Archive for February, 2013

Ten Ways You Know You Have the ‘Wrong’ Customer

February 28, 2013

Right vs Wrong Person Choose Best in Crowd of People

This month’s top-ten-marketing rules topic is part of a two blog series about customers: This one is on ‘Ten Ways You Know You Have the Wrong Customer’ and next month’s blog will be on ‘Ten Ways to Enlist the Right Customers’.

Whether a company is struggling to grow and retain customers or struggling with having the resources to service them, they may be suffering from the same symptom: having too many of the wrong kind of customers. ‘Can there be such a thing as a ‘wrong’ customer?’ you ask? In my opinion, that’s a resounding yes. If it costs more to serve them in the short term and in the long term, if they use more resources than other customers, if your team groans when they come or call are all signs of having the wrong customer. The top ten ways you know you have the wrong customer are listed below.

They Are High-Maintenance

  1. Customers who are really demanding of your time and unappreciative of your expertise will tax you in the end. You know who they are. You know who can be trained out of this mode. You know how it weighs on your team and company. And you know that it takes much more time and money to serve them than others. Is it time to fire them or move them on to another solution? Did they once serve the purpose of raising the bar for your product team, but are now more in-the-way than providing value?
  2. High-maintenance customers can give you insights about your revenue models and the value you’re providing. They may give you insights about marketing and industry opportunities if you pay attention. So there’s an up-side to having high-maintenance customers, but not on their current terms. How would you reframe your offerings to serve them without annoying your team and breaking the company bank?

They Are In a Dying Market Opportunity

3. Sometimes new customers or long-term customers aren’t worth having because they are in the wrong market or industry. If you see the trends going against getting more customers in this sector, perhaps you should invest time and resources in closing other types of customers, as it better serve your marketing needs, your product road map and your revenue goals in the short term and in the long run.

4. Long-term customers who are in a waning industry might be a good partner. Depending on what you do and how you do it, you could help them shift their business and offerings to address the new market forces and trends and/or work in collaboration on new projects.

They Are Not In Your Sweet Spot

5. Sometimes we bend over backwards to accommodate customers and take her customers who don’t fit our ideal profile. I say have clear ideals of your top tier customer types, know the reasons why they are most coveted, and reward your team for delivering clients who fit that sweet spot. You could also strategize on current customers not in your sweet spot and look at how to transition them into other types of customers or partners, seeking that win-win.

6. With that said, categorizing customers *not* in your sweet spot and recognizing what they think of your offerings and what they are doing with your products and services might be a great opportunity to expand your communications, your strategy and your revenues.

They Are High-Volume, Low-Margin Customers

7. High volume, lots of them. Low margin, you make so little money. If your business is providing a commodity, you need to find a greater way to offer value, rather than doing it increasing faster and cheaper. What are the industry trends and how do you pivot to a higher-margin business, involving more customization and service? The problem might not be the customer. It is the business itself.

There Is No Partner Opportunity Beyond Client-Vendor

8. If your best customers with the deepest relationships with you are still in a client-vendor relationship, without ever talking about doing something better and deeper together, then ask yourself why-not? Is there an opportunity to do something more than what you’ve done? Are you trends facilitating a new way of offering services and products? What are collaboration options? Where are the synergies in the value chain and what can you do about it?

They Do Not Understand or Appreciate Your Offerings

9. If you hear your customers describing your offerings to a third party and they don’t get it right, then something is very wrong. They are engaging you and your company without understanding why, so the misperceptions must be corrected.

10. Their misunderstanding might be a business partnership opportunity or a market expansion opportunity for you, so they may not necessarily be the wrong customer.

Do you have any ‘wrong’ customers? Can they be converted into the ‘right’ customers? Are they pointing out things about your business that you didn’t know? Do you like what they are telling you about your business? And most important, whether you have zero wrong customers or hundreds of them, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Read next month’s blog about ten ways to recruit the ‘right’ customers. Your thoughts are welcome. E-mail us at


Ten People You Should Have In Your Network

February 28, 2013

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No matter what your role is, what level you are within an organization, where you are in your career path, or to what degree you are happy with where you are personally and professionally, your network has tremendous influence over your career, your impact and influence for today and going forward. In this age where communication can be pervasive and instantaneous, given how connected we are globally and the tools we use daily to connect with others (from e-mail to social media to videos), it is ever more critical that we message precisely (a topic for another blog) what we want to the audience and network we prescribe. In considering your network and who you would like to target which message to, consider including these ten people as an essential part of the network you build:

  1. You Mom or other Cheerleader, someone who would stand behind you no matter what, and insist that you live by the values under which she has raised you. This is a maternal figure or cheerleader someone who believes in you, and gives you the confidence, fortitude and inspiration to keep going, especially when times are tough; and to appreciate the people in your life, the accomplishments you’ve already achieved, and the values you stand you. Having a mother figure in your network gives you the sense of self and confidence in self to insist on excellence and persistently reach and grow.
  2. Your Dad (or Mom) or an older, wiser Advocate, someone who always raises the bar for you, and insists that you bring honor and success to your family and yourself, while providing for those who rely on you. This is the paternal figure (who could also be your mom) who challenges you to be all that you can be, advocates for you and your higher purpose, and helps you to provide for others, and stand for the values with which you were raised. Having a father figure in your network will help you feel comfortable with who you are, what you stand for, and understand how to reach beyond your current circle of people, your current goals.
  3. Your Best Childhood Friend, or the equivalent, who may or may not get what you are doing now, but knows that you will always be there for him and her, and that your purpose, passion and values are clear.
  4. A Devil’s Advocate, who is always poking holes at your ideas, to ensure the validity of what you decide to do in the end.
  5. A Hero who has opened the world of possibilities in new ways, and stretched your thinking about what’s possible.
  6. An Older Sibling who is always encouraging, sometimes contrarian, yet also always raising the bar for you. He or she may be exactly like you, or nothing like you, but they have witnessed your personal development and professional growth and will help you find that true north.
  7. A Mentor with skills and information not necessarily in your repertoire, who sees your potential and facilitates your success. He or she might help you see things from the other point of view, and give you ideas and recommendations and resources beyond your field of vision. She or he might at times be that hero or devil’s advocate or cheerleader, and coaches and encourages resilience, fortitude and resourcefulness. Good mentors make great accountability partners, while always staying on your side, sometimes with tough love.
  8. An Executive Sponsor who can open doors for you at the top executive suites, but only if he is she thinks that you’re ready for it. She or he would stand beside you and help facilitate your success and recover from inevitable missteps while coaching and prepping you for the next opportunity. He or she would take a chance on you, and open doors for you, and also call you to task if you don’t deliver.
  9. An Adviser who has broken the ground in some way in a specific business or technology area, and can help you think through the business and tech opportunities, challenges and implications. Part mentor, part partner, part devil’s advocate and cheerleader, an adviser could be very hands-off, or definitely hands-on with the day-to-day business. The better ones are hands-on, but not necessarily hungry for a home run.
  10. A Partner or Spouse who doesn’t think or act like you, or play and work in the same circles as you, who is not afraid of providing candid feedback, as well as implicit support. The best ones know when to play which of the roles above to push you while supporting you implicitly.

So which of these people are in your network? Who do you still need in the network? Who else should be on the must-have list? We invite your questions and comments about your marketing and leadership successes and challenges.

Work-Life Balance

February 11, 2013

Feb8PanelFountainBlue’s February 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives on our panel, and that our panelists shared their insights, suggestions and advice with poignant humor and candor. They speak from their deep experience immersed in high tech, challenged by juggling home and work needs, and making tough choices, leading tough conversations which would help them and others around them integrate work and life better. There are vast differences in education, experience and perspectives, yet they had many things in common.

  • They know what it looks like and feels like to be on the wrong side of the work-life balance equation, and are committed to making tough choices to seek a better balance.
  • They understand the business value of integrating work and life, how a better balance leads to a happier, more productive culture, team and organization.
  • They have sponsors, mentors, friends and others in their network who help them maintain their perspectives, and stay true to their values, passions and goals.
  • They make a stand for their family, particularly their children, and make sure that they have the care and support they need.
  • Although they each admit how tough it is, they are each making a conscious choice to make time for themselves: to be self-aware, to stand for their values, to focus on what’s important.

Below are some thoughts on how to integrate life and work successfully:

Know and Manage Yourself

  • Build your self-awareness and inner strength, so that you can manage the inevitable stress of working in high tech environments.
  • Turn down the self critic and don’t aspire to be perfect, for good enough is good enough.
  • Be attuned to the physical manifestations of stress and proactive about managing it.
  • Don’t think that everyone’s judging you for not being as perfect as you can be, for everyone’s too busy thinking about themselves to judge whether what you’re doing is good enough.
  • Choose happiness. Don’t let the small people and things get to you. Put yourself first.
  • Take the journey from work to home, and home to work as a transition point, and be fully where you are when you’re there, at home and at work.
  • Start your day in a positive mind set. End your day focusing on learnings, what worked, what to build on.
  • Speak to yourself throughout the day in a positive voice.

Accept What You Can’t Change

  • There *is* no perfect role which facilitates work-life balance in high tech. You are in charge of creating the boundaries and integrating that balance as best you can.
  • You can’t change people or what happens in life, but you can take responsibility for your thinking and doing.

Create Boundaries

  • Get the job done, and done well, but you don’t have to be there 24×7 to make that happen. Choose to work from home. Delegate where appropriate. Set boundaries on assignments and timing of calls.
  • Don’t over-explain and justify *how* something will be done. Just make sure that things get done.
  • Make sure that every meeting makes sense, that most tasks have owners (so that you don’t have to check in with everyone), and that coordination between busy people is easy, and communication is clear and concise and inclusive.

Get Support

  • Ask for help where you need it, particularly if it’s on doing non-essential tasks, or things that you don’t love to do.
  • Keep yourself and others around you alive and vibrant and passionate. Do something you care about, working with a team and company you care about.
  • Recruit cheerleaders and listen to them.
  • You are good at taking care of everyone, but who is taking care of you.
  • Surround yourself with tokens or reminders to help keep you grounded on work-life integration.

Give Support to Others

  • Support your friends in seeking their work-life balance.
  • Do regularly check-ins with your spouse about what’s working, what’s not working and how to change it so that things work better.
  • Don’t assume that the answer is no by playing an anticipated conversation in your head.



We would like to thank and acknowledge our panelists for FountainBlue’s February 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times:

Facilitator Kristi Royse, KLR Consulting

Panelist Anne Griswold, Principal and Organizational Specialist, Altera

Panelist Komal Lahiri, Director, Payments & Credit Products Risk, PayPal

Panelist Punam Nagpal, Engineer, Quality Metrics, Cisco

Panelist Phyllis Stewart Pires, Director of WorkLife Strategy, University Human Resources, Stanford University

Please join us also in thanking our gracious hosts at Altera.