I read a short interview with Pandora Founder, Music Devotee, and Road Warrior Tim Westergren on Fortune.com. For the past two years, the creator of the Pandora Music app on the iPhone has traveled from one city to the next, from music scene to music scene to talk with his app's fans, get their feedback, and groove on some tasty tunes.
But Westergren seems to be one of those rare exception of a leader that can do the best thing possible for their company and live out their dreams. For Pandora--and many other companies—visiting with customers, listening to their problems and ideas, and getting priceless feedback is paramount to not only increasing sales and market share, but also ensuring that the existing customer base is strong and the company stays current, or even ahead of the curve.
For most business leaders however, spending two years traveling around the country is impossible. In fact for most it would be too much of a drain on time or money to even spend a month away from the trenches. The good news is that they can stay where they're needed and still get out to “shake hands” across the country and the world.
They can do this by using teleconferences. Using conference calls, they can meet with a handful of diehard customers, or an auditorium's worth of customers, potential customers, and fans. Add video conferencing to at least show their smiling face to the masses, if not see some of theirs. And with web conferencing, they can hold a meeting complete with presentations, “handouts,” and visuals that rivals or even surpasses a face-to-face. And these business leaders can do all of this from their computer at the office or home.
Westergren's crusade is an impressive feat, and one that would be excellent for any company to duplicate if it wasn't so generally impractical. With the right tools though, a business can reach out to their customers and engage them in a similar way. Because it's not simply a handshake and a smile that forms a bond… it's the thoughts behind them that count.