smart-business-growthHere in our small firm, we’ve helped so many small businesses and entrepreneurs either launch their big idea, grow their existing business through online efforts, or both. Kristin and I recognize the countless number of parallels between growing a business in the real world and growing a business online. We subscribe to many ‘best practices’ for our business and for our clients’, and tend to shake our heads when we see blatant disregard for smart, solid, common sense business practices.

In the online world, Facebook is absolutely a leading force. And really, with its over 1 billion users, it’s an established name and brand across the globe. Current day Facebook is vastly different from its beginnings. Its user demographic, size, capabilities and features have greatly evolved over the years. But as the social media and online landscape has become more complex, has Facebook lost sight of what made its users originally fall in love with it?

What if Facebook was your Neighborhood Grocer?

Let’s say you shop at the biggest grocery store in your area. It’s the one that’s been around the longest, has the most name recognition, carries the most products & brands to choose from, and everyone you know shops there.

Even your mom.

You don’t regularly shop at the smaller, specialty grocery stores in the area, even though those seem to have a dedicated, almost cult-like following among the people you know who do regularly shop there.

Shopping at your big grocery store is typically a great experience and has been for a long time. Sure, the occasional end cap displays, hanging banners and sample stations may get into your way – along with the periodic store layout changes – but not so much that your shopping experience is greatly affected.

Then after years of a positive, mostly satisfied shopping experience at your big grocery store, the ownership of the store changes hands.

Things rapidly begin to change as a result.

And not in ways that are good for you, the customer.

It becomes clear that the grocery store is really only displaying a small portion of the total products you’ve already told them you are interested in because – well – it thinks it knows you better than you.

The grocery store also decides that it knows what you want to see based on the items you viewed and purchased during your most recent visit. Those are the aisles that you easily pass down without having to make a concerted effort to try to see all the other products available in the store.

Then to make your shopping experience supposedly even better, the store decides you need to begin your grocery run by viewing the products that some of your friends bought yesterday.

You eventually reach a point where 50% of the products put in front of you while you shop are put there because the companies who make those products paid extra to put them where you are forced to see them. Sales guys are suddenly popping up as you work your way through the aisles, jabbering at you about why you should buy their products even though you’ve never been interested in them before.

What used to be your favorite store where you shopped all the time, found exactly what you were looking for, and had a much fuller view of the items for sale, has become a much less desirable place to shop. Your frustrations and shopping difficulties have piled on to the point that you begin shopping more often at some of the smaller grocers in your area.

* * * * *

Being the biggest player in the market, with the biggest selection and highest level of name recognition can get you far, but will not sustain your place as the market leader long term if you disregard what your customers want, enjoy and have come to expect from you. Evolution of the business is one thing, but changing in ways that financially benefit you as the business owner while degrading your customers’ experiences is something else.

So, take a business lesson from Facebook. If the next step for your business is something that can negatively impact your products, services, or customer experience, don’t do it. Your customers are what makes your business successful. Keep them in mind for all you do.

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