When Customers are Partners

The most difficult job in marketing is often trying to understand the gap, the problem or the pain point of current and new customers.

What is it that our company could do to serve our customers better and to make a difference in their lives? That is the most challenging question. 

When this investigation is done inside the four walls of your company, you get part of the answer. When you include the customer, you expand the opportunity to get insight in real time and without doing what marketers loves to do - make things too complicated with the community who will actually use the product or service. 

Creating with your customers isn't new. But shifting your business model to include them opens up access to the collaborative economy. 

But how you partner and structure that arrangement is directly linked to your business model. And it can be with a different type of business model that you can build a unique type of engaged community of customers. 

The Food Coop Model
A wonderful model to think about is your local food coop.  The members are engaged and interested in fresh, local and healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. By building a membership platform, you shift the dynamic from selling to your customers to selling WITH your customers. 

According to Shane Hughes, In the US there are more than 8,000 of these businesses in place where risk is shared and collaboration is valued. Hughes who calls himself a REconomist works for Transition Network Reconomy and delivered this powerful and insightful Ted Talk. I'd urge you to watch when you have 18 minutes. 

What marketing lessons can you learn from this model?

The Giant Membership Model
If you are wondering if this model can be scaled, I have one word for you. COSTCO.

Costco earns 70% of its profits from membership fees. That means it earns 70% of its next year’s profits up front. Only 30% of its profits come from the sale of merchandise. And it is that merchandise that is marked up about 6-10% that is the value that drives its wild success.

When Life Gives You Lemons
Or, if you are thinking about small scale, imagine a community of people who have two common interest, low-cost transportation and an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuel. Meet The Lemon Bus Company in Brighton, England. Instead of paying fares, customers become members of the company. They align their interest in a cleaner economy with a friendly bus service that uses bio diesel fuel that comes from the waste oil of restaurants in the area. 

 Is this model right for you or a part of your business? Why not think about a new way of partnering with customers and creating a community of interest?

I’d love to get your comments on how this might work in different business segments.


Jeffrey Slater

Are you looking for a marketing coach or mentor? You can hire me by the moment - well by the minute through Clarity.fm to consult with your company. Check out the details here

I donate 100% of my fee to Charity: Water who helps serve communities that need clean water. 

Labels: , , , , , ,