What is Customer Inspired Growth?

By Charles Trevail, CEO, C Space

Over the last year, I’ve talked with lots clients and executives about Customer Inspired Growth. It’s sparked lively conversation and some debate. One of the most common questions people ask me is, “What’s the difference between Customer Inspired Growth and customer-centricity?”

It’s a fair question. Customer-centricity is about changing your approach to business by really understanding your customers, and then shaping products and services around their specific needs.

Customer Inspired Growth, on the other hand, is the result of a particular approach to customer-centricity. It puts customer understanding at the center of everything a company does. However, it goes one step further by elevating the role of the customer within an organization. It brings customers inside, giving them and their perspectives an active role in shaping the strategy and direction of the business, and creating improved business performance as a result.

Customer Inspired Growth is only achievable if organizations are prepared to give up some control and partner with customers in a more collaborative way. Trusting customers, embracing their perspectives, and treating them as valued assets yields fruitful results. Customers can be creative as long as they are given the opportunity to do so. But, too often, customer insights departments don’t pursue customers as creative agents. And ad agencies and consultancies believe creativity is their domain to own — customers just provide the feedback.

I’ve seen firsthand the inspiration and fresh ideas customers bring to the work we deliver to our clients. Take, for instance, Mars Chocolate. Mars executives and shoppers worked together as equals to brainstorm ideas for revitalizing sales of the iconic M&M’s brand at one of the company’s largest retail partners. The work culminated in “Shark Tank” pitches, where shoppers presented their ideas to senior executives. One of the pitches inspired “The Big Night In,” an omni-channel campaign encouraging families and friends to spend quality time together at home bonding over M&M’s and board games. In the end, the campaign led to an 11.3 increase in sales and strengthened the relationship between Mars and its retail partner.

That’s just one example of Customer Inspired Growth in action. It demands that organizations really understand their customers and give them a role in creating delightful experiences and new products.

It pays off in the long-term. The companies that intuitively understand their customers are the ones best positioned for sustainable growth. C Space’s Customer Quotient (CQ) research all but proves it. It demonstrates a link between a company’s ability to learn from and evolve with customers — to listen to them and empathize with them — and improved business performance.

As businesses, and as customers, we are each responsible for working towards the kind of Customer Inspired Growth we want to see. And when companies rethink the role of customers in business, and collaborate with them to incite meaningful change, the customer-centric vision becomes a customer-inspired reality.

This post was originally published on the C Space Blog on July 21, 2016.