Entrepreneurs serve users first, customers second

entrepreneur iphoneversusblackberry2

Sometimes your customer is your user, ie: Facebook.

Sometimes your customer is just an agent for your user, ie: the CIO of a company deciding which email client to prescribe for staff.

This post is for the latter case: B2B sales where you’re servicing two stakeholders:

  • The agent (CIO) who signs the purchase requisition.
  • The user who actually uses your product.

Ideally you want to listen to both the agent and the user, and keep them both happy. But sometimes you’re forced to choose:

a) Listen to the agent, or

b) Listen to the user.

The temptation is to listen to the person who writes the cheques: The agent.

This is probably what RIM (Blackberry) did.

It started with a fantastic product which users loved and eventually became a default device for banks and law firms, all employees being forced to use a Blackberry.

But eventually RIM started servicing the CIO’s and not the users. This worked for a while until the iPhone came along.

Employees didn’t want a Blackberry anymore, insisting on using iPhone or Android at work and eventually the CIO’s objections were over-ridden. The rest is history.

RIM died because they’d stopped looking after their users.

Sometimes it seems like the agent will always have the power. But eventually the chickens come home to roost.

If you want to build a business that outlasts the CIO, look after your users.


Also published on Medium.