From Inside to Outside: What does the new customer see?

In my last post looking at new organizations, I looked at how a new type of consultant can help to build this new kind of organization. We also broke the organization into four parts: The Inside, Partners, Existing Customers, and New Customers and thought about a plan of attack to open an existing organization to the new world.
The two most important of these groups during a time of change are The Internal Group and Existing Customers. Each of these groups needs to take responsibility for the group after it (Internal for Partners and Existing Customers must connect to New Customers).

These two groups must also inform each-other along the way as regularly as possible.

If you are a new customer, when you look into the organization, what do you see?

If I am right about the design of a new organization, then it is important to understand what is going on in the “Customers” and “New Customers” part of the design on the right.

This design/model might look normal to you, but it is fundamentally different from how we think about organizations today. In a representation of a modern business or organization, the three main circles are not inside of each-other, the are separate, and “New Customers” and “Customers” are their own single entity, which is considered an input into the system, not a participating element.

This is where things get dangerous. As organizations struggle to change, they are often visited by a marketing company which often proposes a “viral marketing” strategy in order to get more market penetration.

Viral Marketing is Dead (or at least, it has Mad Cow)
Viral marketing is a dangerous concept because it offers executives a sort of penance. The mere thought of interacting with a customer at all is enough to give many executives a hernia, so the a viral marketing campaign is usually enough to make a boring company feel good about itself for a year or two.

Having an effectives viral marketing campaign is kind of like having an effective chemo therapy round, or an effective quadruple bypass surgery — that son of a bitch is still your biggest problem.

From Problem to Solution, or Romance for Beginners

This much is true: The only valuable way to get new customers is through your existing customers, but a balanced approach must treat existing and new customers differently. In the world of Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing, etc, we try to go out, convince a new customer that our product is good and we then beg them to tell others about it.

The story gets out, but it is often shaky and we still don’t know if we are selling something that people really want.

So here is the difference in the new world. We are in a relationship with our customers (you have heard that before) and we listen closely to them (you have heard that before too), but they are an integral part of the organization itself. Existing Customers are a significant part of the feedback, development and strategy loop. They are no longer an input ($ or Focus Groups) but a sort of department. This means that you have customers living inside your intranet/extranet and that you have communications policies and governance processes that allow for the free dissemination of information to these customers.

A lot of these ideas are explained in another way in my post about Enterprises as Ecosystems.

Practical Steps

To really get into some practical steps, I will need to do a separate post, but here are some sticking points that we can all get started with:

  • * You run a sales organiztion, not a marketing enterprise.
  • * If you have a communications department, start thinking about how to get rid of it
  • * If you don’t have an open and honest communication channel with your own wife/husband and kids, start there and come back when you have things cleared up.
  • * Do a google blog search for your company or product.
  • * The next time you run into someone you don’t like: Ask them how they are doing and listen closely. It’s good practice.
  • * Hire the next applicant that comes across your desk who manages to mention Facebook in his resume.
  • * Better yet, hire someone via their blog or Facebook profile.
  • * Think seriously about whether you believe, really believe, in what your organization does or sells. If you don’t, please don’t try this stuff.