How Tom O’Shea worked with customers to grow

While 2009 was a tough year for Tom O’Shea at Wasp Barcode Technologies, 2010 was a different story. The company, which manufactures barcode software and solutions, saw 12 percent growth in revenue last year.

“We target sub-100-employee companies with our products and design them for that customer set,” the general manager says. “I think, coming out of the economic crisis that we had, small businesses were looking for things to improve productivity. They weren’t ready to hire a bunch of people back, so they found value in the products we had to offer.”

O’Shea saw this opportunity and worked to capitalize on it by focusing on these customers and engaging his 50 employees to do the same.

“We want to have a laser focus on the customer,” he says. “Make it a clear message — ‘What we’re trying to achieve is this,’ this year, and not have four or five or six different things, so everybody can get behind it.”

Smart Business spoke with O’Shea about how he focused on customers to continue growing the business.

How do you get in touch with customers in order to spur growth?

Talk to your customers and find out what they are looking for. We try to talk to customers a lot in terms of surveys, follow-up calls, that type of thing. What features do they like? What features do we need to add? We constantly ask them where are they buying software-related products from, so we understand where do we need to be. Where do we need to spend our marketing advertising dollars?

Also, talk internally. Your employees have some great ideas in terms of what the customers are asking for. We have an internal discussion forum where whenever someone is talking, they get an idea on the product.

How do you stay focused on your customers?

One of the things we try to do is challenge our value proposition to our customers. Almost annually in our planning, we’ll put that slide up there and say, ‘Are these the right things that we should be doing, and what are we missing here?’ Continuing to try to challenge and grow and expand the value proposition you have is a real important step.

Listen to the customer. Do voice-of-the-customer studies. Get out and talk to the customers. Survey them. Ask them questions. A lot of times customers are more than willing to give you feedback on what they like and what they don’t like, and listen to them on that side of things.

That was one of the keys that we came up with a free training offering. Customers were saying, ‘We need to be able to use your products quickly and easily, and if you had some training for us, that would be valuable.’ So we put that together and launched that, and it’s been very successful.

How do you determine things you can work on or add and things you can’t?

We’re a small company, too, so we can’t handle everything. We try to look at what we feel will give the most differentiation out there in our customer space. We’ll try to gauge what seems to be the most popular feature-set request for our products.

If someone continues to ask for a certain thing, that boils to the top, and we need to get that in the next time. There’s no real science to doing that — it’s more of trying to understand what the customers are asking for the most. We try to make things not too complicated, so a lot of times, we’ll shy away from things that will overcomplicate the product. In our experience with the small businesses, if it’s overcomplicated, and if it’s going to take a lot of time to use, then it may not be utilized. They want to get something installed and move on to the next thing because they have problem after problem after problem, so if it’s going to take a long time to learn or install or change their processes a lot, they tend to shy away from that.

 How to reach: Wasp Barcode Technologies, (866) 547-9277 or