Smart Bear Live 4: Nick from at AZ Disruptors

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Audio attached here, downloadable on iTunes or below, and transcript below.

Listen to this episode with Nick from to learn how to tell customers no.


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  Welcome to Smart Bear Live with Jason Cohen. In this episode, Jason speaks to Nick from at the AZ Disruptors Kickoff meeting in December with co-host, Hamid Shojaee.

Nick:  The name of the company is

Jason:  Well, it’s certainly a very complicated company because the name is difficult to even spell. Lucky for you, domain names are not case-sensitive or you’d be sunk already, right?

Nick:  Right. Right.

Jason:  PinfoB? Well, I don’t know, fob sounds like freight on board, which is where you’d get things delivered. And so, I guess PinfoB is something that locates where all those things are so that when drivers are going around making their deliveries like UPS, but also other guys, they know where to go, they’ve got it on their mobile devices and it optimizes their routes.

Nick:  Wow. No. However, I think I’m now going to find that company and sell them the name or I’m going to go start it. That was great.

Jason:  All right. What is PinfoB?

Nick:  PinfoB, it actually stands for personal information broker, which is what we do.

Jason:  Okay.

Nick:  And so, we take your personal and consumer information and then we sell it, but then we give you the money.

Jason:  Right. That’s interesting.

Nick:  Yeah. And so, the benefit to the customer is that they get a little bit of money. It won’t be more than like $20 to $25 a month, but then they also, because we know a lot about them, they won’t get junk mail from us, they’ll get actually targeted relevant stuff, offers, deals, etc. And then on the client side, we can super, super target e-mail campaigns and whatever other things.

Jason:  Yeah, we get that part. That’s super. They’ve opted in and you have all their information and it’s probably accurate. They’re not just guessing because my grandma gave me a subscription to, what was it, it was that weird little thin magazine, you know what I’m talking about.

Hamid:  Lighthouse? Highlights?

Jason:  Highlights? Oh that’s a good one, and all of a sudden we got sweepstakes. I was put in a category of: I must be a senior because you can’t possibly read this stuff if you’re not over 67 and so I just got sweepstakes from then on. Hopefully, you can be more targeted than that.

Nick:  Yeah, absolutely.

Jason:  It sounds like people do this to you anyway, and so it sounds like life proceeds as before except you make $20 a month, which I guess is better?.

Nick:  Right.

Jason:  Do you have any control over this beyond that?

Nick:  Well yes, our members have control over everything. So they can control whether or not it’s e-mail, voice messages, whether it’s text messages, however, they want to get contacted, and they choose what they’re giving us and what they’re not giving us, so we can really target it. So really it’s just half of the benefit is the money, the other half is information about stuff you want.

Jason:  Okay. And what’s the question?

Nick:  The question was: How do you know when to tell customers no.

Jason:  Like what?

Nick:  So that’s both sides, so we have really kind of client sides, so we try to do everything we can to make our clients as happy as they can possibly be.

Jason:  Which client?

Nick:  So clients would be the advertisers.

Jason:  Advertisers. Okay.

Nick:  And they say we want to do this, that and the other thing, and some of it just isn’t what we do. And so, we want to tell them no, but we also want to be accommodating.

Jason:  When you say it’s not what you do, do you mean it kind of crosses some boundary of personal this and that, or it literally is features and things that are not your business?

Nick:  It’s both. The personal boundaries, really we kind of cover that because really for us we’re pretty firm about what we can and can’t do with our members’ information, and we don’t bend any rules there. The other side though is features and that’s where because we’re fairly early on, we’re in a Beta and we’re still trying to figure things out.

So we have an idea in our mind of what is good for them, but really we know that they know what’s good for them as well. Somewhere there’s that kind of crisscross where they want these crazy features that are going to be a lot for us and may be specific to them.

Jason:  The first rule is that customers do not know how to tell you what features they need. They will tell you they do not know how to do that. I mean, don’t you agree that just doing things like designing a UI and or what features are good and estimating all that is itself a combination of art and science that very few human beings who are trained in it and have experience can do?

Nick:  Yeah.

Jason:  And here’s somebody that runs the mail-order section of Walmart and they’re going to be able to design it? They definitely can’t. What they’re doing when they tell you a feature is they are taking a need or a pain or something that they actually want, and then they’re attempting to translate it for you.

What they’re actually doing is obscuring what you want to know, which is that underlying need or pain or value that they’re trying to get out of it. For example, they may think, if I had access to this data, or if I had this report in this other system or whatever, then I could be twice as effective or I could do this in one hour instead of eight, or I could reach more people or I could make my target or make more money, whatever.

So they ask you for some export feature in some bizarre thing you’d never heard of, but that’s not really what they want. They want the data in their mailer or sales force or something. So when they ask for a feature, you can just immediately go back and say “Wow, that sounds really interesting. Why is it that you want that feature? What is it going to do for you? What are you going to do once this feature is there?”

It depends on the feature what your follow-up question is. But you’re trying to dig back into the root thing that is either a problem for them or a perceived value that they have. And sometimes, by the way, it’s perceived value only, so reports are a good example. They say I need a report that shows me this. And you start digging, and there isn’t really any value in that. It really doesn’t tell them anything. It’s really not actionable. It’s just vanity metrics but they want it. Right?

Nick:  Right, that’s exactly it.

Jason:  Right, so what do they think is valuable, whether they’re right or not, and the more right they are, oh boy, because now we’re all on board. But even so, it could be a report that’s vanity and you know that, but you’re not going to train them on lean start up, are you? So just ignore the feature, in a sense; only use it as a foil to get deeper.

Just like you take a resume and you don’t look at it and go, “Wow, you were in software development for five years. That’s fantastic.” No, it’s just a foil to start asking questions. Oh, what did you do about this? You said you have this technology, well then, tell me this deep thing. Oh, I don’t really know that. Well, you listed it on your resume. That’s what the resume’s for, a foil. To get into the truth. So are these feature requests.

Nick:  That’s a great point.

Jason:  And you probably don’t have that many clients right now, anyway

Nick:  No.

Jason:  And so, you have the time and desire and so do they, hopefully, to have these deep conversations. If you have 2,000 of them, maybe you can’t have this kind of conversation, but you still can and so you should.

Nick:  Right, right. Yeah and we definitely should. Our problem is that we only have a few and the ones that we have we really like, and we have them because it’s kind of a two-way communication. Getting new ones that aren’t really willing to do that, I guess, is where we run into more of a problem. But maybe the answer is we don’t need them yet. That’s the wrong kind of client for us right now if they don’t want to get more into it.

Jason:  Not only do you not need them, you don’t want them because they will take some time and they’re not contributing back to you. You need people that will contribute back in the sense of working with you so that you can improve it for real.

Having said there, there definitely is such a thing as a customer that signs up and they don’t complain. They don’t ask for stuff. They’re just happy. That’s okay. You could have that now. It’s not helping you to learn, but it’s certainly better than not having that customer.

So I think you can still say yes to those folks but if they run into trouble and they’re not willing to discuss why, then you also have to be willing to say “Hey guys, I’ll tell you what, maybe we’re just not in the right place yet. You obviously have some interest in this, we’re obviously not quite there yet. You don’t have any time, it seems, to help us through that. We understand that, too; we’re busy, too. Why don’t we just suspend this? We’ll come back in six months when we have something new, and we’ll talk again.” And you can totally do that in a nice way and end it or suspend it, really.

Nick:  Yeah. Suspend. That’s good.

Jason:  But you’re right, if you only have two or three people giving you advice, you are getting idiosyncratic advice and that is a problem. And, of course, the only solution is more people. The other solution is to only look at things that all three of them say. And anything that one person says, it may be right, but you wouldn’t know one way or another with the one person. So you just don’t act yet.

Nick:  I’ll cross my fingers for when they all agree on.

Jason:  Well if they all agree, it’s like Congress, if they all vote for it then OK I guess you should do that. Of course, even then, maybe not. That’s pretty good. What do you think, Hamid?

Hamid:  Well, I think you should get lobbyists if you’re comparing them to Congress. The customers can get lobbyists for their features.

Nick:  We can use lobbyists, actually, to change some things.

Hamid:  No, I think that’s great advice. I don’t have anything to add to that.

Announcer:  Thanks for listening to Smart Bear Live with Jason Cohen. Be sure to visit Jason’s blog at for more episodes, and if you would like to ask a question of Jason in a future Smart Bear Live, please register at