There are so many examples of companies that initially created something awesome for a specific type of customer, only to eventually abandon a loyal subculture of fans in trade for growth and profits and return for investors. For most, it was probably the only way to survive once they passed the point of no return (taking investment, hiring lots of employees, opening offices and introducing loads of complication that required much faster growth). But you can’t blame them – it works – at least from a balance sheet point of view. And that’s what’s important and what business school taught them. They’ve become a very profitable household name brand, one that is instantly recognizable and on every shelf at every big time retailer. They did it!
But there is a problem now. No one admires what they do anymore.
Their incredibly important ambassadors (the real ones, not the ones they now have to pay) have moved on. They are so disappointed. The people that used to love their products and proudly talk about being a customer are gone. The hard core outdoor folks that use to wear XYZ gear with pride have bailed since big time sporting goods shops start selling their stuff to the masses. The trend setting ladies who used to wear boutique XYZ dresses shutter at the thought of being seen in one now that giant stores (that also sell electronics and groceries) now carry them. And on and on. The very people that these companies designed their products for…the ones who will help them grow without them even asking – have vanished. Was that the plan? Maybe. If you watch Shark Tank – they definitely won’t invest in you unless that’s your plan. It’s sad they do that.
So ex-ambassadors (or fans) are now searching for another company to talk about and love. A company that has a story that they can relate to again and products they are proud to own and use. They are searching for a company that says no to the wrong people – even if it means making less money. They are searching for a company that makes them feel like they are part of a members only club again – one where the story gets better and better over time. Sure, the masses are now buying and the money is pouring in like never before, but the love and the fun and the story are gone.
The good news is there are very successful companies that do take a stand and are not making stuff for anyone who will pay for it. They don’t put it on every shelf in every giant store and create annoying ads for stuff that follows you around the internet. They actually choose their customer and say no often. And guess what? They still grow every year. And they end up building enduring relationships with the perfect customers. Customers who love to talk about the company and are proud to be a part of the story. Customers who may even one day out grow what the company provides, yet still admire and recommend them after they are gone.