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Startups

The Power of Your Point of View

I often read quotes, blogs and books by some of the great minds of startups, and realize that I don’t fully take on board what they mean until some time later.

A while back, I reached a point where I felt like I understood the following Basecamp quote:

“Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service.”

What does it mean to have a point of view?

Over the course of the Buffer journey, the values that I had in mind for our startup have become a core part of our culture—not only within our team but also within our amazing community and customers.

As a social media tool, Buffer started out by doing something that many other tools out there do: offer some form of scheduling to Twitter. As we started out offering this, we became very aware of the fine line between a tool that helps you optimize, and a tool that encourages you to post to Twitter in non-genuine ways.

We needed to develop a point of view on this subject. And it became this: We encourage people to post in a genuine way, because we believe that is the most effective way to make the most of social media.

This message and the philosophy behind it began to flow throughout our team and our users. This meant that all decisions were tied to that point of view, and we were very cautious about acting in ways that would not be in line with the point of view we adopted.

POV quote

Today, as we develop new products and features for Buffer that go far beyond where we began with Twitter, we continue to keep this point of view central and encourage people to use social media and Buffer in an effective but still genuine way.

We try to make sure this comes through via email and on social media platforms, and also in our choice of features and changes to the product.

In fact, our recent launch of Respond is perhaps the strongest action we’ve taken towards a true realization of our social media point of view. While Buffer is focused on sharing, we’ve always known that listening and responding on social media is just as important as using those channels for marketing.

Now I feel that our product offerings now align fully with our own vision and beliefs around having a balanced approach to social media and business, both listening and sharing.

Why would you want to have a point of view?

point of view

I believe having a point of view means that not only can you build a much stronger position in the market, you can also more easily get others on board to help you grow, when your point of view resonates with them.

It can really differentiate you from other products in the market, especially if you are in a market which has “norms” and your values are different from those norms.

Having a point of view can also really help you with your customer development. I see part of customer development as discovering and validating customers’ thoughts and ideas. Another part is listening to those users and deciding whether to add or remove features based on their feedback.

When you have a point of view, the decision of whether to add a feature is much easier, since you can ask yourself whether it is in line with the point of view and values you’re trying to stick to.

A third reason you might have a point of view is that it can reduce the risk from competitors.

It is up to you as a startup to differentiate yourself and create a more compelling offering. The great part is that your offering also includes the message around the product.

The point of view you adopt can truly affect whether people will choose you over someone else. If others feel aligned with your point of view, then competitors not only need a stronger product offering but also their own, better point of view.

What’s the best way to express your point of view?

It is easy to read the quote above and assume that having a point of view is about forcing your opinions on your users or audience.

I’ve found that doing almost the opposite is a better way to get people on your side and aligned with your point of view to the point that they want to share it.

My thinking here comes from the great Dale Carnegie book How to Win Friends and Influence People. If our customers ask for a feature that doesn’t feel quite aligned with our point of view, we use some of the techniques Carnegie proposes to talk through the suggestion together. Here are a couple of them:

  • We agree with the user . It is easy to agree with them, because in almost every case they have a great point! Ours is only one point of view, not the “right” or only viewpoint.
  • We show that we are open to changing our mind. We often use phrases such as “I could be wrong, as I often am,” or “I feel that perhaps” because 1) we are often wrong! and 2) we always want to be open to suggestions. I’ve learned that simply by showing I am genuinely open to change, it becomes much easier to reach agreement with others.

The power of point of view

I’ve been lucky to have a great team who have not only adopted the point of view I tried to instill in Buffer but have also evolved our culture in fantastic new ways.

As a result, we have a strong and incredible community of people who not only spread the word of Buffer as a product but also spread our point of view and values as well.

When someone tells me that they’re striving to live their life by the Buffer values, that’s a truly humbling and amazing feeling. That’s when I most feel the power of having a point of view.

Do you have a point of view for your startup, or your own personal values that guide you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • This is such a great way of looking at things, and it really seems like your users respond well to this – I know I do. So often opinions become facts within a business setting, and I sense that communities and companies prosper better when they employ an attitude similar to yours. It’s definitely something I want to be more mindful of as I step into the professional world. Thank you for sharing.

    • Wow, this element of your note really resonated with me, Liza: “So often opinions become facts within a business setting.” A really powerful one to think about; thank you!

  • Glenda Turner

    You always make me think! That’s a good thing!
    This fits with an Inside/Out model I find effective that begins with Essence (what is the heart of your business identity), Purpose (why does the business exist), Vision (a picture of what it looks like when fully realized), Values (how people will “be” together and what the business will reflect), Beliefs/Attitudes/Behaviors (what the Values look like in terms of being “lived” much like norms). Point of View seems to fit with Beliefs/Attitudes/Behaviors?

    • Thanks for sharing this Glenda, I like this approach and working on this for my business.

      • Glenda Turner

        I am using it as well for a business startup, but have used it successfully in planning major projects, workshops… The next piece of it is Practices. What do we need to learn and practice in order to live it! Buffer has some great ones.

        • Glenda, I will be using your approach for my upcoming retreat event this year, and I also like the idea of practices. To clarify practices, do you mean in terms of business practices or your own self practices i.e. we practice what we preach? or both? I am a coach and I do walk my talk and I believe in this as a coach that you should be practicing and experienced in what you teach others. Buffer is a bigger business than a solo-entrepreneur/business and so walking your talk would be the same as a bigger business practices to make sure they are giving a great service. Have I go the right mindset on this? :)

          • Glenda Turner

            Hi Jane, I am a coach as well and have used this approach for events, too, and in organizational effectiveness with teams in a major corporation. Certainly we have to practice what we teach. For this model, I was thinking more in terms of learning models and methods. I use the word “practice” as a mindset. Too often, we train people or teach them something but do not practice it when we are together. The mindset is, “I took a yoga class; therefore I know yoga. What’s next?” Examples of methods/models I’m thinking of are things like The Four Levels of Listening, The Ladder of Inference, Vocabulary such as the Word List Courtney recently shared. Applying/practicing these methods in our interactions supports true learning. What are the Practices that will support us in living our Values? Listening, communicating, deep thinking… Does that help?

          • Glenda Turner

            I neglected to say it is a powerful model to use as an individual or coach, too.

          • Thanks Glenda, yes this helps, I understand what you mean now :) As coach I teach a form of injury running and walking called Chi Running and Walking. I teach my clients the 8 steps to do this technique, then I tell them that they need to practice consistently to be able to master it. Its up to the client to practice in this scenario. But not everyone has the mindset to do practice everyday to master something. I have been frustrated that a lot of my clients come to my lessons do the workshop and don’t practice. In view of what you said, what I could do to add more value and to encourage practice is to create a post-workshop steps of practicing the technique and actually do it with them. Since this is body movement program to correct poor posture and change the way they run and walk or move their bodies, changing their poor posture habits is hard on their own, and so additional coaching and support is required. I am brainstorming a post-workshop Chi Running and Walking practice course with step by step stages of practicing and getting feedback from myself at each stage so my clients can make and see the progress they are making. Video analysis and individual lessons are the key components of the practice course so the client has dedicated attention and support to overcome specific challenges and concerns regarding changing their posture, as we all unique and practicing within a group is not always beneficial and effective. Thank you so much again for highlighting this to me.

          • Glenda Turner

            Talk about Mental Models, I made the leap that you were a Life Coach as I am not realizing you are coaching in the physical realm. Still, I’m glad the conversation helped. You are doing remarkable work. Reminded me of the Alexander Technique. Congratulations! I have learned in my own work that we have to develop the mental and emotional muscles and they are every bit as strong as the physical. All the best to you…

          • Thanks Glenda and the same to you :)

    • Wow, really cool framework here, Glenda; I could see how this could be quite powerful!

      • Glenda Turner

        Thanks, Courtney. You are already applying most if not all of the elements.

  • You and the Buffer team are some of my favorite business people. You’re doing a fantastic job in providing features and communicating. btw I haven’t read the article on how much you make as the CEO. I don’t think salary has anything to do with quality of work or relationship with co-workers and community.

  • “If you want to be trusted, be honest. If you want to be honest, be true. If you want to be true, be yourself, have something original to say. Say what you think. It will give you wider conversational range than saying merely what you know.”

    • A great sentiment to reflect on, Krunoslav; thank you for sharing!

  • Hope Hartman

    Joel, trust, honor and confidence in your experience is something I value in others and myself. Experience follows you where ever you go and affects current and new relationships. People’s life stories win my attention over educational degrees acquired. Willingness to continue to grow by embracing new experiences is worthwhile!

    • Hopping in for Joel to say thank you so much for sharing how you look at the world, Hope! Your point of view feels like a great one to me :)

  • Morgane Sarro

    Such a great article again ! thanks for sharing. I really like the way Buffer team members think an do !!

    You always want to understand your users needs and make your possible to satisfy them ! One of your values is listen first and listen more and (for me) you stick to that :)

    Buffer gets values and those values differentiate from other companies. This is a strength ! As you say in the article Buffer is of course known for its product but also for its fantanstic values !!!! Congratulation!!

    • Aww, thank you so much Morgane for the kind words here! We’re far from perfect but always trying to be better!

  • spadestick

    ooh… its risky to have a point of view on politics now – you might just be distancing yourselves from potential customers with different point of views, like supporters of Trump.

  • Hansoftech

    Great Quote for online business

  • Sigrid Artner

    Great words, great people, great culture, great company. You deliver happiness to me every day and I can´t tell you often enough! @buffer

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