Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lessons from the Inc 500

The Inc. 500 recently came out. This issue, with Inc’s Annual Report of the Fastest-Growing Private Companies is one of my favorite.  I love seeing who made the list, observing current trends among high growth start-ups, and of course, doing that gut check to see- are we on track to one day (fingers crossed) cross the threshold to be included in the All-Star Round-Up? One can dream, right….

One particular profile caught my eye—the story of Diapers.com, the niche marketplace that focuses exclusively on baby products. (You know how the Urban Interns team loves the niche marketplaces!) The stats (as per Inc.): Diapers.com, number 34 on the List, was founded in 2004.  Annual revenue: $89.4 million. Three year growth- 3,473.8 percent.  Amazing!

You just have to ask- what’s the secret sauce? Lots of retailers sell diapers—what’ so unique about this company that’s allowed them to achieve such rapid results and explosive growth?

Marc Lore, the CEO is profiled in Inc.  A couple of points I find fascinating. First-- the company’s reliance on word-of-mouth for early growth.  And think about it, that was before they had all these word-of- mouth enablers (ie social media outlets) at their fingertips.  Pretty inspiring for those of us who are faithfully blogging, tweeting, facebooking and ever other “ing” that gets us in front of people.

The second point is their emphasis on customer service.  Lore describes his customer service philosophy as “taking care of the moms at whatever cost.” He gives his really good customers “over the top treatment” including gift baskets and certificates to say thank you.  Lore reports that they spend $1 million a year on this kind of customer service, close to ten percent of their marketing budget.  It’s an interesting statistic, allocating that amount of marketing dollars to saying thank you to customers.  Clearly Lore believes that in keeping the Moms happy and making them feel valued they’ll pay it forward in multiples.  Judging from his numbers, looks like he’s right.

Now taking a step back, a very wise, successful and incredibly wonderful friend recently suggested that I focus on taking one important point away from every learning opportunity, whether it be an important conversation or something read.

My take-away from the Diapers.com profile? Treat your customers well and they’ll be more inclined to help you spread your word.  And as for our Urban Interns plug, if you’re personally too busy to devote yourself to customer service, hire someone who will. Going the extra mile to keep your community happy can take you very far…..

Cari Sommer, Co-Founder, Urban Interns


  1. Great points and I love the list as well! I think it's easy to do a lot of things half way, but difficult to do one thing all the way. I think this especially applies to client/customer relationships.

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