wanneer ik mijn contract vastleg. Vol verbazing zak ik achterover. Dit kan toch niet waar zijn. Ongeacht wat ik doe, het is de Delta blijkbaar niets waard om mij als klant te hebben. Mijzelf langer verbinden aan de Delta en ze daarmee een garantie te geven op een bepaalde omzet is duidelijk niet genoeg om mij als klant waarde te laten hebben.

Beste Delta, ik vind jullie best aardig hoor, maar de liefde kan niet van een kant komen. Als ik me voor langere tijd aan jullie verbindt, dan wil ik daar graag een stukje waardering voor terugzien. Dat kan in de energieprijs zijn, dat kan ook op een andere manier. Maar dat kan niet door mij hetzelfde te bieden als ieder ander die zich wel, of niet aan jullie wil verbinden. Dan kijk ik net zo lief rond naar een maatschappij die mij wel als klant weet te waarderen. En de mogelijkheid tot het eventueel kans maken op het winnen van een kaartje voor Concert at Sea compenseert dat echt niet.

Beste energiemaatschappijen, weten jullie je klanten wel te waarderen? Willen jullie mij erbij als klant? Je weet me te vinden. Ik hoor het wel.

How HMV’s twitter account went to the dogs – and how to prevent it

hmv-dog-marketingHMV was hot news on Twitter today when staff took over the retailers twitter channel. I am not going to dive into the whole deal about financial troubles and layoffs. It is a tough time for retailers in the business HMV is in and with their new owners it might take them some time to get back on top. In the meantime it has been interesting to see how new technology has been completely passed up on in the first steps of restructuring.

I will try to set the scene based on the -now deleted- tweets by HMV staff this afternoon. Apparently HMV had an intern make the HMV Tweets account on Twitter. Nothing special. Even big companies choose to let interns rule their interpersonal communication with their fans. A good idea? Not at all, and I can give you lots of  reasons why. However, that is not the purpose of this post, so I will leave them out.

So, HMV had a twitter account and they have mainly used it to communicate new releases, congratulating the stars on their own label and congratulating followers with winning their own competition. They did do a single personal retweet of someone calling everyone to purchase from HMV to support the high street. So, nothing too personal and relational on there. But as people love their media, they still have thousands of followers. There are two sides to that story. Yes, you can dump your messages to almost 70 thousand people as a corporate. But the people holding the keys to that account can also reach some of your most loyal 70 thousand customers with one simple click.

hmvtweetsAnd that is what happened. The person(s) who tweeted this have been seeing the demise of HMV as something they could have been able to turn around. It might have been someone who has really wanted to put in more than their share to make HMV work again. Or so the tweet seems to suggest when he or she says: “However, when the company you dearly love is being ruined and those hard working individuals, who wanted to make hmv great again, have mostly been fired”. So they broke the silence they were bound to by their contracts and came out with what was happening at the offices. The bad news spread quickly over twitter and it did not take long before the news picked up on it and articles started appearing on the BBC and ITV website.

Will this affect the retailer in the long run? Possibly. After all, the tweets first reached their 70 thousand most loyal followers. So what should have been done? It is hard to say, but it does start with control over the social media channels of your organisation. Especially when you are going to be giving the company a lot of bad news, it might be wiser to make sure the account is under control of someone you can really, really trust. Perhaps only for that first hour after the bad news hits, perhaps for longer, but make sure there is some kind of control. After all, these are channels that are now seen as at least as important for your communications as your official press releasees.

Quick tips?

  1. If you are a large organisation, use something like Hootsuite or another client that will allow you to grant access to teams of coworkers to your social media channels. You might never need to, but the ease of -temporarily- denying someone access can come in handy one day.
  2. If you are in a position where media silence needs to be obeyed, make sure social media is on that list of media channels that you have created a strategy for.
  3. Have a quick press release available when someone has been able to gain access to the account after all your trouble. Don’t let it spin out of control. Take over the channel again and communicate with your audience.
  4. Do not go around and delete all the tweets thinking that that will be the end of it. Screenshots happen. And they are around for a lot longer.
  5. Know your way around your social media channels. The HMV marketing manager that asked how to shut down Twitter is an example of how quickly your organisation can look bad.

 

Meeting expectations means understanding what your customer really wants

Everybody has been there. The salesman that is happy to sell you something that completely matches your expectations until the product has been delivered. You have asked all the right questions and he has given you all the right answers. He understood where you were coming from and you felt he had the perfect solution for you. However, when the product arrives, it turns out that your expectations and the products’ properties cannot match up. And you feel you have been had. When you call the salesman he feels he has been had as well, as he was sure he answered your questions with all his knowledge and honesty.

Reality often is that the salesman might actually have done a great job. However, there have been aspects of the product that he was not told about, or that he did not consider to be very important in your conversation. This problem often does not originate with the salesman, but all the way up at product development and sales management. Don’t be that company. Make sure that you know what it is your customers are really looking for. Find out the questions they might have and how you should be answering them to satisfy their needs. If that means changing your product, do it. Make sure you live up to your promise. Do not force your customer in a position where he is tied to a product that he feels is inferior because his and your definitions were not the same. As an easy example, unlimited means just that to a consumer where your company might call it unlimited if it is unlimited on one of the 6 aspects of the product.

Don’t be that company because your customers are worth more than that.