Three Reasons To Stop Calling Customers “Assets”

Customers Drive Your Business, They Are Not Your Assets

Yesterday’s #IMCchat (Integrated Marketing Communications) on Twitter included a conversation about customers as assets. I don’t believe customers should be called assets, and I found myself in a very lonely minority. As always, conversation refines and clarifies perspective, and the following tweet from Anna Barcelos was key in refining this perspective.

Customers are incredibly valuable, and the things that are valuable in business are assets. Your marketing analytics or financial analysis group even tracks the exact value of your customer, and it is a metric you should cherish. That is reasonable, but I still will not start labeling customers “assets.” Here’s why.

  • My Wife is my Friend. Calling a customer an asset is like me introducing my wife as my friend, and stopping. It would be true, my wife is my best friend. But it isn’t accurate, it does not begin to capture the significance of our relationship. Likewise, customers are assets, but labeling customers “assets” doesn’t begin to capture the real value of customers to your business.
  • You Own Assets. Business assets, unlike customers, are bought, sold, owned, rented, or leased for the benefit of the company. A customer contract is a business asset but the customer relationship will drive long-term customer value. Customer relationships are developed, nurtured and maintained and cannot be treated as business assets.
  • You Serve Customers. Your business is built on serving your customers, meeting or exceeding their expectations at every turn.

Yes, this is semantics, but as every marketer knows, the words we choose are critical. Labeling customers “assets” undervalues the core your business is built on to those that deal in real business assets.

Instead, focus on serving your customers. Meet your customers’ business needs, exceed their expectations and develop the relationships that deliver long-term customer value.

Assets are valuable, your customers are priceless.

About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my Digital B2B Marketing blog.

4 Responses to Three Reasons To Stop Calling Customers “Assets”

  1. Marcus Schaller says:

    I got your back on this one Eric. Asset is a dehumanizing term, and regardless of the logical connection to value, its use is an indicator of how a company actually views its customers. As in “disposable assets.”

    Closely related, by the way, to the wonderfully fluffy terms Human Resources and Human Capital to describe employees.

    It’s all nonsense corporate speak. Or, to put it in appropriate business terms: Their processes do not represent a best-practices continuum and therefore fail to create value-added or win-win synergies with their human assets.

    • Wow, I wish I could have said it that eloquently! Spot on.

      I will also add to disposable assets that assets are company owned for company benefit, creating an inward view versus the outward, customer-focused view companies need to develop.

      Thanks for making my case so nicely, and for the bonus corporate Greek at the end!

  2. Eric, this is a great post. I agree 100% with your perspective. However, from the corporate side, my tweet is more the reality if companies want to gain both long-term value and loyalty from their customers. The human factor is what companies REALLY need to work on. At the end of the day, whether B2B or B2C, it’s human beings dealing with human beings. I think social media has significantly helped make companies more “human” and hope corporate leaders create a culture of serving customers as they want to be served. That of course requires in-depth knowledge of their customers as well as building strong relationships. Also a lot of times, the employees seem to be left out of the equation. Companies also need to value their employees and provide everything they need from tools to training to serve customers. A culture of happy/satisfied employees better serves customers. Much work to be done in all of these areas, but baby steps. Thanks for participating in #IMCChat. We were psyched this sparked a post out of you 😉

    • Thanks for the comment Anna, and for hosting #IMCChat. If I just had more time, the chat could spark a post every time I join, appreciate the time you and Beth spend planning the chats!

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