Customers can learn from each other when you bring them together with user conferences, seminars, and Internet bulletin boards. If you encourage them to meet in your presence, you build relationships that can help build future business for you.
This personal approach to one-on-one introductions is recommended by Shirley Singleton, president and CEO of Edgewater Technology, located in Wakefield, Mass. Singleton arranges about a dozen field trips per year that connect two customers of her $12-million custom software-solutions development company. She looks for win-win situations in which both customers benefit. Once, she introduced a client seeking to outsource phone order taking with another who provided that service. She also brought together two insurance companies that wanted to learn about each other's sales vehicles.
The field trips allow customers to observe business operations that offer a solution to their own problems. "Customers like to see battle scars firsthand--what went wrong and how problems were solved," says Singleton, "rather than a polished slide show from a consultant."
Cross-customer introductions don't necessarily mean short-term business for Edgewater. "We help customers build relationships with partners, and that builds our relationships with them," says Singleton. "Our credibility increases, and long-term business results when educated customers reengineer their businesses."