Bob Paulsen | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bob Paulsen

Background:  

PlayerLync is an Englewood, Colorado-based software company for “teams that work on their feet.” Its software moves large amounts of video and multimedia content to and from mobile devices, and provides various tools to facilitate team communications, as well as detailed analytics.

The Mistake:

I didn’t push the envelope on marketing.

This mistake stems from my roots as a conservative-natured, hard-working Midwesterner. I’m such a believer in earning every step of the way that, at times, I think it held back my last company.

It was called Unity Business Networks, and it was what you would now consider a cloud communications company.

The reality in today’s world is that everything is a sales and marketing game. First off, you have to have a product that delivers some great value – if not, you’re not going to last. Even if you have that great value, you still have to play the game to get the message out there, to get in front of the right people.

That’s where I feel like we could have had more of a focus. We had competitors with inferior products that, honestly, did a better job marketing and selling than we did, and that was very frustrating for a lot of us. At times, I think it may have slowed our growth. We were so careful not to overstep our bounds; we were too far from the line of what is appropriate.

Back in 2012 or so, Unity Business Networks was acquired by a group called Telesphere out of Phoenix, and I became COO. It turned out great in the end, but I think we could have gotten further faster if we had been willing to push the limits on the marketing front.

The reality in today’s world is that everything is a sales and marketing game.

The Lesson:

Marketing is not black and white.

It comes down to setting expectations that you know can be met. If you can’t meet them, then you’re overstepping your bounds.

I think we’re doing a better job at PlayerLync. We’ve accepted more investment than we have in the past. We’ve put more into sales and marketing. There’s probably still a higher degree of focus on customer satisfaction than other companies who have this kind of backing, but again, that’s just part of our nature. It’s the core of the company and the core of my personality.

The hard part is that the line is always moving. This is especially true in the technology industry because the technology is always changing. I honestly think that the faster things move, oftentimes the expectation for a quality experience goes down.

Look at voice services in the last 10 years for example. You get connection errors now, and you just have to try again. Ten or 15 years ago, that wouldn’t happen. The world has gotten more used to a lower quality experience because of the pace of technological change. Satisfaction can come down if you believe that people will accept an advancement in technology.

We continually test that line by incorporating a pretty robust customer communication protocol. If we do go too far on marketing, we work side-by-side with our customers to overcome any challenges.

In the software game that we are playing, the more we can hear and understand about our customers’ environments, the more accurately we can plot out our product road map.

Not to say that every single request is met or that we’re waiting for them to tell us what to do; when you’re close to them, you can see paths that you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise.

Photo courtesy of PlayerLync.

PlayerLync is on Twitter at @playerlync.

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email cberman@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's.