What it takes to win with your customers

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Amazing things happen when an organization begins to think first about how it can make its customers better off. Really.

The days of defining winning by considering only your own P&L are over. Leading b-to-b companies are focused on making their customers more money than their competitors and getting their fair share ... otherwise known as “winning with customers.”

So how can you tell if your organization is focused on winning with customers? Let's begin with the all-important question: Do your customers make more money doing business with you? As you ponder this question, consider the following four statements that describe a company on the right path. How many describe your organization?

  • We know specifically how we help customers make more money.
  • We measure and track how much money customers make doing business with us over time.
  • We measure and track how much more money our customers make doing business with us relative to our competitors.
  • We understand how we will make our customers more money in the future.

At the Business Marketing Association's Engage conference last month in Chicago, only five of more than 600 attendees polled agreed that all four statements fit their company. The good news, however, is that there is a big opportunity for companies to create real competitive advantage by investing time and energy to understand and execute the winning formula.

So what does it take to win with customers? There are six important ingredients:

1) Help customers make more money by having a different conversation—one that focuses on the measurable financial value you create for them today and the specific opportunities you provide to create more value in the future.

2) Inject quantitative, outside-in information regarding what customers value into decision-making. (Yes, sometimes we don't know as much about our customers as we think we do.)

3) Develop and execute plans with customers that deliver value, and clearly outline what is expected in return. 4) Predict future profit growth for both you and your customers by aligning your investments with their impact on customers' profits.

5) Build your organization's winning capability by shaping a culture that focuses on making customers more money, where every employee knows how he or she can contribute to creating value for your customers.

6) Systematically use a “customer value creation” playbook (CVC) to keep your organization on the winning path, using training and software tools to equip and mobilize the entire organization.

There is no silver bullet to win with customers, but there is now a proven approach with supporting tools to help companies win and win big.

D. Keith Pigues, CMO of Ply Gem Industries, is co-author with Jerry D. Alderman of “Winning With Customers: A Playbook for B2B,” which will be published next month by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at [email protected]

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