The Strategist

Unlocking Growth Potential via the Concierge

You've spent the last few months pouring your heart, love and dedication into what you feel is an amazing product.

You have an untold amount of confidence in what you've put together and if people would just give it a chance you're certain they would fall in love with it and keep coming back for more.

Yet, despite the fact that you're offering it for free, people aren't rushing to sign-up.

It's earth shattering.

You ask yourself; if people won't sign-up when it's free, how in the world will you ever convince them to sign-up and pay? You start to doubt yourself and your vision, and now that you face the possible prospect of closure, you feel a pit in your stomach due to the impending devastation.

But the irony is, if you understood one simple thing - that the reason people won't sign-up has less to do with your product, and more to do with them - your start-up could live to see tomorrow.

And I could personally rejoice that another start-up made it another day.


Friction is often the simple reason why many would-be customers don't adopt amazing products. An umbrella term I like to use to refer to matters of objections, constraints and trust.

I probably won't go back to the local pizzeria, because when the jug full of water I asked for arrived, it had bits floating in it.

This is one kind of friction that I experience on a personal level, something very basic that prevents me from returning to the pizzeria. Despite the fact that the prices are reasonable, they always have great offers and the pizza actually tastes pretty good. But the bits floating in the water are my objection.

An example of a constraint would be a lack of finance for example. I'd love to buy a Tesla Model S outright, but my current financial situation restricts me. It's certainly not any lack of appeal of the product itself that holds me back. In fact, I want one more and more every single day.

If some suspicious looking fellow approached me in an alley way and offered me a Macbook Air for $10, I highly doubt I'd buy it, because I would distrust the authenticity of the offer.

However, if the local Apple retail store was to make the same offer, I'd likely suffer serious injuries fighting over everyone else in line at the store. The value proposition between the two scenarios is exactly the same, what differs is my level of trust.

Besides, going to the Apple store is way more fun than hanging out in an alley way, any day of the week.

The Concierge

Employing a system I like to refer to as the concierge can help us avoid heartbreak altogether.

In a nutshell it's about building rapport with every intended and existing customer and demonstrating an authentic commitment to their needs.

Our goal as a concierge is to identify these areas of friction that manifest themselves as objections and constraints and remove them, paving way for adoption.

Our authentic commitment to their needs establishes trust and creates a suitable environment for users to air their objections, highlight constraints and communicate matters of distrust (if issues of trust still remain).

Critically important for gaining customer insight and a perfect ideal for the concierge.

You should note: not everyone is always able to communicate their objections and constraints, even when they feel comfortable enough to tell you. It's just the way some of us are, but that shouldn't stop us from learning to read between the lines.

Still that can only come from forming an organic relationship with every user. The more you get to know your users, the better you understand their reality.

The local pizzeria has been emailing me special offers every week, but I still haven't been back.
It's not that I haven't eaten out plenty in the last couple of months, don't have the funds to pay for a meal, or object to the quality of the food. Quite the contrary.

But they have no idea why I'm not going back, therefore may spend the next few months using desperate tactics to win back my business, when all they had to do was take the time to get to know me.

I never told them about the bits floating in the water, the horror stories about restaurant staff kept me quiet.
If I didn't fear the consequences,and felt comfortable enough to air my objections, I might have been sat in their restaurant using their WiFi to publish this post right now.

I wonder how many other previous customers of theirs have similar objections to me. It's remarkable to think, how much they could potentially increase their business by addressing such trivial objections. The answer is probably two to three-fold. Imagine that!

It's often the little things

There are many other, untold benefits of operating like a concierge, but rather than outlining the theory, it's probably best I relate some examples.

Example One: A Mobile App

When I was working with my co-founder to develop Storifi - A story writing game like the one you might have played at school - one of the problems we had was that when we initially launched the beta, we had over 70 visitors in the space of around 20 minutes who all visited the homepage and left. Not a single person managed to complete a story which was our intended action for them, and was only supposed to take a few minutes.

We knew it couldn't be the game concept itself that was causing a failure in user activation since the game concept has been around for at least two decades. It had to be something else. So, I spent the time to sit down with my friends and coerced them into playing the game with me. What I discovered was interesting. The only reason they didn't complete the story was because they couldn't understand how to play the game. A pretty obvious constraint in hindsight, but not so obvious at the the time.

With every person that I played the game with, I noticed by the time they wrote the second line, their natural instinct was to question the entire premise of the game or to give-up. So I had to persuade them to continue and finish until all 10 lines were complete. Once they completed the story, the realised how enjoyable the game actually was and wanted to play again and again. Our original suspicions were confirmed.

It wasn't the game concept that was holding them back.

Since then we've developed an interactive tutorial that takes all the "learning" from observing our users and shows them how to play the game. It even features the exact same sentences I used to persuade my friends to stick with the game.

The result is that our activation rates went up to 60% (compared to zero previously).

Example Two: A Video Course

When I first launched my Market Positioning Course for Freelancers, I managed to get around 100 subscribers in the space of just a few hours. On the same day I made a deliberate effort to reach out to every single subscriber individually to thank them for subscribing and to let them know that it was important to me that my course helped them prosper in their freelance career. It took me a whole afternoon to contact every subscriber individually.

Since the course was only 30 minutes long, some people completed it within the same day. My first two reviews were just one-star. But since I had taken the time to reach out to each individual and expressed my desire to satisfy their needs, I had the confidence that they would express their objections to the content. Further, the tone of my message was such that, it demonstrated there wouldn't be any repercussions for providing negative feedback.

I reached out to the first two reviewers and asked them what I could do to win a five-star rating from them. I had prepared myself for an avalanche of criticism, but to my surprise, I found their objections were not to the video course so much, but rather the accompanying worksheets. I had only provided one example for each scenario and they wanted to see more. It took me only 20 minutes to add more examples to each worksheet, and then I proceeded to create further video content since they expressed an interest in more course material on the same topic. Now all my reviews are 5-star.

Example Three: Course Platform Providers

As my course became popular, other course provider platforms approached me asking me if I would list my course on their platform. While their offer was very good, to each party I told them I didn't have the time to setup an account on their platform, upload my course and learn how to use the platform.

Even though I told them I didn't have the time, the truth is; I didn't want to undergo the conscious effort of managing the whole process. They offered to create my account and upload the course for me, so naturally I snapped up the offer. It was a no-brainer.

If they hadn't offered to act as a concierge for me, my course would still be sat where it is.

Sometimes, it's just the way you choose to execute.

The Pioneers

Big brands such as Apple, Harrods and O2 to name but a few, were pioneers in adopting a concierge like approach for the mass market.

On the purchase of an everyday Lamb Shawarma in the Harrods food court recently, I was treated in a way that made me feel like royalty and I have to say, it was amazing. I've been back a number of times, just purely for that experience alone. I should confess that the product itself is indeed the best Shawarma I've ever had, but the customer service was more than just 'icing on the cake'.

I wouldn't make the same effort to purchase a shawarma from the local restaurant up the road.

If you want to create a world-class brand, this is the commitment you have to make.

It's time to start treating our own customers like royalty. This is the economy we now live in.

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Khuram Malik

Hi, my name is Khuram Malik. I am the Founder and Chief Strategist at . I help Businesses and Start-Ups figure out how to get from 'here' to 'there' regards their business goals. If you'd like strategy help with your business, why not book a discovery session with us at and let us help you figure out where your growth opportunities are?

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