Why Investing in Your Customer is the Best Bet You Can Make

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The following is a guest post by Julien Smith, my friend and co-author on an upcoming book with me.

Here’s one thing Chris and I have learned since writing Trust Agents:

Going all the way matters.

As people, we all know this. We enter committed relationships. We help and support our family and our friends. We join organizations where we help each other.

We do this stuff naturally. Coming together is a basic human activity that our brains understand well because we were brought up in groups. We’re not only individualistic, like cats, but also work well in packs, like wolves.

But something weird happens in business. We forget the individual. We deliver a message instead of just talking to customers. We’ve been told to say one thing out of the left side of our mouths, but another out of the right.

Person to person, we know we need to go all the way, and to be straight with people. But in business, we stop short.

Why companies stop short

The prevailing business culture is one where we eliminate risk and cut costs. We’d never do this with our spouse or our friends, of course.

But outside our circles, we do it without even thinking about it.

Our customers aren’t trying to take advantage of us. We want relationships with them– we know it’s profitable. So why are we leaning away?

Here’s what we discovered. Something special happens when you lean in… when you really invest in the relationship, whether it be with the customer or elsewhere.

We’re all watching it happen

Chris and I have seen it in organizations all over the world who are embracing social media, organizations we’ve seen the inner workings of. It works.

We see it in cities like New Orleans and Detroit, where many people have leaned in because they love the places they live in and want to make those places great. Those people have put in their all, and because of them, those cities will rise again.

We see it in personal relationships across the web everywhere that people have build because of Twitter or blogs, and through which they’ve found real friends and more.

How the math works

We can see the numbers working too. In investing terminology, dollar-cost averaging is what happens when you buy more of a company’s stock, even when their stock is doing bad. Why would you do that, you might ask?

You do it when it’s still a good company, and it’s going to survive because the numbers are right. You do it when you see that the company is undervalued– when it’s the underdog and it’s going to do better later.

In other words, you do it when you believe in them.

Do you believe in your readers? Do you believe in your customers? Do you believe in the web? I sure as hell do.

That’s what’s different about us.

That’s why companies are embracing Twitter. That’s why we them doing whatever they can to make their customers happy. They’re starting to see its value because they see that it works.

They are starting to lean in, not lean out.

When I started writing this post, I didn’t want to start a manifesto. But that’s kind of what it’s become, because I really care about this.

I’m going to guess you do too.

Everywhere I go and things are worth doing, or things make me happy, it’s because I decided to care. It’s because I decided that I wanted to make a difference.

That’s why here, on the web, I feel like we’re in it together. I feel like we can change the world.

But to do it, we need to lean in. We need to start caring again.

The economy sucks, and everybody’s broke. Some of us are down and out. You might be one of them.

If you are, you need to find more people like you to help each other.

You might be the opposite– you might be doing ok. If you are, you need to help those who are having a hard time.

You need to get in there and give back.

That is the message of the web for 2011. And I think it’s the message America needs to hear.

Reinvest.

Give back.

Give everything you can.

We have to do it. We’re counting on each other.

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