Balancing Your Small Business Expectations with Those of Your Customers

by Ken Mueller on May 24, 2012 · 7 comments

Balancing small business expectations with customer expectationsThose of us who work in the small business world talk a lot about market research and understanding what it is your customers really want. We point to social media as a great resource for listening, monitoring, and discovering. By observing how our customers act and react, and watching what they say, we can learn a lot about their expectations for our brands. Additionally, we can go directly to them, without intermediaries, and ask them directly for their opinions and feedback.

But just because we gather all this intelligence doesn’t mean we have to act on all of it. If we did that, we’d never get anything done and it would water down our products and services. We can’t be all things to all people.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw an update from the band Pomplamoose in my Facebook newsfeed. I clicked on the link and found a blog post that was essentially a letter to the band’s fans from the female half of the band, Nataly Dawn, and I was encouraged by what she had to say, and how we can all apply it to ourselves.

First, for those who don’t know Pomplamoose, they came to fame mostly because of their unique style and creative videos, particularly while covering songs like “Single Ladies“, “September“, and “Beat it“. Most of their videos have in excess of 1-million views, and some go as high as 9-million! They gained further popularity with their version of “Mr. Sandman” on a Toyota commercial, and then a series of Christmas classics for a Hyundai campaign. Like I said, their videos are unique and compelling.

In the letter, Dawn explains why the band has been silent, and moves on to how she and partner Jack Conte were getting ready to go into the studio to record a new album, and how things began to unravel. I’ll let her pick it up from here in her own words, which is the part that really struck a chord with me. It’s rather long, but stick with it. It’s worth the read:

So we started “planning.” And that was our mistake. We started thinking about “the best way to go about things.” We started taking advice from people and getting really scared about our next record, because it had to be amazing. It had to be the best (deleted) record of all time. We had to do something INCREDIBLE and SURPRISE people, but not TOO much, and then GO ON TOUR and then GO ON A BIGGER TOUR.

So we got to work, trying to write amazing songs, and very soon felt like it was more work than fun. We were feeling overwhelmed by the business side of things, the social media, the licensing opportunities. It was all about what Pomplamoose should be. Should it be more serious? Should it have more profound lyrics? Should we ditch the toy piano? We became nitpicky and paranoid, and Pomplamoose was quickly starting to lose its charm. At least for us. So we did the necessary thing. We took a step back from it. Started working on our own stuff. And that felt pretty good. Because in case you haven’t heard, neither Jack’s nor my solo projects are as big as Pomplamoose. So there was less pressure and less interest, and we were less bogged down by “people’s expectations” (an imaginary concept that bands make up when they’re freaking out about their “next step” which is also an imaginary concept.)

A couple weeks ago, we reluctantly went back into the studio. And we had a GREAT time. It honestly felt just like the old days. The only unfortunate thing is that they really do feel like the “old days” at this point. We haven’t been consistently putting stuff out, and our EP is mostly material from the last two years, so we’re in what some people would call “a rather terrifying position.” We just don’t know how our fans feel about our music anymore. And we don’t know how they’ll feel when we start making new stuff.

The GREAT news is that we’ve gotten over the whole “people’s expectations” thing. We’ve also learned from our last freak out that there is no “best way to go about things” and that Pomplamoose is supposed to be a FUN outlet for us. When Jack and I go into the studio, we are there to have a good time: nothing more, nothing less. So in the future, we’re not going to strive to make hit songs, and we’re certainly not going to pretend like people expect our music to change the world. The OTHER great news is that our music has always been super polarizing, so we look forward to some people loving it and other people hating it. Really, it’s okay! We don’t mind! We’re just gonna get back to having a good time.

I love Dawn’s focus and understanding of what it means to be true to yourself, while also understanding your audience/customers. This is something I try to take to heart as I work with clients. I think it’s important that every business have a solid idea of what they are trying to do, with a set of core values to which they hold firm.

You have your expectations and your customers have theirs. If the two mesh together well, then you’re golden! But sometimes you have to find that proper balance between the two so you can stay true to yourself, while also staying in business.

As for Pomplamoose, they could probably make more money and sell more records if they worried more about the expectations of their fans. But instead, they want to do what’s right for them. And I admire that. We can’t be all things to all people.

Find the right balance between your own vision and the expectations of others.

Oh, and if you’re new to Pomplamoose, checkout their YouTube Channel. You’ll get lost in there for days with their original music, as well as covers of Lady Gaga, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Angry Birds theme. I love how they have used YouTube and social media to build a core audience, and here’s a view of their latest music and marketing piece. Enjoy!

 How are you balancing the expectations of your customers with your own expectations for your business?




So fun! I am still contemplating your bigger question, as well. I have learned that, as hokey as it sounds, I really like helping people.  If I can do that in my role in even the smallest way, I am satisfied. While I can not possibly be everything to everyone, I try and focus in on solving one problem for my customers in any way I can, and then hopefully we both feel happy. I know I am doing it right when my customers thank me for selling to them. 


Thank you so much for introducing me to Pomplamoose! 

KenMueller moderator

 @RebeccaTodd Well, I think that is all part of the balancing act. I know that for me, there are a number of services people come to me for, and while I COULD do them, I won't. They go against my philosophy of the nature of social media and how it should be done. So while i could make a lot more money doing that, I have to draw the line somewhere. 


I think we see this more from an artistic perspective from bands and writers, etc. Do they write music that they are pretty sure will sell, or do they write what they want to write and makes them happy. Perhaps if we thought of ourselves more as artists, in some way, we might be able to figure it out.


It can be tricky, and we all have to decide for ourselves. 


 @KenMueller Exactly. I am a firm believer in the fact that all creative types can learn from each other.

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