With Customers, it’s All Heart — 99% of the Time

Customers are People Too! I finally get to talk about the crux of it, the hardest nut to crack — Relationships.

There is no doubt that businesses for so long have, and still continue to focus on driving top line growth that they forget they are selling to people and not brick and mortar. The human stature we accord companies makes us forget that companies are run by actual humans, just like us. We “coerce” our prospects to buy whatever solution we are selling to presumably solve ‘their problems’, that we forget to pay heed to the actual problem. After all we have quarterly targets to meet and bonuses to worry about. We forget that closing new and new such deals and gaining market share in a global economy and achieving growth targets and shareholder value are daunting tasks. We can only meet those if we focus on the concept of starting with the right conversations with our customers and continuing those conversations throughout the life of the customer.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”-Peter Drucker

This is, by no means a quarterly goal or an easily measurable task for ROI computations. The results take time and the best KPIs around this are churn rates and sales velocity. Not something the technology vendors have spent time coaching the boardrooms on, or what the executives can present in an elegant dashboard. Nor is this an easy sell to the CFO when trying to get budgets for such initiatives — whether technology or resourcing.

Customer marketing, customer experience, customer engagement, all nuanced labels of the same concept with differences around scope, have been gaining momentum and focus in the recent past. While increased competition and lowered barriers to entry and exit is putting pressures on creating disciplines, processes and focus around customer marketing that goes beyond lip service, on the other hand, budgeting, resourcing and short-term goals are bludgeoning this discipline before it can even begin to deliver on the promise.

The myriad companies talking about content strategy and content marketing, concept of storytelling lack the vision and conversation on how they can tangibly help a business. They are unable to present a business case or build a market momentum that would help them with adoption. They, paradoxically, miss the story around why we need a story.

Mark Twain rightly said “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.”

Investing in customer referral programs/advocate marketing may not be a fruit to pick in the very short-term, however, focusing on a sustained content and social strategy that maps to a customer lifecycle definitely is. From initial conversations, deepening engagement and moving to forming a relationship with a closed deal, creating this seamless buyer journey is the imperative. While direct attribution from this channel is hard to measure and ROI even harder to prove, this is an investment that companies have to bite off, else successes and growth seen today may just be a house of cards.

“Success and profitability are outcomes of focusing on customers and employees, not objectives.” — Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group

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