I recently heard from a client who wanted to know whether I had any data or best practices around how business-to-business firms define – and count – their customers.
Here are two scenarios to consider:
A large software company sells to Vodafone UK, Vodafone Spain, and Verizon (US). All are owned by the parent company, Vodafone. Each entity goes through a separate buying process, contract negotiation, and installation. How would you count this: as one customer or three?
A top ten professional services firm has separate engagements with GE Money, GE Appliance, and GE Medical. These are three very different businesses, each with a separate purchase process. How would you classify any subsequent sales to GE Appliance: cross-sells/upsells or new business?
My perspective: I see B2B companies define “customer” as a legal entity with which they have a contractual obligation. A “customer” is the part of the organization with the budget authority and the potential to deliver a future revenue stream through service contracts, training, consulting, upsell/cross-sell, and the like – without having to run to the parent for approval.
That's the reason why brands continue to win. They create context. They have resonance. They connect with consumers in a meaningful way (at least the best ones do).
Sure, some brands create a very narrow context ("I am a cheese") and some pitch a big tent (Nike: Be your best self). But either way, we select brands because we either appreciate what they stand for or we choose to envision ourselves in them.
A favorite quote (sometimes attributed to Tom Peters, sometimes to Faith Popcorn): Women don't buy brands, they join them.
When we're operating in the interwebs where we there is a myriad of choice for every single thing we want to do, brands are the magnets that draw us in. Don't neglect your brand.
During her Q&A session after her presentation, Christina Norman, President, MTV Networks touched upon an interesting point: Sometimes young consumers just want to see silly or funny things. Now, I'm not saying that is the status quo when it comes to youth, and neither does Christina. But, MTV gets it: Customers are human.
MTV strives to create a total experience for its consumers, by enabling its audience to decide what they want to see and when they want to see it. While tools make a great experience possible, its the ideas -- the collaboration between MTV and its consumers -- that really contributes to their loyalty. By recognizing the emotional connection plays such an important role, MTV forges and creates opportunities for personal investment; it takes effort and tenacity to maintain and grow ties with younger generations throughout their life stages.
MTV balances this quest for providing content by feeding sites and shows like MTV Think! to enable consumers to find and contribute to local and national causes they care about, while content from TRL feeds their passion to be influencers.