The Mindset Leaders Need to Grow with Customers Today

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This blog is provided by Todd Hockenberry.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles that aired on September 15th, 2020.  


To drive revenue growth in an uncertain environment, leaders need to change their thinking about how they view buyers.

The old formula of more: more marketing campaigns, more sales resources, more budget no longer assures leaders of a direct return.

Buyers, and the way they find information, evaluate options, consider vendor choices, and make decisions have changed. Yes, you say, of course the buyer has changed, and we have a better website, more content, and a social media presence.

But systemic shocks are accelerators of trends that were already underway. The rate of buyer behavior changes and buying process change is accelerating.

Has your thinking about buyers changed accordingly? What you knew about buyer behavior two years ago is probably obsolete at this point.

The companies that survive and thrive with predictable revenue engines in the new, new age of buyer control will be the ones that become inbound organizations – ones that are built for and solve for the customer, where everyone is aligned around the goals of the customer, and fully invested in the success of the customer.

“Many companies recognize the need to change marketing tactics, to use content, develop a digital marketing presence, and adapt to the ability of buyers to control the process. Few see it as fundamental to the operation, structure, and strategy of the entire organization.” *

People demand more from the companies they buy from. Companies, even those B2B companies in traditional industries, must realize that they are not just selling a product but delivering an entire customer experience from the first touch until the buyer no longer uses the product. Each step and each touch with the buyer either add to or detracts from the experience.

The goal is not the customer experience. The goal is to enable your customers to share their great experience and become your best advocates.

Customers that love the experience of working with your company will be your best marketers and best salespeople.

“The first and most important step is to shift the organization’s mindset to focus on solving for the customer. Make decisions based on what’s in their interest—because what is in the customer’s interest is in the organization’s interest too.” Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot.

But wait you say, we put the customer first. Maybe your sales team does, maybe your product team does. But does your back office? Does your accounting team? Does your service team, or do they just react when the phone rings? Do you ensure your customers are successful with your product or do you set it up, get them going, and then forget about them until they have a problem?

Look at your marketing. Is the content of your campaigns, the text on your website, or the content of your presentations about your products (features, specifications, technical info) or is it about your customers? Does your sales team act as change agents and business peers or are they product-focused order takers?

Do you really know why and how your customers buy, or do you just hope the order shows up?


How do you make your entire business attractive, not just your inbound marketing?

Building an inbound organization starts with a mission and culture that places the goals of the target customer as the top priority. Solving for the customer means that everyone in the organization is aligned around the mission of the company. Your mission is the agreement and expression in a brief statement of how your company’s people, resources, time, products, and services help your target customer solve their problems, do the jobs they need to be done, and achieve their goals.

Very few companies we work with have a mission framed in these terms. If they have one at all it is usually full of buzzwords like best in class, high quality, and outstanding service, none of which mean anything to your customers or to your employees.

Can you state your company’s mission statement as you read this article?

The mission is important because it serves as a guide to all employees as they make decisions every day about how to use their resources to solve for the customer.

A vision is where your company wants to go, the mission is how it is going to get there. And both involve putting the customer’s goals and outcomes at the core.

Creating a clear mission also serves to tell your customers why you exist and becomes an attractive signal that your business is focused on them and their needs. Buyers have abundant options, even for most complex purchases, and they will increasingly choose to work with businesses that state and share their values.

The same idea holds for employees – if you want the best people you need to attract them with a compelling mission that aligns with their personal goals and beliefs.


Building a mission and culture of helping customers first

If your business develops a clear mission, then your culture is the environment that either drives everyone towards the mission or stands in the way. Culture is the sum of the values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of leadership applied through the entire company.

Your culture drives alignment to the mission. A customer-focused culture aligns everyone with the goals of the customer.

“An inbound organization is guided by a philosophy, a set of core beliefs, and best practices that impact every person in every department to provide value and build trust with customers, partners, and anyone they touch.” *

Why does a customer-focused mission and culture drive revenue?

As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A culture of customer focus, solving for the customer, with everyone aligned around the needs of the customer, and making sure customers are successful is the way to grow your business in this age of buyer control.

When leaders understand that their organizations are not as customer-focused as they think they are, they can explore how to align their mission, strategies, action plans, and tools with the way their buyers think, learn, discover, and purchase.  These inbound organization ideas will help leaders focus their business on customers and succeed at attracting and keeping them at a rate that outpaces the competition.

* Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles, Wiley (2018)


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.


About the Author

Todd Hockenberry and Top Line Results specialize in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on Business-to-Business, manufacturing, technology, and capital equipment.

For over 11 years Top Line Results is a leader in educating and helping Business-to-Business companies adapt to the new realities of Internet-driven changes in buying behavior and to successfully grow their businesses.

Todd is the co-author of the book Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles.


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