CTOs survival guide to Customerization Annihilation

Customerization Annihilation: Verb. The act of a customer modifying your systems beyond use of future customers. Resulting in you becoming their salve and your dreams of an empire are annihilated by the customers customization.

This week I was talking with a few bright CTOs on the podcast. The topic of your first clients customizing your platform to the point where you become only useful to them, came up. I’m sure there is a more eloquent way to state that. Nonetheless, the topic is real, the struggle is real so now I’m writing about it.  

1. Voice says yes, words say no.

A quick direct “no!” is attractive and is the quickest way to end up client-less. I have found saying no properly is more of a gentle dance and less of a punch to the face.

Have you ever had someone say no and you felt good, then it took you a second to realize they said no? This has happened to me, the people who can do this are often in positions above you. It’s not by chance, this skill is a useful one to wield.

Real example would look like them getting excited. This happens often when people are trying to understand how new products fit into their businesses and lives. I talk about this in: 5 reasons why investors feature creep your pitch.
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Here are the steps to have your voice say yes and words say no.

1. Pay attention.
Do not check out mentally as they run off on their wildtangent. Actively listen. Make eye contact, legitimately try to obtain their perspective.

2. Get excited.
The worst feeling in the world is when i’m all pumped up to tell my wife about new code i’m writing and she is uninterested. I even try to tell Alexa, neither understand. :P

3 Say no.
“Yes, yes, yes, I love it. I want to start off this relationship right and make sure you have everything you need. The best way to accomplish this is to get this initial offering deployed, everyone trained and comfortable with it. It’s going to be great! Sign here and here.”

Disclaimer: #3 works, it has to be done correctly. Objections or complaints have to be handled. Here are the bulletpoints:

  • Don’t just listen, make them feel heard.
  • Control the focus, agree with them, direct the focus back.
  • Resell them on the value of having your product in the state it’s in today.
  • Communicate the urgency and excitement of their problem being solved now.

There are times when the client will be fully convinced out for blood, on the war path of customerization annihilation.  If that is happening,  keep reading. I have written out 3 specific ways you can win the war.

2. Communicate the benefits

Explain the negatives of what happens when you start doing these customer specific customizations on your current system. That customizing the system in the manner they are asking would not allow for the flexibility you need to bring them value. That they would end up with a subpar product in time. Then immediately present better ways for them to get what they want.

3. Explain the cost to do it right.

Literally calculate the manpower required in order to develop the quasi bifurcated system they want. Ripping your code base apart allowing client level customization and extreme flexibility per client. Let them see it as an option, put a dollar amount to it. Let them say no to the cost and make their own decision. When you do this present an offer that has a profit great enough to make worth your while.

To some people money does not drive the decision, they may say yes and you both win. They may be considering your system the biggest investment for their future and are willing to spend 10x what you think. How is that for an outcome? You essentially just got a client to foot your bill for a system that will allows you to make future customizations for clients. Don’t believe this is even possible architecturally? Check out what Twilio is doing, it’s possible, it’s a matter of time and money.

4. Build APIs to get at your core sets of data.

You should have these APIs already because it’s 2018 and you’re reading the Modern CTO. If you don’t, you should be building them with excellent documentation. When you have the APIs there are 2 excellent plays:

The first is to communicate to them they are the only ones that really know their business. They should to hire in-house developers in to build upon your APIs. This way, they can build to their heart’s content as fast as they would like.

The second is to partner with a local development shop who knows your APIs and present them as a trusted partner familiar with your system. “Oh yes, of course we can do those intricate customizations. We’ve partnered with Matz & Fowler — the greatest dev shop on earth.”

A quick confident response comes through experience. Knowing how to respond. Sell them on “This is how we handle that level customization, happens all the time. Sign here and here.”

Getting Annihilated?

If this is happening to you right now I’m here. Tell me what I can do to help. To set an appointment with me simply click this link to reach out. Something else on your mind? Whatever you need, I’m here. Life is meant to be done together, just reach out.

Joel Beasley

Joel Beasley founded the Modern CTO Podcast in 2017 while writing his book, the Modern CTO book, with the goal of interviewing CTOs and sharing their experiences with others in the tech community.

Joel’s conversational style and insightful questions quickly gained traction, attracting high-profile guests such as Microsoft’s CTO, Kevin Scott, and T-Mobile’s CIO, Cody Stanford. With each episode, the podcast’s popularity continued to grow, and soon, Joel found himself with a waiting list of future guests.

Today, the Modern CTO Podcast has become the number one leadership and tech podcast in the world, with over 150k active listeners, including CTOs, lead developers, and rising tech leaders. Joel’s commitment to creating a conversational atmosphere for his guests to share their experiences has inspired a new generation of leaders and innovators.

As the success of the podcast grew, Joel founded ProSeries Media, a podcast production company that helps companies worldwide create their own podcasts. With a team of producers, content creators, and podcast bookers, ProSeries Media produces over ten shows, providing a platform for companies to connect with their audience and share their expertise.

Through his work on the Modern CTO Podcast and ProSeries Media, Joel Beasley has become a respected voice in the tech industry, inspiring others to share their knowledge and insights with the wider community. His passion for creating engaging content that informs, inspires, and entertains has made him a sought-after speaker and advisor on all things tech.

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