It was Thursday evening last week. I was still reading one of the many books I bought over the last months – Story Driven, by Bernadette Jiwa. The chapter I read was about Alibaba – the world’s largest online commerce company. It told the story of Alibaba – how it got started, its values, its purpose and vision and finally its strategy points. I flipped the page and then one of Alibaba’s strategy points struck me: ‘Build a loyal customer base based on word-of-mouth marketing until we are cash positive.’
It made me stop and think – just because I’d expected the exact opposite. Then I went back and read their purpose again – their reason to exist: ‘Make it easy to do business anywhere.’ That’s where it clicked. In order to live up to such a purpose you need the power of word of mouth. To make it easy to do business anywhere you need to create an environment where people want to do business. And once that happens, the rest follows.
I closed the book and thought: ‘Why do so many companies do the very opposite?’ and, ‘Why would you stop this strategy to grow through word-of-mouth when you are cash positive?’
Just think about it: Word-of-mouth, to me, is the holy grail for any company. Once word of mouth is happening, you’re doing something remarkable. That becomes your flywheel – your Remarkable Effect. It’s the primary reason I gave my upcoming book that exact title. With that success follows, so becoming cash positive is just a matter of time.
Becoming remarkable in the eyes of your ideal customers doesn’t have to cost more than being seen as ‘just a commodity’. On the contrary, it’s about realizing you don’t have to make everyone an advocate. Your task is to make the right people an advocate. That happens when you’re making an impact on them that’s valuable, critical, and exceeds their expectations in relation to the alternative options they have.
So it’s strange to me that so many business software companies I see start with precisely the opposite mindset. How often do we see minimum viable products that are more about ‘what everybody else does/would expect’ rather than a version that does enough to ‘wow’ the right people and get them on board because you gave them something to believe.
Why would you keep the best for last? Why do we believe we have to get everything sorted – fixing all the ‘holes’ as I called it in a recent blog – before we can work on the memorable ‘peaks.’ What if money runs out before we even get to that point? Wouldn’t it be way more energizing to start on ‘a high’ and build momentum from there?
It’s for sure way more straightforward if you get the momentum from word-of-mouth behind your venture right from the start. And for sure much more predictable to get cash-positive sooner rather than later.
So my question to you: What stops you? What would you have to change in your product roadmap that will get the right people to talk about it to their peers?