For a great long-term synergistic relationship – actually partnership – with your customers, it is much better to sell the company than just the product. Selling your company’s culture, getting your customers in love with doing business with you, is the very best way to develop relationships.
We have all heard about companies that have cult-like followers. Certainly, Apple comes to mind. What other company has people standing in line overnight for their latest products? Are their products really that much better than the competitions? No, not really. But they have done such a great job creating the bond between the company and their customers that they have an entire what Seth Godin calls “Tribe” of loyal customers. Nay, not customers, apostles would be a better word to describe their customers.
Selling your company’s culture, partnerships, and chemistry rather than just the product itself is a strategic approach that can foster long-term relationships and brand loyalty. And of course, minimize the risk of competitors invading the account. The important thing is to create and highlight this kind of culture and promote it to your customer base.
Storytelling: One of the most successful and effective ways to promote your culture is through storytelling. Going back to the Apple example, think of their story. Most of their customer base can retell their story right down to what college Steve Jobs attended and how Steve and Jonny Ives would work for hours on the box the original I-Pods came in. These Apple stories represent the best way to create a company culture that everyone wants to be a part of.
Authenticity: Always be genuine in everything you do. Be real, as they say. Be human and be humane. Give of yourself, and of your company, to the customer. Always and I mean always err in favor of the customer.
Collaboration: Think in terms of you and your customer. Do everything to create a sense of togetherness in everything you do. Go out of your way to look out for the customer. Make sure that you give the feeling that you are both sitting on the same side of the table. All decisions should be made for the good of you and your customers.
Partnership: Be a true partner in every sense of the word. Be a great partner. Be a partner that your customer-partner will turn to when things are tough and will celebrate with when things are going great. Remember that great line, “It’s amazing how much gets done when you don’t care who gets the credit.” And don’t forget to share some great partnership stories. You should be using examples of these stories in all of your media.
Greatness: You have to be great to be admired. You have to be better than everyone. None of this will work if you are not a great company, producing a great product. That’s a given. No one is going to buy into your company’s culture if you are not great. It’s just too much of a reach.
Vision: Share a long-term mutual vision with your customers. Coordinate your visions to make sure they match. If you want a long-time relationship with a customer you have to both be going in the same direction. The true sign of a great vendor partner is one that aligns its future with the future of the customer.
Communications: In all that you do you have to communicate with your current customers, and you have to communicate with your target customers. They have to know all about your company and why they want to be part of your company’s customer base. Yes they have to know all about your company, and it is your job to make sure that they do.
Marketing: People do not learn about a company’s culture by accident. You have to market your company in such a way that your company’s story and culture and chemistry with customers are all evident in your advertising and social media. Your website needs to be filled with stories about your company and its culture, as is your social media and your advertising. You have to show the world that you’re a great company to do business with.
All hands-on deck: Creating a great company culture, one that others will not only envy but what to be a part of as well is a full company program. That is, everyone in the company has to buy in. Everyone has to believe in the company and its greatness. This means that as leaders it is our job, our mission, and our vision to make sure that everyone in the company is fully educated when it comes to your company culture. Right from the first day they come to work at your company people have to know what the company is about and what makes it great. They not only have to know it…they have to feel it in their bones so that they can eventually exude your company culture with everything they do.
These are just a few of the actions and characteristics of creating a great company culture, one that your customers will want to be a part of. This will ensure that your company’s story and your company’s culture is so engaging that customers will want to buy into the company, not just the product. It’s only common sense.