An Exercise for Any Website Owner Who Wants More Profitable Customers

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

I would like to share with you one exercise that I find so powerful in creating ideas for any business. An exercise that removes your limitations, shows you possible improvements, and empowers your people for change. This exercise places you in the shoes of a giant where you can see and improve other businesses while producing valuable ideas for your own.

Imagine you are Jeff Bezo, the famed owner of, you had all his resources, and your website handles 4.7 million titles per day (The Software Review, #37). You could imagine you the leader of your industry, or your strongest competitor -- the main thing that happens when you get into the shoes of a giant is you remove your limitations while focusing on them.

Gather some background information on the company you are pretending to be, their gross sales, per transaction costs, estimated earnings per transaction, and so on. It is amazing how much information you can quickly grab from press releases or industry reports -- especially if they are a public company. Grab the statistics that best mirror statistics you have about your own company, this information will come in handy later.

I think business should be fun, so I recommend you make this next part as interesting as possible -- you are going to role-play while you brain storm 20 ways you can improve your new business. That is right, tear them down and build them up again using the information you gathered in the previous step. Remember, no limits and have fun jotting down every idea, even the crazy ones -- it is not you we are talking about it is them!

Using a business that is significantly larger than your own gives you numbers that make minor improvement stand out. When you put on the shoes of a giant remember you are looking to improve the value of an individual customer for that business. After you do your value calculations, then list the highest value ideas because in the next step we are going to see what they mean for your business.

When I put on the shoes of I came up with a huge list of things I could see improving, some were even so good I included in my booklet 101 Strategies for more Profitable Customers´┐Ż. The three most notable were: (a) encourage customers to get together´┐Ż around my products, (b) do something special for my top 20% profitable customers each year, and (c) encourage volume purchases with incremental discounting. I estimated that if 1% of 1,000,000 customers each week converted to purchase just 1% more (increased est. margin of $2.50 per) then MY would earn an additional $1.3 million dollars in cash every year! Let us see what this can do for your business!

Taking your list of the top three ideas you have created, substitute your equivalent numbers with the numbers you used in the exercise. Note how these numbers related to the numbers you used; were their margin higher, what ratios were significant, how would changes in ratios effect new numbers, and so on. Do not worry too much, how the idea fits for your organization, just replace and analyze the information; you should see some trends that will assist in the final thinking step.

Is your head hurting now? If you made this exercise fun, this next part should not be too bad. Take these ideas with the numbers from your organization and prioritize them by maximum benefit in reaching your corporate goals. You should have some ideas by now on how these ideas relate to your business, best fit them to your needs, and then stop thinking.

You are going to need a break now. I would recommend exercising or a game of golf, what ever you do, do it as a group. I cannot tell you how valuable this is going to be, just have fun, try not to chat about the exercise, just enjoy yourself. This break will unconsciously create new ideas in your subconscious, which no matter how hard you try you could not come up with if you kept hashing out the ideas verbally.

The next day, it is time for implementation. From the ideas you had created the previous day generate at least twenty new ways to implement them in your business. You are out of the shoes of a giant and into your own -- do yourself a favor and leave out limitations at this point, you can be all negative later. Just try to generate ideas without any judgment of validity or practicality, remember the Post-it® note was a mistake and so was half the other successful products on the market today.

Once you have your ideas for implementation, sort out the top ideas as they pertain to your business and pick one for implementation. This is actually the easiest part of the whole exercise; because you already have points for measurement (available statistics), a general baseline for performance (current values), and a means for tracking the implementation (changes to statistics). Just add a definite time to measure the implementation and determine what criteria you will consider a success.

A good way to make the implementation happen is to come up with some sort of summary statement using this template, "we will do X, which will achieve Y, in the period Z." In the case of, I could say, "will build interactive product communities around the most popular products; which will increase purchases of those items by 2.4% and make our visitors 3 times more likely to return; results will be measured in the period of 2nd Quarter 2001." The "Y" is what measurable element that defines success, while "X" is what you do, and "Z" is the period in which you will do it.

That is it! All that is left is to track your results, then move onto the next idea. Done once a quarter, this exercise can put you at the top of your game giving you more ideas than you will know what to do with. The key thing is, think like someone else without boundaries, determine the value of each element, and then convey them into your business according to your corporate goals.

You deserve a break anyway; try this exercise with your team today!

© 2002 JWH Consolidated LLC dba Center for Strategic Relations, All rights reserved.
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Justin Hitt is a consultant who specializes in growing relationships for executives in technology companies who want greater profits. For a copy of his newsletter Inside Strategic Relations visit

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