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On customer relations

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May. 31st, 2012 | 07:59 pm

The Beeb has an article on Vibram and how the company dealt with counterfeiters; it's interesting enough, if perhaps not a must-read (unless you happen to be a FiveFingers aficionado or an entrepreneur).

It does, however, contain one quote by Tony Post (chief executive of Vibram USA) that is absolute gold:

"Candidly, you have to realise that intellectual property only gets you so far," says Mr Post. "At the end of the day it's really about your relationship with the consumer."

This was said in the context of counterfeiters and the best way to deal with them, of course, but it applies so much more widely, and many companies and industry associations would be well-advised to keep these words in mind.

Copyright and similar legal protections (I don't use the term "intellectual property", as it fosters the wrong mental image: there is no property involved, and copyright at least is only for a limited amount of time) are very blunt tools, and when wielded the wrong way and without care, they can do a lot of damage, especially when they're directed at your customers: the people you, as a business, directly depend on to survive. Often, a hands-off approach that tries to understand what your customers/consumers/users actually want is is better than a heavy-handed crackdown that only serves to antagonize present and future customers.

And it's not just the right thing to do; it also makes business sense. No business can survive in the long run by killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

So if you're an entrepreneur, a business owner, or a manager: heed Mr Post's words, and think before you act. And keep in mind that at the end of the day, it really IS about your relationship with the consumer, and that if that relationship turns sour, your business will not survive.

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