Do Things that Don’t Scale… with Your Customers

Paul Graham of Y Combinator has written an excellent post called Do Things that Don’t Scale. I think it’s one of the most important posts of the year. The gist of the post is:

Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.

That’s a powerful idea for a few different reasons. First, Paul’s right – achieving success in a handful of areas, even if it requires serious effort, can have a transformative impact on a business (and not just startups). Second, it’s a really accessible recommendation because just about everyone I know is capable of doing things that don’t scale. Third, I’m a fan of contrarian ideas as a competitive differentiator in business and this is definitely a contrarian idea.

This is particularly true when it comes to building relationships with people who can help make your company successful. Of course you can build relationships with lots of different people. Examples include your employees, investors, and influencers. But in my mind, the relationships that you build with your customers are the most important. That’s why the first thing I thought of when reading Paul’s post is that we should do things that don’t scale with our customers.

Customer Engagement: How Marketing and Sales Can Use Psychology to Drive Engagement

One of the most profound changes in sales and marketing in recent years is the idea that companies should focus on engaging customers more than selling products. A big part of the customer engagement movement involves using various communication techniques to create a meaningful relationship where the customer values you and your company, independent of what you’re selling.

There’s been some analysis on a handful of techniques that can drive engagement. Popular examples include social media, storytelling, and content marketing. But most of this analysis has focused on tactical execution, as opposed to how knowing what the customer really wants (read: the customer’s psychology) can help you drive engagement.

Robin Dreeke has written a book called It’s Not All About Me. It’s a primer on how to use ten different communication skills to build rapport with people. Dreeke is the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and his recommendations are based on a good understanding of evolutionary and social psychology, as well as years of experience in the field.