Dean Drako’s 3 Reasons Happy Customers Make a Difference

by Gloria Nichols

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More than a decade ago, I asked Dean Drako for his best business tip. By then, he’d already sold a couple of successful startups, IC Manage was going strong, and Barracuda Networks — which later went public — was ramping up fast.

Dean’s advice to me was,

“Find a customer and make them very happy.”

Fast forward several years, and I listened to Dean’s keynote address at UC Berkeley Engineering week. During the keynote, he said,

“My favorite business principle is:  Keep your customers happy.”

Dean Drako

It was still his #1 principle. So, below are Dean’s three reasons why it is so important:

“If you listen carefully when your customers speak to you, they are actually telling you what you must do to be successful.”

“Happy customers will often ‘pay it forward’ by telling other potential customers. Just read the detailed Amazon reviews.”

“There is a contagious energy and momentum when you and your team get this right.”

As to how Dean Drako makes this happen for his companies, he says:

“Great customer support is everything. So align your entire team with this priority. Hire people who share this value, and make it part of your ongoing conversations.

“You must be able to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It takes discipline, but keep stepping back and looking at things from their perspective. Value their point-of-view. Then execute on making sure your products meet their needs.”

I personally interview a lot of people to get product feedback. I will share two things I’ve noticed about happy customers. First, as Dean mentions, the happiest customers are indeed the ones most willing to take the time to share their experience with the community.

Second, they virtually always bring up how responsive the vendor is to their feedback, whether it involves resolving a specific problem or taking their input on making a good product even better.


Gloria Nichols does CMO consulting for technology startups. She has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BS in Engineering from Stanford University.