At the heart of being a social organization is a strong connection to your customers. Ask any business leader, and they’ll say their customers come first. But at social organizations, this customer focus takes on special meaning. It’s not just the biggest customers who come first, but all customers. And it’s not just at the point of sale that they become important, but throughout the product lifecycle, from testing to development. Customers are really an additional “department” within the company, one that actively has a say in what the company builds, who they build it for, and when. Everything is done in collaboration with customers, from marketing to engineering. Scary? Only if you don’t trust your customers to know what they want from your company. And they do. By working with them, you’ll better ensure that you deliver what they need, thereby keeping you in business.
There’s a strong connection between being social and being Agile. Most of the social orgs I’ve come across also embrace Agile, at least in their development, and often in their marketing ops. Social organizations embrace Agile, listening to their customers and building their products based on their needs. They build for the market, rather than trying to create a market for what they want to build. They listen across multiple channels, from Twitter and Facebook to face-to-face meetings, and actively solicit feedback. They also listen to all customers—not just the loudest or the one with the biggest invoice. The reasons are that good ideas come from everywhere, the “little” guy or gal may represent your biggest demographic, and all customers are important—they talk about your brand, and you want them to love your company.
Customers feel they “own” a product that was built for their needs. They use it. They talk about it positively. They are invested in getting others to adopt it. It becomes something they need, and they will naturally talk about it to others they think could use it, too. Suddenly, you have an army of people ready and willing to sell “their” product to their friends, family, and colleagues. And you cannot get a better sales team than your own customers.