Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making Your Customers Work for You

There's an old commercial for ING Direct and the idea behind it is that you should have your money work for you. They show dollar bills doing all sorts of things but the theme is that you worked hard to earn that money, and you should have the money now work hard for you. The idea is the same in a business with customers. As Bill Lee writes in the Harvard Business Review blog, there are some things that customers can do better than you--and those things can help advance your business. The idea is that you should grow your customer base and, in turn, they should grow your business.

Lee writes about five things that customers do better than companies including knowing more about each other, being more credible, being more persuasive, understanding the buyers needs, and attracting prospects. The idea is that you don't always need to grow your employee base to grow your business--the goal is to grow your customers. Customers don't always have to buy something (he lists Facebook as an example), but they are integral in growing your brand. And they're a heckuva lot cheaper than hiring an employee. Look at instagram which recently got bought by Facebook for $1 billion--they had ~13 employees but their value was in their customers.

So think about that the next time you have capital to spend. Most companies pump capital into employees to grow their internal infrastructure but it may be just as important to pump that capital into attracting new customers and growing that base. They know your business best and can help promote and grow it. Let your customers work for you (and sometimes they get to be furry and cute).

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