The Making of the Customer SONAR™

One of the most common questions I get is: What made you create the framework? With this blog I’m hoping to answer that question for all those that are curious about the making of the Customer SONAR™

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First of all, I’ll need to explain a bit about myself. During my career as a salesman I often found myself balancing uncomfortably between the interests of my employer and that of my clients. In 1997, while employed at a worldwide news powerhouse, I reached my threshold. No need to go into too much detail, but it came down to a proposition, imposed by my employer, that wasn’t fair to my client with whom I had built a decade-long relationship of trust. To send a signal to my client, without violating the non-disclosure agreement with my employer, I resigned the same day and shifted my career – away from the detached financial world and into the realm of internet service providing. Being fair and just is important to me.

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Social Media Engagement

Ten years later I ran into the social network Twitter. What exited me most from participating on social networks was that people were so giving. Many shared their knowledge and insights abundantly while others offered their help – often without the need for financial compensation. It was like a breath of fresh air in a world that had become, in my opinion, too egocentric and indifferent.

In 2012 I found myself confined to a hospital bed, fighting another round of cancer. In between treatments my admiration of this new phenomenon of social cohesion inspired me to analyze the social dynamics. This was the startingpoint of a process that would lead to the creation an all-encompassing model to describe the dynamics of customer relationships.

In our photo album The Making Of the Customer SONAR™ (opens in a new window) you can see some of the many, many iterations on the framework.

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Marketing by Attraction

[dt_fancy_image image_id=”10177″ onclick=”lightbox” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_left=”10″ width=”200″ border_radius=”1px” image_alt=”Marketing by Attraction” align=”right” animation=”pulse”][/dt_fancy_image]The idea of a circular framework started in 2010 when I became convinced that marketing would benefit greatly if it were to be based on attraction, in stead of interruption.

I had defined each market participant (brand, customer, distributor, etc.) as an entity with value to spare on one hand and value to gain on the other. Value is everything that can be traded, bought or shared: goods, services, staff, knowlegde, solutions, etc. This lead to the concept of a value hub, which I represented by a magnet. Where value is needed the pole would be negative. Where value was to spare, sell or traded the pole would be positively charged.

If two value hubs get close enough together to sense each others value need and proposition, the mutual appeal would lead them to a transaction. I represented the response or feedback loop, originating from the experience, as magnetic field lines much like the earth magnetic field, creating a perfect sphere, The scheme to the right explains the concept of the value hub.

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Return or Refer

The essence of customer development, or customer extension as I prefer to call it (similar to product extension versus product development), is that you would like your customers to either return (to re-sell, up-sell or cross-sell) or refer your brand to others. This is a circular process, like most the recurring processes in nature (day and night, the tides, seasons, growing crops, etc.).

If you represent the customer life cycle as a timeline or funnel, you’re unconsciously working towards the termination of the relationship at the end of the transactional process (DAC or Death After Conversion). By thinking circular, rather than linear, you’ll naturally start to work your way towards the next salescycle. Which is why it’s called a salescycle in the first place.

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Deeper Meaning

All of the above still does not explain why I got so entangled to create something that was so hard to construct, yet no one ever expressed a demand for it. What made me so persistent?

Cancer did. Or rather surviving it twice. With the notion that a third time I might not be so lucky. But before that moment comes I really wanted to create something of value. Something that could help someone, somewhere, somehow. That’s really all there is to it.

That said, there are some elements in the framework that are really dear to me. The fourth value discipline, Equitability, is one of my dearest additions to Treacy and Wiersema’s value disciplines. It is where we should be heading as a society: to be just, fair and reasonable. Not to destroy, but to build. Not to profit from, but to profit with. Win-win. To be equitable to all stakeholders, not just the shareholders. I’ve worked hard to incorporate this element into the framework, because this is where I believe a more just, fair and equal world could begin to blossom.

The other two additions, Resource Centricity and Network Centricity, are important new business models (supported by the idea behind the Doughnut Economics of author and Oxford economist Kate Raworth) with which we can hopefully defeat some of the destructive elements (desire over need, planned and perceived obsolescence, technological unemployment, and more to come) of Product Centricity.

On this last note I’ll close this blogpost with a video on some of these destructive elements. In the meanwhile I hope you now understand what has got me and keeps me going, .. until that final battle.

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