When I read about businesses and startups, scaling or growing a business are hot buzzwords. People often ask questions like, “How do you scale your business 5X…10X…or even 100X?” Everyone seems to be obsessed with eye-popping growth. 

The teams at Automattic have recently completed some in-depth small business customer segmentation research. This was aimed to find out more about the customers that we’re serving. This finding about the segment (Engaged DIYs) really surprised me:

Some do not wish to grow their business, or recognize that it will never fully support the lifestyle they want.

I thought to myself, “What? They do not wish to grow their business?” This was astonishing to me. I had wrongly assumed that our all customers would want to scale their businesses. 

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my uncle who’s a sought-after expert in his field. He does not want to have a website to promote his business because he is always booked up months in advanced. I thought he was an anomaly, but this research has proven me wrong.

So I took a step back and thought in their shoes for a moment. Some reasons why customers don’t want to scale could be:

  • They don’t have enough time. They’re afraid that growing this business will suck up their time from other things, like family and friends, their full-time job, etc… It could all becoming overwhelming.
  • They might be doing this business as a passion project for personal or professional development, and don’t wish to fully commit.
  • They’re afraid that their business won’t sustain their lifestyle full-time.

Then my question is: How do we help them achieve their goals, and alleviate that fear or risk?

I think the first step is not to assume that all our customers want to scale their business. Listen to them, support their unique goals and challenges, and be there when they’re ready to move on to that next step. And repeat.

It’s a good reminder to have in mind that our customers, like Automattic, want to “build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers”, as outlined in the Automattic creed.

Posted by Ballio Chan

Designer - The Studio @Automattic | Creative | Brand | Connecting the dots between design and technology.

2 Comments

  1. I recall over a year ago now I got the same answer from my barber. It totally threw me off. Then when listening to his logic of how, “I know how to serve the customers I’ve already got, and I wouldn’t know what to do if a flood of them turned up one day. That would be a nuisance, and it could destroy my business.”

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