Some examples of how your firm's best (or "AIC") customers can meet–and even crush–critical growth objectives more efficiently than traditional marketing, sales, support and product development.
Carl Pei launched smartphone maker OnePlus into a brutal industry, and succeeded with a creative twist: he built a customer community first—with like-minded smartphone enthusiasts—before launching a product. The launch of the OnePlus One was a hit because Pei's community co-created it, promoted it, and supported it better than internal employees by themselves. RESULT: $300M in 1st yr sales with $300 media spend
Marc Benioff designed early Salesforce events to encourage candid conversations between customers and prospects, no sales pitch needed. Benioff let his customers—and his products—do the selling. That “no-selling” approach spawned incredible "no-selling" close rates. RESULT: 80% of such prospects became customers.
SAS Canada's concerned president considered a high $ marketing campaign to reverse a steep decline in retention rates (from mid-90s to low-80s). Customer Advocacy manager Wally Thiessen suggested that he deploy his “Customer Champions” instead—who organized 20 live events in 13 cities that drew 2,000 people, among others remarkable initiatives. Result: Retention rates fully restored. No marketing spend needed.
When it first launched, Zoom was late to the industry, facing much better known and better funded competitors. Unable to raise funding, CEO Eric Yuan built market share on a foundation of natural customer advocates—nurtured by his fidelity to a culture of "delivering happiness”—as opposed to focusing on financial metrics. Result: By 2020 Zoom led the industry in market share
Many customer communities save costs by diverting support requests to their customer community. But few if any CRUSH such costs like Microsoft did under community manager Sean O'Driscoll—who was motivated by leadership’s dire emphasis on cost cuts against open source competition. Result: O’Driscoll’s community eventually diverted $100Ms of dollars of support costs.
Despite his various troubles, Elon Musk has focused Tesla admirably on disrupting the EV industry for two decades. No more nerdy electric cars: Musk made Teslas cool. Dealership rip-offs were out—Tesla owns “stores” that amplify the cars' "wow" experience. Musk depended on natural advocates for growth, spent little on marketing. RESULT: Tesla’s value cratered in 2022, but is still 3x of its top 3 competitors combined (1/1/2003).
T-Mobil was a perennial laggard when CEO John Legere joined it. Its market cap was a paltry $3B vs. +/-$150B for AT&T and Verizon. Legere vowed to compete with natural customer evangelism by reversing the leaders’ appalling customer practices. He eliminated binding contracts, international roaming charges, hidden fees, and more. RESULT: In just a decade, T-Mobile's market cap was neck & neck with AT&T and Verizon.
When he started Vanguard, Jack Bogle upended Wall Street’s entrenched abuse of investors. He installed a radical regime: provide the best possible investments for its investors/ customers! Establish no firm growth goals. No commissioned sales. Cut costs relentlessly–and pass them to customers. RESULT: Today, Vanguard is the second largest mutual fund in the world.
Excluding customers from product development is a huge mistake, as extensive research by MIT shows. E.g. 3M's "lead users" co-created products that achieved 2x market share and 8x revenues over internally created products. LEGO's 1000+ developer-customers created a robot that could solve a Rubik cube—a monster hit, and harbinger of Lego's triumph over Sony's internally designed robotics.
Efforts to get teenagers to stop smoking failed for decades, until FLORIDA invited teens into a community of peers: Hundreds gathered to brainstorm a new campaign ("truth"), formed an organization to implement it (SWAT, or Students Working Against Tobacco), and led the first successful anti-teen smoking campaign in history. RESULT: Teen smoking in FL reduced 17% in 1st year, 50% in 10 yrs.
An on-premise software vendor (CONFIDENTIAL) launched a SaaS version but less than a quarter of “on prem” customers made the switch. Customer Marketing then mobilized what switchers they had to describe why they took the leap, what the migration was like, and how life is better on the other side. RESULT: 70% on-prem customers migrate to SaaS in 1st yr.
Forrester's board mandated an expansion initiative to reverse loss of wallet share in major accounts. While most divisions tried traditional marketing initiatives, Customer Marketing in one division mobilized power-user customers to spread the word within lagging accounts. The power-users explained to non-using colleagues how Forrester was helping them far more credibly than marketing could. RESULT: 100-200% seat expansion in major accounts in one year.