Our client had a strategic account that was in jeopardy, yet they were woefully unaware. The challenges in the relationship that were being felt by this customer flew under the radar because overall, our client was thriving, and the pandemic, although challenging on a lot of fronts, provided an absolute boon for this e-commerce service provider. Revenue was skyrocketing. New opportunities were coming to fruition on a daily basis. Success metrics were met and surpassed. All in all, life was good.
It wasn’t until the CEO of this account was invited to attend his first meeting of their Strategic Customer Advisory Board that the unfiltered truth emerged. With regard to this customer, life was not good at all.
This highly visible retailer on a high-growth trajectory had already been in conversations with our client’s competitors. They were planning their move. They were doing their due diligence. That ship had all but sailed. Again, all of this unfortunate activity was without the knowledge of our client.
Fortunately, this customer was identified as a prospect to participate on their Strategic Customer Advisory Board. But perhaps even more fortunate, they accepted the invitation despite their serious misgivings regarding the continuation of their relationship with our client. One could only speculate as to why a customer who was in the process of ending the relationship would agree to spend 3 days off site to participate in a meeting that on the surface might appear to be heavily skewed in value toward the host company. But he did.
To kick off this meeting, the host company CEO provided a confidential peek behind the curtain of their corporate strategy, including their planned capital investments. This was closely followed by the opportunity for the customer board members to ask questions and provide input into the strategy. In addition, there were subsequent conversations seeking input from the customers about their product roadmap and the desire for the host company to uplevel relationships toward the higher end of the vendor/strategic partner spectrum.
After the meeting had concluded…
and while everyone was still in the boardroom saying their goodbyes, the Chief Commercial Officer of the host company shared with us that the aforementioned CAB member had this to say:
(paraphrased) “You know, a year ago up until yesterday, I was ready to kick you guys to the curb. Things have not been going well. I doubted your ability to grow with us. I couldn’t see which direction you were heading, and I wasn’t sure you were truly committed to us. But after this meeting, I see your commitment to me as a customer, I see how your strategies will help me grow my company, and I have a network of peers who I can now reach out to at any given time to seek assistance and counsel.”
He added: “Our contract with you is up a year from now. Let’s not wait. Let’s renegotiate it now, let’s make it a three-year deal, and while we’re at it, let’s add on all of our international business.”
But the story doesn’t end there. This customer CEO went on to refer the host company to another retailer located in the UK, which was subsequently secured as a customer that went on to become a Top 20 account for the host company.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but suffice it to say, the value that was received by the customer led to massive value for the host company as well. This is a crystal clear example of how companies, through the vehicle of Strategic Customer Advisory Boards, can intentionally and co-create strategic value.
Because this is a unique strategy deployed by a very small percentage of enterprise organizations, and which engages the C-Suite directly with the executives of their strategic accounts, we refer to the co-creation of strategic value as the Rarest Advantage™.
To further explain, we believe the rarest advantage a company can have today is an environment that empowers the C-Suite of the host company and the C-Suite of their key customers to focus their attention, for an extended period of time, on intentionally co-creating strategic value. This requires that they have relationships founded on authenticity, trust, reliability, and reality. These relationships motivate the key customers to share their strategic goals and the challenges that they must overcome. Once the host company has listened and knows their key customers’ strategic goals and challenges, it can develop a prescriptive approach that helps all of their customers achieve their strategic goals. Achievement of their customers’ strategic goals requires alignment of the entire host company behind those goals. The result is that both the host company and its customers capitalize on opportunities worth significantly greater strategic value than either could generate alone.