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Today marks the end of my week with the Willow crew in the United States. It’s been a full week working with Elisa and Nick on our Sales and Customer Success, meeting with a couple of our customers here, and going to Facebook and Google to explain what our ambition is with Willow. I thought it made sense to share my experience this week with you. I divided this post into three categories, to make it as easy as possible to read.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Being an internationally focused company from day 1 brings both opportunities and challenges. The main opportunity is the ability to tap into a bigger market right off the bat. This has helped us from a commercial perspective for sure, but also gave us quite some insights into what an already further digitally developed audience is looking for.
A challenge, on the other hand, when operating in our current setup is ensuring that everybody within the company (independent of the location) is on the same page and that we’re able to create the necessary social cohesion to create a team. I consider myself very lucky with Nick and Elisa as our main points of contact in the United States. Both of them are really passionate about Contento and our customers. Moreover, the fact that there is literally an ocean between the team in Antwerp and the team in the States hasn’t affected the motivation or intrinsic drive to make and grow Willow.
The main point I’m trying to make: There is no way around it (and there shouldn’t be); you need great people to build a lasting company. And in our stage, great really relates to energy, ambition, enthusiasm, and drive. In which both Elisa and Nick are absolute superstars.
Customers come first, are key, and remain central
Throughout the course of the week, I had the opportunity to meet with a bunch of our customers in the Bay Area. These meetings, which I suggest to be as informal as possible, are always eye-openers in many ways. Being physically present for your customers also creates a bond of trust that goes beyond a purely transactional relationship, which is great to capture honest feedback.
For example, by talking to Joanne from 10plusbrand, I learned that she really values the fact that Elisa is there as a source of expertise. By talking to Mark of Satori Sales Strategies I discovered that he hates the busy work that comes with managing social media for a company. He was convinced to start with Willow based on the simple fact that it would help him to win back valuable time throughout the week. Alex at 360 Labs pointed out that Willow has helped him to save money by not having to hire a social media manager for his company
When building a business, it’s crucial to listen to and learn from your customers. It’s one thing to send out forms collecting NPS, but actually having face time with customers, allows having open, two-directional and candid conversations. It actually doesn’t really matter if not all is perfect from the early days, what really does matter is that your customers know that you’re working hard to make your business into the best possible solution for their needs.
BigCo looking to support SmallCo
On Wednesday we were invited by the SMB/startup team at Google and one of the product teams at Facebook to have a chat. Admitted, it’s fun that they appreciate our commitment to helping our customers shine online. However, we keep both feet on the ground when talking to the big boys. This being said, the meetings that we had with them were interesting and insightful. Both Google and Facebook are continuously looking for new ways to support the SMB market and want to help technology companies such as Willow to promote the online visibility of the Smaller Business segment.
Facebook will pretty soon be launching new initiatives that will make it easier for us to get access to the knowledge we sometimes lack when trying to build a new function to make Willow Home better for our customers.
Google is already pretty big on SMBs, but its current solutions are not what one would call SMB friendly. In quite some ways they are a bit too complex and high-touch. With Willow, we are big on simplicity and we spend quite some time thinking about how we can decrease the complexity of digital products. Being able to explain this to Google helps to ensure that they better and better understand what SMBs really need moving forward.
It’s a wrap
I really enjoyed spending time with the team, our customers, and potential partners. I’m going home with a bunch of really valuable insights, actionable ideas, and loads of energy to get our company and our solution to the next level. Thanks, Nick, Elisa, Joanne, Mark, Alex, Dominic and Jeremy for your time. Hope to see you soon!