Author: Bill Lee

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press

Book Review by:  Sonu Chandiram

This book helps company owners and executives in large- and medium-sized firms responsible for revenue and profit growth to focus on customers and ingrain into themselves that their basic mission should be to satisfy and retain them.

More than just satisfying them, but “wowing” them by providing products and services that exceed their customers’ expectations.

Imagine that you are a customer who recently changed the supplier of basic products – let us say gas and electricity, for example, because their cost was 20 percent lower overall than from your existing supplier. Of course it is a no-brainer to change supplier of gas and electricity. Why would you continue to pay 20 percent more? It’s a no-brainer to change your supplier.

Now imagine also that you not only started paying less for these commodities, but you also got a free two nights, three days hotel stay in your welcome package from your new supplier of gas and electricity. How would that make you feel? Would that endear you to your new supplier? Absolutely!

Conversely, let us say you knew you were paying too much for cell phone service from a provider who constantly committed billing errors. On top of that it was very, very time-consuming to get to the right people on the phone to issue credits to you and get your phone bill straightened out. How would you feel?

You would look for an alternate cell phone service provider that would not try to overcharge you and get away with it. You would look for a phone company that would not take your precious time in trying to deal with them, and who had a simple, easy-to-comprehend and comply-with service plan that did not involve many complicated requirements to maintain that service with the same, predictable monthly rate.

Bill Lee brings back into business managers’ minds that customers are reason we are in business. It is primarily customers and their satisfaction and happiness, not employees, marketing and product development (that are also important, but not as much) that keeps a company in business and on the path to revenue and growth of income.

He writes: “Today’s most successful companies taking a different approach: getting customers to market, sell, and create products for them.” In other words, customers become the company’s advocates and biggest promoters!

The author, CEO of Customer Strategy Group, points out that today’s entrepreneurs do not look so much at costs and sales prices of their goods and services to determine return on investment, but more so on developing an endearing relationship with customers. It is your collective ‘return on relationships’ with your customers that is your company’s most valuable asset. This type of return yields a ‘distinct business advantage’ to companies run by enlightened executives, Bill Lee asserts.

He cites several case studies – including those involving 3 M, Microsoft, and the SAS Institute – that show how customers “help market your offerings, penetrate foreign markets, leverage the demand-generating power of social media, build customer communities, improve innovation and more.”

Lee discusses in this pioneering 220-page book on the new business thinking, how to set your priority on customers and use that highly-engaged audience, raving about your products, to get new users. This new approach to marketing and selling is contrary to the old one of using advertising to tout the features and benefits of your products.

In eight chapters, managers curious to learn customer-focused marketing learn about:

  1. The Coming Customer Revolution – transform customers into advocates, influencers, and contributors.
  2. Return on Relationship – the key to turning customer engagement into organic growth.
  3. The Most Powerful Sales Force – your customers are more credible to a buyer than you are.
  4. The New Marketing Machine – how customers advocates can drive marketing strategy
  5. Harnessing the Internet – how customers can turn the web from threat into opportunity for you.
  6. Building Customer Communities in a networked World – how customers and companies are doing together what they can’t do alone.
  7. Customer-Enhanced Strategy – how C-level customers can create rapid growth.
  8. The Most Innovative Designers – how to get meaningful customer input to make dramatic improvements in new product development.

Bill Lee and his Lee Consulting Group organize industry conferences on topics such as customer engagement and customer communities. The company has some of the largest companies as clients, including Apple, AT&T, CA Technologies, Dell, IBM, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo.