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Meeker 2012 – What should small software businesses do?

KPCB operating system trends
Credit: KPCB

Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation is always an attention getter.

For some, a wake-up-call, for others… a reminder.

No matter what it is for you, there’s some valuable trend info there worth looking at in the context of your software business.

“Rapid mobile adoption still in early stages.”

Think about that for a moment. Apple has more than 100 million mobile devices sold (65 million iPads in 8 quarters) and dominates US smartphone sales. Android does the same for the rest of the world…and we’re still in the “early stages”.

This isn’t a surprise, but it’s a common mistake for entrepreneurs to feel like if they aren’t first, they’re worst – and for some, that they shouldn’t even try. Someone has to be first – and sometimes their most important achievement is to show everyone else that the market is viable.

It’s still very early for mobile, despite what you might gather from industry doomers, but there’s plenty of time to be the second mouse who gets the cheese.

Look around your clients’ offices. Are their salespeople 100% mobile? If they have any kind of fleet, are their drivers/pilots? What about their warehouse / lot / logistics people? Are their in-house pickers on mobile devices yet? What about their salespeople? Can they enter a lead, produce and email a quote and close a sale – including accepting a check, depositing a check, getting a contract signature, emailing the signed contract and/or taking a credit card – from their mobile phone?

All of those things can be done today with a phone. You can even deposit a check with your stodgy old bank’s mobile phone app.

What about your product line?

Can they use their mobile phone to perform core functionality like this in your software? My guess is… Probably not.

Some of your software might never be on a mobile device in its current form. Yet parts of it might make sense, particularly for outside sales and other mobile workers. One thing is almost certain: This kind of mobile flexibility will be difficult to avoid in the future because customers will demand it or move to someone else who delivers it.

One of the more challenging aspects of the move to mobile is the cross-architecture requirements. A few years back, you could dictate mobile hardware because phones couldn’t do the work. You’d have customers buy expensive ruggedized Symbol devices and that allowed you to control the scope of development.

Not anymore. Today, you need to be ready to consider adding iOS, Android, WinRT, Java, HTML5 and who knows what else to your development efforts. Now maybe you don’t start development on all of those at once but you’d better be considering how each of them apply in your market.

If you aren’t, are you ready to give up the testimonial-writing, market-leading customers in your client base? They’ll often be the ones who move first to new solutions that leverage advanced technology – even if it’s just to do a pilot and set their next long-term strategy.

Globally, only 18% of people have mobile access, but the growth rate was 37% over the last year. In the U.S., 29% have a tablet compared to 2% three years ago.

Rethink your apps.

“8% growth in internet users, driven by emerging markets”

79% of the U.S. population has internet access today, while only 10% of the population of India has it.

Of that 10%, 44 million use a smartphone. The rest use a mix of desktop/laptop and cell phone. For those who get to the net via mobile device, it doesn’t always happen on a smartphone. Meeker noted that 200 million farmers in India receive ag subsidies via their cell phone.

Intuit recognized this situation early on by having business development people in place in India. One of their success stories there is a service that delivers daily pricing information to farmers via text message. They’re adding 20,000 users a week to this text message based service, which helps farmers get more for their produce at market.

“Suddenly” the translation to Farsi and adaptation to “non-smart” cell phones seems more interesting…

For U.S. software companies, these are areas of concern. At 79%, our climb only has so much headroom left. International is a natural next step given the growth numbers.The U.S. is number eight in growth rate of new internet users, behind China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia.

Why worry? Because small U.S. software companies tend to avoid internationalization. Grab 10 small software company product downloads off the net. How many of them support other languages? Other currencies? Other taxation systems?

If internationalization is a problem, how functional is business development outside the U.S. for American companies? How else will you get accurate business development knowledge in those countries? Add to that, many countries have barriers to outside companies building a presence inside their borders – just like the U.S. does.

This is an area of great potential, but it doesn’t come without serious work. It isn’t as simple as running your product’s text strings through Google Translate.

Don’t forget Android. In 13 quarters, Android has lined up 250MM mobile phone users, with the majority outside the U.S.  Combine that with a different platform with many different screen formats and this is where you mull over your answer to “How bad do you want it?” when looking at the potential return.

Smartphone upside

As the smartphone enters the developing world en mass, there’s still a big upside. In the U.S., we think we’ve seen it all. Globally, there are 953 million smartphone subscribers. Seems like a lot, after all that’s about 3 times the size of the U.S. population.

Yet for all mobile phones, the smartphone subscribers number jumps to 6.1 billion (see image below). Compare those two numbers carefully when considering your near term app strategy.

Many would suggest you build a smartphone app for these developing markets ASAP. I suggest you consider where you are now before taking that step. In particular, think about “the reason to get a sale“.

Show me

Many will read these numbers and think “Yeah, but…”  The “but” is about where the buyers are and where the traffic is.

Currently 10% of global internet traffic is mobile. It was 4% two years ago.

What about buyers? Meeker said 8% of e-commerce is mobile-based and that the click through rate on mobile is still 1/5th of what desktop click through is.

8% globally is a big number and has little choice but to go up. Can your site handle it? Can your clients’ sites?

In India, there is now more mobile-based internet traffic than there is traffic from desktops/laptops. Breathe that in before your next long-term product strategy meeting.

Reimagination

These three graphics tell a lot of stories. There is one thing they don’t say.

One thing these graphics don’t say is “Who’s next?”

Spring Training

That’s how early things are. Meeker called it “Spring Training” because there are so many opportunities related to the net and mobile that the season really hasn’t started. Maybe in the U.S., we’re jaded to the opportunity that remains because we have this habit of assuming that everyone is like we are. 15 minutes on your tech support line will clear that up.

For those willing to think and work differently…different results are possible. Look back over these slides and my comments. How will they, how could they impact your business?

Thanks to KPCB, I’ve included the slide deck here…

View this document on Scribd

The other shoe

Meeker’s talk wasn’t all good news. She referred to KPCB’s now-famous (and sobering) USA Inc. video/report that looks at the financial performance of the U.S. as if it was a business. Regardless of your politics, it’s worth a look. An October 2012 USA Inc slide deck is here and the 2011 video is here.

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Have you forgotten how to get better?

trust snape
Creative Commons License photo credit: mararie

Recently I had a tech conversation with someone I’ve known for at least a decade and have great respect for.

During a dumb conversation we didn’t even start, we disagreed about spaces in file names and software that doesn’t support them.

My friend is like the NORAD of user interface look and feel.

His work is beautiful and well-tested. If there’s a pixel off, he can see it at 100 yards and it’ll make him crazy until fixed. He noted that every language has syntax rules and if you disobey them, you get bit. The programmer side of me is rather well aware of that, but that wasn’t the side doing the talking.

What concerns me is the ever-present support for what once was in an industry that should be supporting what is, much less what will be.

Defense of the dark arts

It’s so easy to be trained to have low expectations.

Once folks are trained to accept less, some will defend it because it’s their normal.

The guy who started the space conversation was scolded by some of his peers for not playing by outdated rules and for making note of the shortcoming.

That’s why the space in the file name is such a good example. Spaces have been appearing in file names on Windows since Windows NT 3.5 arrived in 1994. For most Windows users, the first experience with these file names came with Windows 95. Worst case, the public has had access to software that can use file names with embedded spaces since at least August 24, 1995.

That’s 17 years,  one month and 12 days (and counting). Yet we’re still defending the inability to deal with it.

Why it’s important

When you turn the left faucet on a sink in the U.S., you expect hot water to appear. It’s an expectation set by standard behavior on almost every sink you’ve used.

Once you encounter a faucet that’s installed backwards (hot on the right), you automatically distrust the next one. And how many more?

Users become accustomed to the behavior of the products they use whether they’re using software or a screwdriver. When the failure to support common industry behaviors shows up in your product, it makes some of your customers wonder what other expectation failures should they be looking for.

Just like that, expectations are lowered and with some, the opinion of everything you do.

Are you willing to risk that?

Reinvention gone wrong

At odds with this risk is reinvention.

Hipster effect” aside, Apple products sell well in part because almost anyone can figure out how to use them. They’ve reinvented common products that by “conventional wisdom” couldn’t be improved.

Yet their iTunes software is the exception to that – illustrating the risk I mentioned.

Of all Apple products, iTunes is the least favorite among Windows users. iTunes has a knack for ticking off users in no time because it doesn’t “work like other Windows apps”, particularly where user feedback is concerned. Many Windows users won’t buy Apple products because of their experience with iTunes. Even Apple “fanbois” have trouble apologizing for it.

Unless you reinvent in a way that’s “Wow, so obvious, where has this been all my life?”, your reinvention (or lack of it) reflects on everything you do.

Expectations are powerful but fragile. Those who star at reinvention know they’re at risk, but the risk of standing still is far higher.

Inbox, railcar, udder, backlog

Where does that leave you? Your day is focused on emptying that inbox, railcar, udder or product backlog.

As you grind through day’s tasks, you’re likely focused on producing today’s revenue built on the last century’s expectations. Rightly so, since bills and payroll loom. Yet that daily effort is no more important in the big picture than carving out quality time to plan and produce for tomorrow’s customers and their expectations.

The type of change I’m speaking of goes well beyond the essential task of continuously improving day to day processes and outcomes.

Look hard at your advances in the last two years. Are they substantial or marginal?

Let’s define substantial: What would have to happen to your business to enable your products/services to produce 10 times more high-quality results for your customers?

Have you forgotten how to improve?

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Where are all the programmers?

Programmer's aid
Creative Commons License photo credit: dunkv

Yesterday evening I posted a small C# project on Odesk.

By noon today, I had 19 responses.

Most of them were qualified (a few were VERY qualified) and had passed enough of ODesk’s tests for me to know that they could do the job. In the various .Net test topics, several had numerous scores over 95%, with one showing a dozen or more top 10% scores.

Of those, several had 500+ hours of ODesk work, great recommendations from prior jobs and fairly well written replies.

East 19, West 0

Yet none of those replies from countries that you would consider English-speaking, nor were they from Western Europe.

ODesk also has language skills tests to make sure the contractor can speak the language of the person who hires them. In my case, English is required because my language skills are limited to programming languages, English and the occasional ability to read French. In written English, several of the applicants were at 95% or higher, test-wise.

I talked about this with a couple of U.S. based programmers today and wondered aloud if this was a function of Western programmers who have “better” things to do, or that they don’t do piece work. Maybe Western programmers feel that freelance sites are for “commodity programmers“. I’m just not sure.

Many of the previous ODesk jobs listed for applicants as successfully completed (by the happy buyer) were 500 to 2000 hours in length. Full-blown internal development projects, software products and so on. I suspect some of the work is commodity programming, but I seriously doubt all of it is.

The commoditization of programming is not a new situation. Friedman’s been talking about the flat world for as long as anyone would listen, almost…

Where’s the West?

The skills that make a Western programmer valuable these days is business knowledge, vertical market expertise, project management abilities, responsibility-taking initiative, vision AND tech skills, to name a few. Being “just a programmer” is how you end up competing with someone who bills at 30% of your rate.

Perhaps being a Western programmer by the definition above means you’re automatically busy working. I could make assumptions, but I’m curious what your thoughts are – where are all the Western programmers? For my part, I guess they’re busy. The .Net guys I know locally all have jobs or long-term consulting gigs.

PS: Late in the day, I heard from an Ohio-based guy via Twitter who offered to take a look if I sent him a link to the project. I had already assigned the task, but will keep him in mind next time.  In overtime, it’s East 19, West 1.

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Why clients don’t take your advice

One of the groups of software folks I work with has wisely decided not to support Windows Vista.

Vista was released in November 2006 and while old, it’s not quite half the age of the now-prehistoric Windows XP released in October 2001.

Yet plenty of people still use both. So why is it wise not to support Vista?

In this case, the products involved deal with a complex industry in an enterprise environment.

The software simplifies that industry – a pretty common task for vertical market software. They don’t support Windows Vista because there are a number of issues that are not easily resolvable without upgrading Windows itself – networking problems being one of them.

Enterprises and network problems do not mix well.

These things might not be apparent on the day the product is installed, but you know these problems will present themselves at a less than ideal time. At 4 pm Friday, it won’t matter that the OS is the problem when a pallet needs to go out the door and the software somehow prevents that shipment. It will only matter that the shipment can’t go out. Are they going to blame Microsoft or are they going to blame you?

So how do you sell what looks like a “might, maybe, shoulda coulda woulda“?

Step Back

People aren’t going to take perfectly valid advice when that advice appears to serve them no purpose.

Yet we regularly give it in our context rather than showing the customer the benefits in theirs. We don’t do this because we’re selfish (mostly) but because we tend to forget that our reasons, however valid, are often meaningless to the customer.

Really, it’s Sales 101.

This “you need to upgrade your Windows” conversation was going on with a now-cranky customer in a context that was not meaningful to them, so I was asked to help sell the idea.

My comment went something like this:

Vista “isn’t supported” because Vista’s frequently encountered problems will get blamed on us/our apps and we will be powerless to fix them.

He can use Vista but he needs to be aware that it has a number of issues that are systemic in nature. He may encounter problems that cannot be resolved without upgrading to Windows 7.

Is that the position he wants to be in on Friday afternoon with a shipment on the dock? Is that what he wants to defend to his manager after a shipment doesn’t go out on time?

Microsoft charges $199 for the Windows 7 upgrade. Is saving $199 now worth the possibility of having a late shipment at some random time in the future? That’s really what we’re talking about. We’re trying to save him the embarrassment and cost of a possible failure or shipment delay by encouraging him to upgrade now rather than when he is under time pressure.

What did I really say?

I put it in terms that the customer values: personal accountability and business failure.

One reason for suggesting this change is to prevent a failure that will cost the customer money, embarrassment and/or the loss of their customer.

While this failure might initially be blamed on the software vendor, it’ll eventually come to light that the cause was a “small decision” to skip a $199 Windows upgrade.

What if the delayed shipment is a critical time-sensitive pallet going out to the company’s best customer? If you’re Joe the dock guy, you don’t want Monday’s first management conversation to start with “Joe tried to save 199 bucks which ended up delaying a $45000 shipment to OurFaveBiz and now they’re ticked at us.”

Maybe Joe won’t care that he gets blamed, but right now almost everyone with a job wonders if they’ll have that job tomorrow. Making decisions in the best interest of the company is unlikely to make Joe a target.

What did I not say?

I didn’t pass along advice in a context that benefits the software company.

Upgrading everyone off of Vista provides a benefit to the software business by reducing support that is solely a function of using Vista. While that benefits the customer in a trickle-down sort of way, you really can’t sell that to the guy sitting at the warehouse logistics desk. He doesn’t have any reason to care about it.

What he cares about is shipping on time to the right place.

When selling your advice, be aware that your customers’ concerns aren’t much different than Joe’s. Speak to them.

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Have you perfected the art of flawless first time deployment?


Curiosity’s shadow through the lens’ dust cover. Credit: NASA

Anyone who has built something for public sale has felt both the pain and joy of deployment.

Last night’s Mars Curiosity landing was a deployment that every software team or product developer should be in awe of.

That highly complex, if not seemingly crazy Mars Curiosity landing plan went without a hitch.

The first Curiosity photo returned from Mars showed the rover’s shadow, taken through the dust cover of the lens.

Millions of lines of code. A multi-step time-sensitive deployment where the smallest mistake likely means that we leave a very expensive pile of broken, tangled metal on the surface of Mars.

And yet, it went perfectly.

Thanks to the University of Arizona’s HiRise project, we even have a picture of Curiosity’s chute deployment, despite landing on the side of Mars we couldn’t see from Earth at landing time last night. Simply amazing.

Curiosity hangs below her chute above Mars.
Photo credit: Univ of Arizona HiRise project

Perfect first-time deployment?

Deployment in the field almost always comes with challenges and adjustments.

How can you possibly deploy something perfectly in the field the very first time?

“Simple.” – By not doing it for the very first time in the field.

These things happened perfectly the first time, in part because of redundant systems, but primarily because of testing of all kinds done well before anyone built the device, much less fired it into the sky toward Mars.

NASA does the same kind of testing that we talked about last week re: Intuit’s 10 million lines of code.

Unit testing. Integration testing. System testing. Testing redundant systems. Simulations. Much of it automated so that nothing gets missed and everything possible is tested every single time it or a related component changes.

It’s not “simple”, but it’s what professionals do. Test. Everything. Not just manually, not just once the thing is done and ready to roll out the door. After every build. Automatically. Long before liftoff.

Congrats NASA.

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Stop waiting until you’re big enough.

Say AHHHH :-O
Creative Commons License photo credit: aussiegall

This morning a friend pointed out this story about how QuickBooks maker Intuit manages 10 million lines of code.

The punch line is that they manage 10 million lines of code just like you should be managing your code.

Professionally.

Is your business using professional-grade methods and tools? Are you sure?

Intuit manages their massive code base using the same professional-grade methods that almost every software business should be using. Perhaps you’d choose different tools, but the process is the key.

What does Intuit process include?

Intuit uses continuous integration.

So can you.

Intuit’s continuous integration (CI) tool is Jenkins, an open-source product not unlike CruiseControl and CruiseControl.Net and numerous others. I use CruiseControl.Net. Use what fits you until it doesn’t.

But my programmers will never agree to that”, you say. Aside from wondering who runs the place, I suggest you review this discussion on getting developers bought in to continuous integration. You shouldn’t have to work very hard at it, if you’re working with professionals.

Intuit uses source control.

So can you.

Intuit’s source control tool is Perforce, which offers a free version. If you want something simpler or less expensive, there are plenty of options – including some very dependable free source management systems. Examples include Git, Mercurial, Kiln (a hosted version of Mercurial), Vault, Subversion and several others. I use Kiln and Vault.

Intuit manages multiple builds.

So can you.

You can do that with a source control tool in conjunction with your CI tool of choice. You could make this more complex, but really, it’s about builds and source management. And you *can* do that.

Why do you need multiple builds? For one, when your tools change. You have production code deployed. It breaks. You need to fix it, and you sure can’t wait until all of your testing is done on the new tool set. Check out the code with the old tool set, fix it, check it in, build it.

You won’t believe how simple this is, especially if you manage multiple toolset releases with source control. Your hair might even grow back.

Intuit automates code analysis and testing.

So can you.

They use Coverity in conjunction with their own in-house tools, but you can start today with FxCop, NDepend, Simian, Gendarme, nAnt, various CI tools, Test Complete and a host of other CI-enabled code analysis and test tools. You can use VMWare‘s Workstation for Windows or Fusion for Mac (or both, as I do) to manage the OS snapshots and provide the same consistent testbench for each set of tests without manually having to build a test system, run tests, restore and so on.

Avoid the drudgery just like Intuit does, without losing the benefits of greater and more consistent quality.

Stop waiting until you’re “big enough”

If you’re waiting until you’re “big enough”, you’re not only wasting time, but you’re slowing down your ability to get big in the first place. You can’t wait until you have 10 million lines of code to manage to decide to go pro. By that time, you’re either drowning in code and tests and builds or you’re history. Or maybe you’re surviving as a slave to your software.

For every hour that you spend manually building binaries, building installs, testing installs, testing your app and doing other grunt work that your competition uses CI and source control systems to manage, guess what your competition is doing? They’re spending their time coding, marketing, working with customers, planning strategy, sleeping and enjoying their families.

The earlier you incorporate professional methods and professional tools in your software business, the earlier you get out of “dig a hole and fill it up” mode.

One of the reasons you might not be doing as well as you’d like is that you’re still using the methods and tools that a little software business uses.

Go pro. Start today.

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How to give MORE refunds and love doing it

sales

Last time, we discussed steps you could take to reduce the number of refunds or “lost” sales you have.

The idea is that every refund or lost sale costs you money, but if you think about this in the big picture, it’s entirely possible that you want to give MORE refunds.

And of course, I have a story about that, because I used to be pretty proud of the fact that I could count annual refunds on one hand.

A conversation with Dan Kennedy changed all that. He suggested that if we had so few refunds that it was the subject of bragging rights, we weren’t marketing or selling hard enough. Otherwise, we should have more refunds – and the payoff for that would be far greater sales.

He was right.

We didn’t have to get pushy and do the hard sell thing, we simply had to step beyond a strategy of selecting just the right people to attract to our business and turning a crazy high percentage of them into customers.

When we widened our qualifying process just a little – not a lot – it was transformational. We adjusted until we found the sweet spot – and it paid off.

Yes, we definitely had more refunds, maybe two or three times as many – but that was still only 10-15 per year. It also resulted in substantially more sales, so it’s worth a try. Just don’t use this strategy as “permission” to use every living being as your almost-perfect prospect.

Remember Jeffrey Gitomer’s “People hate to be sold but they love to buy.” There’s a lot of meaning in that which goes way beyond turning off the hard sell.

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How to cut down on refunds

Froggy
Creative Commons License photo credit: TeryKats

Do you have problems with too many sales turning into refunds? Or almost-sales turning into no-sales?

Do your demonstration projects frequently fail to reach the buying stage?

Does return-friendly Costco look like a tough return desk negotiator compared to you?

Do people frequently add things to their shopping cart while on your website but decide not to buy them and click away? The industry term is “cart abandonment”.

Do you sell software by offering a free trial and think “if only 10% more people bought”, you’d be doing a lot better?

Do you lose sales or have refunds from people you think should have been perfect for your product?

If you answered “Yes” to at least one of these questions, you need to take steps to cut down on lost sales and reduce refunds. In marketing parlance, you want your sales to be “stickier”.

Where to look

The simplest way to start working on this is to look at the sales you lost. If you don’t keep track of when refunds occurred (by date, for example) and what caused them – start doing so.

Assuming you have a firm date-driven return policy, are you getting most of your refunds just before the end of your refund policy period? You might assume that you can’t combat this, but you can. Better qualifying of leads/prospects will help, at least in situations where you have that sort of buying process. Costco doesn’t ask if you can afford a 46″ LED television or if it’ll fit in your apartment/office, but not everything is sold off the shelf like that.

Doing well-timed things to help folks continue to see a high ROI out of their purchase will help. Training videos, calls or webinars delivered at strategic points in their timeline as a new customer, for example.

Imagine that you offer new car buyers a free oil change for the first year of ownership. While that starts off year one as a sales promo expense, it should end up creating a habit: “Change your oil here”, which produces long term service revenue and as a by-product gets your customer back into the store every 90 days or so.

If you fail to remind them about each free oil change, they might get it done somewhere else – breaking the habit before it starts. If you do the math, the revenue loss after year one is substantial. Worse, you may lose a future vehicle sale because that person isn’t eyeballing shiny new wheels once a quarter while waiting for the oil change. Make yourself an easy habit.

Trials and Tribulations

When it comes to products that are sold via 30 day trials and the like, cancellation timeframes should be examined closely. Just because everyone cancels on day 29 doesn’t mean they didn’t like your product. It might be that they underestimated how busy they were (imagine that) and never got to the point where they could give it a fair shake.

Or maybe they got confused, didn’t ask for help and gave up. That trial ends despite the fact that they were doing well with you until they became confused. Cancellation points can change as your offerings do, so pay attention. Sometimes the problem is as simple as helping people see the depth of the value you deliver.

Tiny little things, ill-timed, can devastate people’s confidence in your product or service.

Think about the last time you put something in a website shopping cart and then clicked away. The tiniest thing is enough to break your confidence (or attention) enough to say “Maybe next time” and cause you to click away. Do you watch to see what page is most frequently used just before a shopping cart is abandoned? That might be a clue that helps you fix a problem costing you thousands of dollars in sales.

Reducing refunds is really about catching the folks who might leave because you’re missing something. It’s not really about turning around a refund as it is doing a much better job of paying attention to the prospect’s needs as well as learning where the failure points are in the process people have to evaluate and use your product/service – and then addressing them.

Those failure points can be moved or even eliminated, if you pay attention.

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The two most valuable parts of a conversation

Every single day, I see problems that would be solved with better (or any) understanding, speed and an order of magnitude improvement in quality if people would just pick up the phone.

I know, especially the more technical folks out there, you want that cocoon. You want to hide and just create. Some of you might even want to focus rather than hop back and forth between your IDE, Skype, Facebook and so on.

When you’re in that mode, the phone is the last thing you want interrupting you (the interruptions are not necessary but I’ve said plenty about that in the past).

Thing is, if you don’t talk to the customer, don’t watch them use what you create, you’re missing a massive piece of the equation.

They’ll never tell you everything in a tweet, email or wall post. Never, ever. They might be meaner because of the nature of the media, but you’ll never get the whole story. You’ll never see the gleam in their eye or the song (or despair) in their voice in an email or other online message.

Don’t get me wrong – those media are important, but they aren’t as rich as you need at certain times.

Are you “Unknown” or “Blocked”?

Yesterday, I had some work done on the Mrs’ chariot and they called me to tell me it was ready.

Thing is, they called me from a number that shows up on caller id as “Unknown”.

Business owners and those-in-charge-of-telecom – NO ONE wants to talk to whoever is calling when the phone says “Unknown” or “Blocked”, particularly in an election year.

I see this regularly on customer service feedback loops, customer “your (whatever) is ready” and even SALES calls.

If the relationship you have with people requires “Unknown” or “Blocked”, I wonder why you bother to call. You have work to do on your customer relationships.

Want them to answer

Unless I’m missing out on a management secret that involves making phone calls that you don’t want answered (maybe a push poll would count there, but this isn’t a politics blog), your goal should be to get the phone answered by your customer – NOT to have it ignored.

You want to talk to them. Make it easy. Create a relationship that makes them glad to see your name on the caller id.

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The Best Code Wins?

Released the final draft of “The Best Code Wins – What’s wrong with your software business and how to fix it” to a short list of reviewers tonight.

Finally. It’s been a long effort. Giving birth probably isn’t the same, but this took longer.