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What Vimeo Learned From Amazon: Be Obsessed With the Customer

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Earlier this week, I wrote a feature story about important strategy decisions Vimeo has made, and how it avoided the SVOD market in order to focus on video creators. This came from a fantastic live discussion with Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud that was part of the CornellTech@Bloomberg series of talks in New York City.

Sud's talk was more than an hour long, and she tossed out a lot of good material I couldn't use in my feature. One of my favorite parts was how she started out studying finance at Wharton, and eventually made her way to operations at Vimeo. Her peripatetic journey took her through multiple companies and taught her critical lessons along the way. Spending four years at Amazon, where she was the director of marketing, taught her to focus on the customer.

"I learned a lot from my time at Amazon and I think one of the things that probably sticks with me the most, obviously, is the customer obsession. I think Amazon's always been very focused on 'start with the customer.' Every product that's launched, I remember, I would write a press release from the view of the customer and then you work backwards," Sud said.

Work backwards? What does that mean?

"You start with the press release…and that sort of focus on the customer. Then if you think about their business model, every cost saving that they get, they're trying to pass that through in the price to the end customer. The idea is that if you serve the customer you will grow a good business," she said. "That sort of philosophy was very consistent in Amazon and I think that is something that at Vimeo we're trying to do. We're trying to put the creator first and there's a belief that if we do that, that will translate into higher customer satisfaction and more retention."

Amazon is also smart in how it collects and optimizes customer data. That's another lesson Sud learned:

"Amazon is very data driven, really, in two ways. There's the internal use of data. How do we internally use data to make smarter decisions and be more productive and efficient? Then there's the external use, so using data to improve the customer's experience," she said. "I think at Vimeo we've invested heavily in our business intelligence function. So how do we understand what's happening on our site, how do we use the data we collect from how people behave on our site, tools that they use, the videos that get viewed? All of that data, how do we use that to make smart business decisions, and then how are we actually building products around that?"

Data is useless unless it's powering smarter business decisions, and for Vimeo that means helping customers get more engagement and clicks with every clip they produce. For an example of data driving product development, look to Vimeo's native publishing tool that lets members publish their work to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn:

"We collect all that data back, and use that to help you as a creator know that if you make these tweaks to your content you will actually get more engagement and more clicks on these platforms. That's an example of how we can use data to improve the customer experience and I do think that's something that Amazon does very well."

It's a good reminder for all of us to look for inspiration in successful companies outside our industry—and to focus on the customer.

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