The Customer Isn't Always Right
A real example from my work
‘BB’ was a great idea, born in the second or third wave buzz of businesses focused on social networking. Following the rapid success of Facebook and Youtube, a lot of interest developed in the idea of creating themed social networks focused on specific topics and communities.
The idea being that by creating a themed platform for bloggers/vloggers (we call them influencers now) to interact with the community of really motivated customers it would be possible to capitalise on google advertising revenue, affiliate sales and eventually direct product sales to the community, benefitting the platform owner, vloggers and the customers.
The customers would know where to go for the best advice on products and video tutorials etc., showing how to use them, reducing the time they spent sifting through less focused sites. The vloggers would get higher incomes through their fees for promoting products and the retailers would have a really refined marketplace for motivated customers. Everyone wins!
My client worked very hard on her brilliant idea to set up a fully functional cosmetics and beauty focused platform. She invested a lot of money in a purpose-built platform from scratch that could really deliver everything needed for all groups. She grew the platform quickly to a community of over 150,000 users and hundreds of beauty vloggers and some big name cosmetics companies.
However, the revenue model just didn’t work out, the Google revenues were low after Google changed their business model and several big generic retailers moved into the fashion and beauty social media space, spending big on TV, radio and online advertising. The business was a success, it just couldn’t make enough money to warrant the investment and the effort to run it. My client was exhausted, distressed and didn’t know what to do to fix the problem, she didn’t want to let go, this was her baby and it ought to work…
We worked together on the issues, through direct mentoring, some market research, workshopping with the team and discussions with people in the industry, it took two pivots to reach the solution.
Firstly, as a quick fix we identified that the business’s social media expertise and the 150,000 + users were attractive to cosmetics companies that were struggling to boost their own social media. We found a well-known French company, big in Europe, but small in the UK. I helped my client to negotiate some big social media marketing contracts and she worked with them to build their social media channels. This brought in significant funding to keep BB running for half a year, giving time to work on the larger pivot.
Then the real innovation, we identified a big switch in our approach - rather than go for lots of customers, we went for a small, highly targeted group of high-spending cosmetics buying consumers - Chinese and Asian female students. The real beauty of this was that they wanted to buy products that they were familiar with but found difficult to buy in the UK. We sourced these products from Japan, Taiwan and Korea and BB became a retailer of high-margin exclusive products.
This was a simpler business model. The business turned around rapidly and started making lots of profit. After a couple of years, my client sold the business, bought some Central London property and went travelling around the world, and on to her next adventure.
My client might not have got to the successful model, without going through the first phase of her business, this was part of her success. At a point in her journey, she needed outside help, I was able to support my client in a range of ways: being a mentor providing counsel; consulting and offering new strategic ideas and practical quick fixes. I also got involved in the work of the business at times.
My experience, attitude and flexible approach and skills fit with the situation and the need for reassurance, speed and belief that a solution is always available.