The Top 3 Things Social Media can learn from “Winning with Customers”


Winning with Customers has a simple and powerful premise: if you can make your customers more money than your competition can, you will win.  When I first got a review copy of this book in the mail, I have to admit, I was a bit daunted. It was thick, thick, thick. But then I dug in and couldn’t put the book down. D. Keith Pigues (recently named one of B2B’s most influential marketers) and Jerry Alderman have laid down the gauntlet for anybody in a selling and marketing to other businesses.  Here are the top 3 things that social media can learn from “Winning With Customers”.

It’s the ROI, Stupid!

Yes, with a tip of the hat to James Carville and his famous “It’s the economy, stupid” quote, I’m going there. As we continue to make our way out of the recession, increasing amounts of business owners and marketing professionals are starting to take social media as a serious channel to grow their business. At the same time, these people are starting to ask the tough questions like “how much money is this going to make me?” To which some very intelligent and well-intentioned people continue to reply: “it’s not about the ROI, it’s about engagement and transparency and…” The problem with this rationale is that it stops working the moment somebody can show your customer a financial model that will deliver value directly to their bottom line. Who do you think gets the gig - the guy who talks about engagement alone, or the guy who talks about engagement and ROI?

Lesson #1 for social media: In a B2B environment, talking in dollars and cents is much better than talking about engagement and transparency.

Yes, joining “the conversation” matters, but…

Yes, there’s plenty of great reasons the you should “join the conversation”. But what kind of conversations are you having? Here’s the great news - you don’t even have to walk in the door with proof that social media will grow their business - you just have to be willing to have the conversation. You should be having this conversation with all existing and prospective customers. Here are the 4 steps the authors suggest you take:

  1. Ask the question: how do you believe we add value to your bottom line, and how much? If this is a prospective customer, ask them to explain the current channels they are using to make money.
  2. Listen. Your job is to listen to what the customer has to say, and probe as much as possible.  And for god sakes, no selling.
  3. No solving. If it’s a current customer, you might hear things like “you haven’t added anything directly to our bottom line”.  That’s ok, and don’t try an solve the issue on the spot. Your one and only job in that interview is to uncover those opportunities, not to solve them. There’s plenty of time to be Superman later on.
  4. No justifying. You also don’t need to justify your past actions, or the fact that you haven’t measured the ROI of those actions. In fact, doing so will probably act to undermine the entire meeting, as they’ll understand pretty quickly that you aren’t there to get clarity on how you can help your business, but to cover your own ass. Don’t do that.

Remember, powerful part about this whole process is the conversation itself.  When you leave the customer and head back to the office, I guarantee you that you’ll be viewed in a different and better light than when you walked in.

Lesson #2 for social media: The first step to delivering value to your customer’s bottom line is to open up that conversation in a direct and honest way.

Always Come Back With a Plan

As powerful as that conversation is, it’s not worth much unless you deliver the goods. You now know where you stand, and what improvements you need to make in order to have an impact on your customer’s bottom line. This is the simplest and hardest step, because now you have to come up with a plan that delivers on those results. There’s no magic here, other than you need to have the “test and learn” approach of a direct marketer. Remember, you’ll be returning to your customer with a plan that shows how you’ll impact their bottom line over time, not through a one-time event. When you go back to see your customer, make sure you address these items:

  1. What your customer said in the interview. Acknowledging that you heard what they said is critical in order to build trust through this process.
  2. What you will do.  Tell your customer what you’ve decided to do about that feedback, and what impact you believe it will have on their bottom-line.  Eventually you’ll be able to lose the “believe” part and replace it with “know”.
  3. What you won’t do.  It’s almost a certainty that your customer is going to have lots of ideas on how you can fix the problem.  If you don’t intend on implementing some (or all) of them, let them know and give them a reason why.

Lesson #3 for social media: Engagement is great, but follow up and execution is better.

What do you think? Will you have this conversation with your customers?  Why or why not?

  • Steve,

    Interesting angle on where B2B companies can tie in social media and pretty relevant in today's economy where there is a focus on making money - again.

    The lessons together remind me of a point rasied by a venture capitalist when we were discussing Social Corporate Responsibility as a key intagible asset of a company.

    What he said was: " enough of the woolly, nice to have stuff. We're in it for the money. I'm not interested in CSR. I'm more interested in CSA: Corporate Social Acceptability!"

    Now whilst not all business executives are so ruthless, so "Gordon Gecko", there is an appreciation that they need to make money to continue to exist. If however, following the lessons identified, social media can be demonstrated as the tool to make them attractive to their customers, to make them more "remarkable", to want to make customers buy the goods/services, then they should adopt it. ROI is likely to increase, maybe even exponentially, as B2B become B2B2B and B2B2B2B in a network of joined up, referrals and viral marketing.
  • Bill - that's a great quote! And I completely agree - the B2B2B2B idea is definitely so much easier to execute today if you are focussed on creating value.
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