The CREAM Rises to the TOP – Part Five

Customer Monetization

In most circles, “CRM” stands for “Customer Relationship Management”. As we pointed out in the first part of this series, that sounds to us like sitting in a circle, holding hands and talking about our feelings.

While we are human beings and not robots, and we do strive for pleasant, personable interactions with our customers, we also acknowledge that “All Business Is Sales“, and sales is about making money. Enough money to be profitable, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

For most entrepreneurs, this is the “dirty little secret” – they’re in it FOR THE MONEY. The fact that this might be mildly disturbing to read may be part of why doing business well occurs as a struggle. There’s nothing wrong, shameful or unseemly about making money – therefore, there’s nothing bad about “monetizing” our customer interactions.

That is, after all, what makes them customers in the first place. We can (and should) be friendly with them. Some of them may even actually be friends of ours. But if we’re not focused on monetizing these connections, we will forever struggle.

Now, as we begin, let’s understand that “monetizing the connection” is NOT the same as “making money OFF OF“. In fact, by our reckoning the two concepts have little overlap. Here’s how that makes sense.

It’s Value, Not Money

Although we use the term “monetization“, we’re not actually talking about money. Remember the fundamental precept that “All Business is Sales”, and that Sales is a conversation about the exchange of value for money. This means that customers are not people that give you money, or that you are striving to get money from. Customers are those people who agree to exchange money with you for the value they receive in return.

In other words, it’s not about the ask, but the offer. Stop talking about price, and stop focusing on how much you want (or need) to make. Talk to your customers about the value they will receive in the monetized exchange. It’s not that you aren’t ultimately talking about money: it’s that you’re not emphasizing money in the conversation. That’s the real difference between a pitch and a proposal, and the reason we avoid the pitch altogether, concentrating exclusive on the proposal process.

It may seem weird, awkward or forced – at first. That’s because for centuries, sales has been about price, cost, and manipulating the buyer to give up the cash. Only recently has the sales process even considered the customer as anything other than a source of revenue – thus the famous phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute“. Nowadays, in the age of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, that old mindset simply doesn’t yield maximum results. It’s not that you can’t “get over” with the old-fashioned “catch ’em, con ’em and split once the check clears” – it’s that you can no longer build a sustainable business on that model of behavior.

We’re All Connected

As mentioned above, we are all firmly in the plugged in, always-on Social Media Age. It seems folks spend more time face-planted in their mobile screens than they do interacting with the people in their actual, physical world. In the 20th Century, “customer capture” was a thing. Once acquired, it was difficult for customers to switch vendors  and providers and, even if it wasn’t, customers were conditioned to the “we’ve always done business with [INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE]” way of thinking.

Terms such as “churn“, “friction” and “cost of separation” were quite common in the sales arena. Then came the Internet, search engines and Social Media. Customers could easily find out all the information they wanted about any company, do advanced research before narrowing their choices down to a short list, discuss amongst themselves and most importantly share their experiences with, and opinions of, companies they’ve done business with.

The whole world is watching… and talking about it. That’s why the new sales terms are “Search Engine Alerts” and “Reputation Management“. A critical element in monetizing your relationship with your customers is safeguarding the impression of who you are in that relationship. The prevailing wisdom is that a criticism has ten times the impact and effect of a compliment. While this is not a hard and fast mathematical rule, it is wise to bear this in mind. Monetizing your customer relationships is about much more than how much you make in each transaction – it’s the sum total of the level of satisfaction and fulfillment each customer walks away with. That leaves a lasting impression… and has a long-term effect on your bottom line.

Business is a Relationship

Even in this discussion of monetization – especially so, actually – we would all do well to remember that “business” is a relationship that exists between people. “Companies” are abstract concepts – there may be buildings, logos, equipment and such but, in the end, without human beings there’s nothing actually there. You do not negotiate a sale or close a deal with a “business” – that all occurs as the result of conversations with people.

Be patient in your conversations. Don’t deal with your customers as if they’re only the payment on the other end of an invoice – believe me, that a surefire way to gain an ex-customer. Remember that people buy what they want: stay aware of your customers dreams and desires, and always ask yourself “how else can I help them fulfill those dreams?” Create opportunities for them to review these offers of fulfillment, and many of them will take you up on your offer.

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