We recently invited 10 key, multi-million dollar accounts to a no-holds barred customer advisory/user group meeting. What's the big deal? Some LOVED us and consistently sang our praises while others would likely be calling our competitors come contract renewal time. Yet we encouraged open and honest feedback on what we were doing right as well as how we were screwing up. We also exposed our R&D concepts and asked their opinions.
At times it was downright ugly. We learned some of our ideas looked great on our white boards but simply didn't cut it with those we were hoping to sell it to in the first place. And the unhappy ones were, of course, the vocal ones. It couldn't have gone better.
Those who LOVED us coming into the session continued to do so, remarking on our openness, candor, and transparency. They felt now,even more than ever, that we were a business partner they could see themselves with for the long haul. We even converted some of the others from the dark side. As it turns out, the happy customers came to our rescue, often in side-bar conversations between just the clients themselves.
Bringing together clients with various feelings about our company was a risk. The unhappy could have influenced the others. Our supporters could have wavered under the peer pressure. And we could have looked like fools opening ourselves to criticism in front of them all. Yet, we saved large amounts of money and other resources killing projects deemed to be turkeys. And we'll generate more future revenue by bolstering the burgeoning product lines we now know will sell.
So, yeah, it was a risk. But future profits will show it was a risk we had to take.