The New Buzzword: Customer Creation

by Jay Deragon on 01/09/2012

“The purpose of business is to create a customer.” — Peter Drucker.  Could Drucker be wrong?  Maybe and maybe not but now consultants and know it all pundits are spinning customer creation as the holy grail to all 21st Century sales and marketing efforts. I am sorry, no I am not, but I don’t buy it.

A business doesn’t create a customer they come ready made. Customers are looking for suppliers to meet their needs but in the 20th Century mentality suppliers look for customers to meet their needs.  It doesn’t work that way in the minds of the 21st Century customer and yet many suppliers still think that way.  Look around and you’ll see suppliers consumed with CRM , RM, QM, CM and all the other acronyms  and now social media tricks aimed at capturing, not engaging, the customer.  Now suppliers are talking about another consultant speak mantra of the month—Customer Creation Tools & Techniques

Back to Drucker who said “The purpose of business is to create a customer.” He was right but the open question that  leading 21st Century thinkers would ask is “by what method?”.  Some would say the method involves coordinated online and off line activities and who would disagree, no one. But again “by what methods”?  Customer creation advocates would say you have to be in the same place at the same time as the customer. Make sense but….is there a better way than chasing the customers time and place online or off?

Methods determine outcomes. If suppliers chase customers, engage and capture them whether online or off, the customer sentiment is not likely to consider the suppliers methods as relational.  Customers are more inclined to follow the market sentiment of a brand or product based on the sentiment of other customers. In other words customer creation comes from other customers and the role of the brand is to is to simply serve the customer one at a time and deliver beyond expectations.

Zappos attracted customers by serving one customer at a time beyond their expectations and the brand sentiment traveled by word of mouth one customer to another. Zappos customer creation method was to let the customer create other customers and let the related experiences create “customer media” that speaks for itself.

Doc Searls talks about “The Intention Economy,” which  grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don’t need advertising to make them. The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets.”  You don’t need marketing to create customers.

People do not exist to be customers.  Our purpose is certainly not to create and keep suppliers. Our primal instincts naturally drive us to relate, co-create and communicate. That being the case then the methods that create customers are activities that enable customers to relate, co-create and communicate. The customers primal instincts are not that complicated and yet markets have made it complicated thus they fail to relate online and off. Instead markets pursue marketing schemes that try and create us.  Sorry, as Doc says “we are ready made waiting for service”.

{ 1 comment }

John Maloney January 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

Hi – Good post. Provocative and engaging. Couple serious problems and corrections.

Customer Creation is a very specific, deliberate part of the of Customer Development activity of Lean Startups. It is not intended for established firms or even going concerns. It is for startups, not for businesses.

“Methods determine outcomes.” Wow! This deterministic view is dangerous. Businesses are complex adaptive systems. They are emergent and non-deterministic. Methods strictly do NOT determine outcomes. The best businesses fail all the time, including the ones with correct methods and the most fashionalbe ‘best practices.’

Customer creation, or more precisely and correct, Customer Development, is specifically intended to improve the dismal failure rate (>90%) of entrepreneurial startups. Period. It is not a buzzword or Holy Grail. For this specific purpose of improving the probability of startup success it is valuable, sensible and highly effective!


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