Does Your Business Pass ‘The App Test’?

by Menzie Pittman • in
  • May 2018
  • Small Business Matters
• Created: May 2, 2018

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At CMC we talk obsessively, but we don’t always talk exclusively about music. Sometimes, out of a random discussion, a pearl of wisdom will grace a conversation, and so the trick becomes a matter of learning to recognize those moments.

In our thinking, the only thing more valuable than a good conversation is listening to one.

The pearl in this story comes from a conversation my manager Jerry and I were having about photo apps on a smart phone. I had come across an app I liked, and as we were talking, Jerry wisely stated the following truth. “People are always looking for an app that is user friendly the first time they open it.”

His statement rang in my head for a second, and then it hit me: What if more owners ran their businesses like app designers, making them user friendly the first time? In today’s world of “internet shopping standards” and smart phones as the go-to tools, customers expect you, the business, to make everything completely painless the first time they interact with you.

For the brick and mortar store, the first time a patron opens your “app” is the first fifty feet inside the door; it’s how you greet the customer that makes you user friendly or not. According to web search, “user friendly” is determined by a person’s first impression with the initial click. When answering the phone, it’s the energy and enthusiasm in your greeting. I call it the “20-second rule.” In the music business, it happens when an artist presents work for someone to hear. The listener’s judgment roughly begins within 20 seconds. At that point, the listener has begun to form his or her opinion, if he or has not already completely made up their mind.

So, Let’s See if Your Business Passes the App Test

Curiously, after my conversation with Jerry, I began searching opinions about what makes a good app, but with retailing in mind. The number one answer I found was

• “The app does one thing well.”

• The second answer: “The app is designed to know its user audience.”

• The third answer: “The app is stable and fast.”

• Coming in fourth: “The app is polished and presents well.”

When you think about the answers, they don’t differ much from what makes a music store a great music store. Let’s compare.

1. Doing one thing well

This seems easy and obvious enough, so how come if we all already know this, we fall short of achieving this so often? So many people in our industry try to be all things to all people when, in truth, we can’t. Therefore, you are better served by having one agenda. This doesn’t mean you can’t offer multiple services. It simply means you play to your strengths, and make them your core values.

2. The app is designed to know its user audience

Apps are designed to provide solutions for users’ needs, and the app world is a very competitive marketplace. It’s truly no different for music stores. Lots of stores do the same things you do, but many are not user friendly.

3. The app is stable and fast

Something a well-run business can pride itself on is stability. Composure when things are challenging is the mark of mature leadership. Obviously, we all know that challenging events occur every day. However, just as a good musician knows, you practice ahead of the possible events and mishaps. Any good musician also knows how to improv well based on knowledge of the fundamentals he or she has practiced. Without a doubt, to be confident in any undertaking in today’s world, a person needs to be both proficient and fast.

4. The app is polished and presents well

Will Rodgers has been credited with this old adage: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” And that is so accurate. Think about the best teachers or coaches you have had. They were always telling you about first impressions. As simple as this may sound, it is a principle that is never dated or out of vogue.

What was it Jerry said, again? Oh, yeah: “People are always looking for an app that is user friendly the first time they open it.” If you get this right, there most likely is a second time.

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a  freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column.

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