Friday Q & A: Which Channels Deliver the Most Loyal Customers, How to Fire as a CEO, and How Tough It Was to Start a Tech Company for a Non-Tech Guy

Friday Q & A: Which Channels Deliver the Most Loyal Customers
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Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more.

Happy Friday!

In our new Groove Friday Q & A segment, we’re answering any questions that you have about, well, anything.

A huge thank you to Stephen Cunliffe, J.C. Hiatt and Mario Ferenac for this week’s questions.

Check out this week’s answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts in the comments!

Which channels deliver the most loyal customers?

First, some crucial context: loyal customers are not acquired. They are nurtured, served and delighted, and then they become loyal customers.

Nobody is a loyal customer from day one. It’s up to you to make that happen through a great customer experience, and excellent customer service.

With that said, there’s some variation, among acquisition channels, when it comes to how likely a certain audience is to become loyal customers in the long run.

This will vary greatly depending on your specific business, but in general, we’ve found:

  • A majority of our most loyal customers come from our blog. They’re long-time readers before they ever buy, and so we’ve already built something of a relationship by then.
  • Organic search traffic is a great way to get customers who will become loyal. They’ve found you because you’re promising a solution to the specific problem they’re looking to solve, so the product/customer fit is already there.
  • Third-party integration partnerships also produce customers that are likely to become loyal. If a customer is deeply loyal to a product that you have a seamless integration with, they might choose to try your product based on that integration. If you deliver a great experience, they’ll already have a great reason to love you beyond just your product.
  • “Viral” posts that bring in massive influxes of traffic from Hacker News, Twitter, Facebook and other social sources are great for rankings, but almost never lead directly to high-quality customers. These aren’t highly qualified leads, and if they sign up, they’re typically just kicking the tires to see what you’re all about.
  • Customers who are incentivized by discounts and low prices (“price shoppers”) rarely become loyal. They tend to choose whatever is cheapest, rather than whatever is best.

But above all, it’s important to note that no channel is a fishing hole for already loyal or high-value customers. That’s on you.

Am I a weak CEO if the idea of firing someone weighs heavy on my conscience?

I chose this question because it’s the exact same question I asked a mentor of mine many years ago.

And the answer, of course, is no.

Feeling bad about firing somebody is not a sign of being weak. It’s a sign of being human. Of having empathy.

But actually following through with firing someone, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, is a sign of being a strong CEO. Of being able to make tough decisions that weigh on your conscience but are in the best interests of your customers, your team and your business.

Everyone you fire has rent or a mortgage to pay. They may have a spouse or kids to support.

It’s good to have empathy for that. It makes you a caring and cautious leader.

But it’s also important to see the big picture. That while your job is to serve your customers and your team, it’s to serve the greater good of those groups; and if keeping someone on board isn’t a good idea for the greater good, then it’s your job to fire them.

That feeling, though, doesn’t really go away the more you fire people.

And frankly, I’m not sure that it should.

For more on my thoughts on firing, read this post.

How tough was it to start a tech company for a non-tech guy?

There’s no question that non-technical founders of tech companies don’t have it easy.

You’re trying to solve a problem using technology, but you don’t really understand (yet) how that technology works.

Here are three things I’d suggest:

  1. If your business will center around technology, find a very capable CTO or technical co-founder immediately. This isn’t just to help you build the product, but to put someone at the top who understands how technologies are built. It’s not as simple as “here’s a vision, now build it.” Instead, you need to break down your idea into its most valuable iterative pieces so that you can begin to validate and grow right away. Otherwise, you’ll make the same mistakes we did.
  2. If you’re not already great at them, learn the essential skills for non-technical founders. Learn to do market research, build visuals, give feedback, pre-sell, sell, motivate, use technical tools and do everything else that’s required to grow a business. If you’re not doing all of those things very well, you’re going to be dragging your business down.
  3. A lot of people—potential investors, other founders, “experts”—are going to tell you that being a non-technical founder makes you worth less to your business. They’ll tell you why you won’t succeed. They won’t believe in you. Don’t listen to them. I’m glad that these folks didn’t. Or these.

Good luck!

Alex Turnbull
Alex Turnbull Alex is the CEO & Founder of Groove. He loves to help other entrepreneurs build startups by sharing his own experiences from the trenches.