By Xenios Thrasyvoulou of PeoplePerHour

The customer always comes first, that’s a given. It’s the first rule of any business. But it’s a concept that is becoming harder and harder to stand by in today’s fast paced dot.com world, where if you don’t put time and effort in to the productivity and innovation within your business strategy, your competitors will overtake you. Then before you know it, they’ll be the ones putting your customers first. And with the majority of new start-ups either a one man band or handful of professionals, they simply don’t have the resources to handle both. So how to strike up a healthy balance?

On first glance, a consumer will obviously choose a product based on face value. We know that much at least. But trying to figure out the rest of your potential client bases decision making process is like asking a woman what’s wrong during an argument. She’s not going to tell you, and trying to guess for yourself is a lost cause. Essentially, every consumer is different, but trying to appeal to all of them is going to dilute your brand. Which is why, within the last ten years, so many businesses have developed within the same market, coexisting as half-hearted competitors. With room for everyone.

No one is trying to overtake anyone in the world of freelance web design for example… There’s just no point. Not on a global scale, anyway. One designer may specialise in creating highly technical layouts for motor part enthusiasts, where another may be an artist when it comes to sorting out the content for a student networking site. There just isn’t any correlation between the two, and that’s where the competitive element disintegrates… These individuals are no longer focusing on winning all of the customers. They will be drilling on and increasing productivity. Not trying to shape their product to please everyone.

This concept will strike the average entrepreneur (is there such a thing? Can a successful entrepreneur ever be classed as “average”?) as completely ludicrous. Why limit yourself with a closed product? Why not widen your appeal, we cry! Why not become an agency that employs all of the different types of web designers and work on a recruitment/consultancy basis? Take a cut? Well, because that’s not what small-to-medium sized businesses want any more. They don’t want to deal with a Pick’n’Mix agency. They want a direct email. They want him on the end of the phone at a moment’s notice, and the internet has made this possible.

I suppose the answer to the “What wins customers – Product or Productivity” is that it depends on the size of your business. For the successful freelancer, it has to be about productivity. But I am not for one second suggesting that Apple adopts a sort of creative shruggery about innovating their products, because clearly this won’t work on a global scale. But to those of you out there with a specific skill, my advice in growing your business is that it’s not about adding strings to your bow. It’s about making sure the one you have is unbreakable.