Why existing clients don’t matter (as much)

Kathy Sierra makes me gag.

How can one person have so many great ideas that (once she’s said them) seem like the commonest of common sense? I’m envious.

Why do so many companies treat potential users so much better than existing users? Think about it. The brochure is a thing of beauty, while the user manual is a thing of boredom. The brochure gets the big budget while the manual gets the big index. What if we stopped making the docs we give away for free SO much nicer than the ones the user paid for? What if instead of seducing potential users to buy, we seduced existing users to learn?

Let’s take the whole damn ad/marketing budget and move it over to product manuals and support. Let’s put our money where our users are. If we’re in it for the short term, then sure–it makes sense to do everything to get a new user, while doing as little as possible once we’ve got them. But if we’re really in it for the long haul–for customer retention and loyal users–then shouldn’t we be using all that graphic design and pro writing talent for the people we care about the most? Our users?

The answer, of course, is no.

In spite of common sense … in spite of the fact that the cost of winning new clients is much higher than satisfying the ones you have … in spite of the fact that it is in a company’s best interests to ensure that clients are getting full value from their products.

Why? Many companies ARE in it for the short term. That’s not what they’ll SAY, of course. But it is what they’ll DO. And behavior is a much better predictor of belief than language.

  • Sales leaders want to know how much they’ll sell next month.
  • Investors are asking: what have you done for me lately?
  • Wall Street is looking for next quarters’ results, not 2 or 3 or even 4 quarters from now.
  • C-level executive compensation – and bonus plans throughout an organization – are built on short-term results.
  • Sales consultants begin their year assuming most/all of their existing clients will stay in that category.

How do you fix it?

Short of rejecting Wall Street and taking your company private, I don’t know if there’s a good answer. Here’s a few I think might help. Feel free to add more on your blog.

  • Focus on annual results over quarterly results
  • Compensate based on client longevity instead of “capture”
  • Start your sales strategy plans with existing clients, not prospective clients
  • Commission sales people on how well clients use your products, not just how often they sell
  • ???

The truth is: to most organizations, existing users/clients are less important than new ones. At least, if you go by behavior.

And frankly, behavior is what counts.

[tags] users, clients, kathy sierra, sales, marketing, manuals, john koetsier [/tags]


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