From the Front Lines: Colorado Success Stories
This series of interviews with Mead Consulting clients and friends focuses on companies that have succeeded during the recession through disruptive innovation, new business models, or superior execution. The stories are told by the CEOs and business owners themselves. This article was first published on March 7, 2011 in ColoradoBiz magazine or you can read it below.
Imagine if you could call your entire target audience on the phone and engage them in conversation - all at the same time. You know, those very people that make a difference to your bottom line.
It isn't important if you call them your consumers, fans, members or even the general public. And it won't make a difference if there are 200 or 2 million of them. What matters is you can now interact with them like never before. You'll have more than revealing insights into what they're thinking and feeling - you'll have actionable information and statistics to hone your brand and its message.
This is the interactive voice service, Teleforum, that Broadnet Teleservices has pioneered. Recently I met with Steve Patterson, co-founder and CEO of Broadnet Teleservices to discuss how Broadnet has enjoyed continuous growth from its bootstrapped beginnings with co-founder and CTO, Brian Brown in 2004. Over the last six years, company revenue has grown by more than 60 times.
What is your differentiation?
We offer a high quality product and superior service, but more importantly, we want customers for life. We believe we offer more than a product. We strive to continuously build the relationship with the customer, always trying to "feel" what it's like for the customer to touch us. We survey and measure every time we interact with our customers and our customer. We teach our employees to ‘listen well.' Our customers actually drive the product as each customer experience is customized to meet their needs. So while our technology is second-to-none, we view this intimate relationship with our customers as our real advantage.
Who uses your products and services?
We started as a means for people in political office or candidates to reach their constituents and voters. That market fueled our early growth. We also have enjoyed great success in the Sports arena for teams who seek to interact with their fans and ticketholders. In the last few years, the market for companies seeking to interact with their customers has really begun to take off. This is the area with the greatest potential for Broadnet.
How has the recession impacted your business?
We've grown well during the recession. The real question is whether we could have grown faster without the recession. We have benefited from the increasing popularity of social media. People value having a relationship. We provide for a relationship and a conversation that is voice-to-voice - and more than 140 characters.
What are your biggest challenges?
By far our biggest challenge is that many organizations, companies, and people do not really know their customers. A good example of this is a book publisher. The publisher sells books to a bookstore or online and has no idea who the end customer is. Broadnet needs to help them identify the customers so that Broadnet can initiate the dialogue. We are looking to blend our products with social media to create the dialogue. We enable that richer, deeper conversation.
What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?
I would say there are several strategic keys to our future: The first is to increase market awareness. We need to drive awareness in two directions - to the large company and the consumer. The large organization needs to understand how Broadnet can enable this unique and deep ability to interact with customers. From the consumer side, the consumer only needs to experience it once. Overwhelmingly, consumers are so enthusiastic that their first response to a Teleforum experience is ‘how can I do that again;' second, we need to scale the infrastructure so that we can offer more events to larger groups of people (an audience of 50 million as opposed to 50,000); third, is to stay in front of the technology so that we can offer increased features in a more cost effective way. We'll also need capital for growth and people who have ‘been there, done that' to round out our leadership team.
Is it difficult finding good people and good leaders?
The challenge isn't finding good people; it's finding world-class people. We look to develop people that can be attracted and molded into exceptional leaders. I have found that one thing you cannot coach into a person is passion. Hire people with passion and stay out of the way of their passion and they'll accomplish great things. Our job is to nurture the flames of their passion.