Treating Customers With Respect Is Key to Bootstrapping, New Book Shows

(DGIwire) – For any entrepreneur thinking of bootstrapping their own business, it’s vital to truly understand one’s potential customers to build a product or service that genuinely enriches their lives. This is one of the valuable takeaways in a fascinating new book by serial entrepreneur Marty Schultz on how bootstrapping can bring success: No Investors? No Problem: A Serial Bootstrapper’s Playbook for Breakthrough Success on a Shoestring Budget. In the book, Schultz shares the fascinating story of how he applied this insight to build his recent venture, Blindfold Games, a series of audio games for blind and visually impaired people, with dozens of different types of games for the iPhone and iPad.

“Customer engagement, loyalty and support: none of these things can be bought by marketing, drummed up by sales teams or won by publicity,” says Schultz. “They have to be earned through emotional investment in the product or service being provided. Treating customers with dignity—especially those from a marginalized community—is paramount to achieving this.”

As Schultz relates, Blindfold Games had its origins in an afterschool app development club that he led for his daughter’s sixth-grade class. After Schultz came up with the idea of an automobile-driving game for blind people where players drive with their ears instead of their eyes, he and the class brainstormed the game’s features. Schultz focus-tested the resulting game, dubbed “Blindfold Racer,” at the Broward Lighthouse for the Blind, where it was an immediate hit with a girl blind since birth. Schultz then submitted the game to the Apple App Store where it jumped to the top of the “accessible” bestseller list, and elicited praise from blind people worldwide as well as organizations that rated apps for blind people.

To obtain additional feedback and to start discussing possibilities for expansion and improvement, Schultz began traveling to a range of organizations and schools that provide services for blind people. He received two major types of feedback: first, a request to build more games—sports games, card games, puzzle games, action games; second, a request that members of the community be allowed to play-test each game prior to its submission to the App Store. Over time, Schultz gathered a group of about 50 blind and visually impaired people—of all ages and across the world—who willingly gave feedback when there were new games to test. Over time, Schultz built about 80 different games.

The true value of the respect Schultz engendered among his customers was reflected when, at the end of 2017, Apple App Store reviewers told him he needed to repackage his 80 games (some of which they claimed were very similar to each other) into only five or six apps. When his own objections were overruled, Schultz turned to his customers—about 4,000 of whom sent complaints to Apple. Soon afterward, by speaking with Schultz for several hours, Apple better understood the needs of the visually impaired customers, and allowed Schultz to upload his games as usual.

“It all goes back to valuing the customer,” adds Schultz. “Anyone who doesn’t truly value their customers shouldn’t be in business in the first place. People know which companies do not care about them and they know which ones do. Entrepreneurs should always make sure their companies are in the right category.”