Thursday, June 23, 2005

Introduction: The Customer Strategy

This is a republishing of a short introductory article I wrote back in early 2000 on knowledge marketing. This ultimately formed the basis for The Communications Strategy. The impetus of this model came from my gig as chief of eBusiness for the US Mint (that was the short form title btw, the official title was actually something like Director of New Media Business Development for the Office of Electronic Information and Products, whew) Anyways, I was tasked with using the Internet to encourage more people to become coin collectors - this universal truth of communications dyanmics was the result. Most of the programs I designed for the Mint using this model were never pursued, which is one of the reasons I left.

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What is your company doing to manage your customer’s knowledge? Are your customers involved intimately in the development of your product? Is your company leveraging its customer experience lifecycle? Are your customers talking with each other…without you? Who are your most valuable customers? Who is obtaining the most benefit form your product or service? Are your departments or divisions talking with each other, sharing their customer stories, gaining an understanding of the customer’s needs and concerns? These are a few of the questions that every Manager should be asking. These are the questions that are addressed by The Customer Strategy as embodied by customer knowledge management.

Customer knowledge management is the process of providing potential customers and current customers with all of the information they need to purchase and enjoy your product or service. It begins with the creation of a baseline worldview of how your customer’s behavior is shaped, determining their experience lifecycle, discovering who they really are and ascertaining what knowledge they really need to properly interact with your company. It ends with the creation of better products/services, greater customer satisfaction, superior customer support, extraordinary experiences and increased profitability.

The Customer Strategy is about influencing customer behavior in an era where customers no longer want to be influenced. With the rise of the Internet, your corporate spin-doctors have no momentum and your marketing shucksters don’t talk the talk that walks the walk. As you may have heard, many of the old ways of doing things do not work any longer.

As was stated so brilliantly in the Cluetrain Manifesto - “Your customers are talking to each other. Deal with it.” They know when you have a problem, they know how to get that hidden functionality, they know why your product won’t work under certain conditions and they know what to do to fix it. Help them share this knowledge, this conventional wisdom, with everyone. Stop trying to hide behind half-truths to increase the number of sales you will have to customers who will never enjoy your product and will never be a valuable addition to your family of satisfied customers. Accept the reality of your product’s potential and its limitations and get on with finding the right customers, the profitable customers, for your business. The Customer Strategy is Business Threepoint0, eBusiness to the power of 10, a paradigm shift that will overturn the current hegemony of the old guard and replace it with the new rulers of every revolution – the people, the customers.

Yet, at the same time, The Customer Strategy is not so revolutionary, it’s a focus on value creation in customer relationships based on seeing the big picture and how every activity, resource and person fits together. Bring together your brand manager with your head of eBusiness with your head of customer relationships with your head of product development and your customers and start talking. Not in a focus group, but in the real world. It stands to reason that if your customers are talking to each other, you better be there to ensure they have the right information they need to make decisions and to answer their questions. The reactive methods of customer relationship management are already outdated; the proactive days of customer knowledge management have come. The Customer Strategy is the intelligent executive’s framework for understanding their company’s focus for creating successful relationships with customers online and off.

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