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House renos and the art of customer service

By Francis Moran

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have something of an obsession with customer service. At first glance, it might not seem obvious why a technology market blog might be so preoccupied with this. Except, as I have written many times, customer service is based on what I have come to call my first law of competitive differentiation, the proposition that, in an age when almost any technological or cost advantage will rapidly and inevitably be eroded, the only sustainable competitive differentiation for most companies is to treat their customers like the centre of the universe, which they are.

Based on recent experience, I have to say there’s nothing quite like doing a major round of house renovations to expose the good, the bad and the carpet layers of customer service.

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Everyone has competition

By Francis Moran

Last week, I tackled the assertion I all-too-frequently hear from technology executives that everybody could benefit from their product, and so the whole world is their target customer. This week, I’d like to demolish an equally hoary shibboleth that isn’t really a corollary statement but that goes hand-in-hand with the everyone-is-our-customer myth so regularly that maybe it ought to be.

It’s the notion that you have no competition.

“Nobody does what we do,” is the proud boast of every self-respecting technology venture. And they may well be correct. That doesn’t mean they don’t have competition — probably even fierce, well-entrenched and irresolute competition.

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‘Everyone’ is not your customer

By Francis Moran

I love working with young technology companies, and that’s part of the reason I volunteer as a mentor at startup accelerators like Montreal’s Founder Fuel. I was there yesterday, putting on a session I do for each cohort that teaches these budding entrepreneurs a framework for the strategic planning of their marketing function.

I was reminded yesterday of a conversation I had with a Founder Fuel CEO a couple of cohorts ago. It was just a few days before Demo Day, that high-pressure moment when each cohort company presents its investment proposition to a room full of angel and VC investors. I had been working with the CEO on his messaging for his investor deck, and the revised deck he was reviewing with me and another mentor reflected some of that work.

Then the other mentor said, “You know, this is too high level. Half the people in the room aren’t going to understand what you’re talking about.”

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Fiction: Media relations is ‘free advertising’

This is the next entry in our “Best of” series, in which we venture deep into the vault to replay blog opinion and insight that has withstood the test of time. Today’s post hails from July 2011. We welcome your feedback.

By Francis Moran

At the time my PR agency,inmedia Public Relations, was founded, I worked out of a large integrated agency in the city and some of the account executives there loved to push my buttons by declaring that media relations was free advertising. They especially liked to do this in client meetings because they knew it would prompt me to mount a fevered defence of the merits of PR and all the ways in which it differed from advertising.

I knew they were only kidding. I knew they really knew better. I knew it was all a bit of harmless fun.

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Design by committee is just plain wrong

By Francis Moran

The aphorism that a camel is a horse designed by committee is usually attributed to Greek-born British car designer Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, who was responsible for British Motor Corporation’s popular Mini. I never quite understood why Sir Alex would disparage a camel’s design — the animal, while unusual in shape and function, seems perfectly designed to be the ship of the Sahara that it eventually became. I take no issue whatsoever, though, with his sentiment that it is a very bad idea to ask a bunch of people to try to work together to design anything.

And yet, it is still too common an activity.

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