8/14/2017 | Chuck Leddy


David Nour’s new book, his tenth overall, is “Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration.” Nour is a growth strategist, and the world’s most sought-after expert on relationship economics. He actually wrote a previous book called “Relationship Economics,” describing how businesses can leverage their relationships into growth. Nour is also founder and CEO of the Nour Group, a consultancy which helps organizations build their greatest strategic asset, their business relationships.

How do you define co-creation and why is it relevant for middle market companies? 

Nour: The basic premise of co-creation is that none of us are the smartest person in the room, none of us have all the answers. If you’re going to thrive as a middle market company, you need to adapt to changing markets, changing customer demands, and a constant battle for talent. You have to continually reinvent yourself, your team, and your organization. That evolution often comes from co-creation with a few, but very strategic, relationships. Those relationships could be with customers, employees, or supply partners, but the key is that these people have demonstrated a vested interest in your success.

How does marketing reflect a need for co-creation in middle market companies?

Nour: Marketing is moving from “push” to “pull.” We are surrounded today by push marketing, push advertising, and push management. We push back against it by ignoring interruptive advertising and messages or by block them out. The real question is: How do you create interest?  Because people can easily find you if they want to. Customers do tons of research online before they even contact an organization. Before they go to your website, before they call you to ask for a proposal, or quote, they’ve already done their due diligence. Push just isn’t relevant for them.

Conversely, if you create market gravity, if you create pull by really supporting the customer’s efforts to get educated, and help seed a great experience for that customer, then you become an object of interest. Then customers choose to be around you, choose to get more of your products, services, and information about you. That’s pull, and it’s how marketing works now.

How can middle market companies design better customer experiences or journeys?

Nour: It’s important to not confuse customer experience with customer service. A lot of middle market organizations talk about how they deliver great customer service, but that’s one sliver in the entire journey. In the book, I talk about this journey and it literally looks like a figure eight. The middle is always evaluation. We’re always evaluating. Do I really need something? What should be my selection criteria? What are my options? Should we buy or lease? Is this the right time?

Once we buy something and use it, we come back to evaluation again. That experience journey is constant. If you want to attract great talent, what does your employee journey experience look like? You want great supply partnerships? What does that partner experience journey look like? The key is not just the way you sell, not just the way you go to market, but how you help your target audience get educated by, and experience, the value that you bring to the table.

How can middle market companies leverage their relationships to drive innovation?

Nour: I talk a lot in “Co-Create” about “adaptive innovation,” and having relationships in the market, which act as signal scouts. What these relationships should be doing is identifying faint market signals for you. You might have a conversation with a relationship out in Denver one day, and they bring something up. Then a couple of days later another client, or another relationship, or a supply partner says something similar. You should be thinking, “Wait a minute. This just can’t be coincidence that I’ve heard about this topic now three different times.”

You need to build mechanisms that funnel ideas from concepts all the way to commercializing them. You build an engine that can pilot and prototype ideas quickly. You listen, quickly identify those faint market signals, discern which ones are legitimate, and which ones should be prioritized, then you invest in them. That’s where the nimbleness and agility comes in. It really helps to leverage your relationships in order to think differently about your business.

How is middle market company eSalon, which is in the business of hair coloring for women, listening to the market, and adapting its offerings?

Nour: I write about them in “Co-Create.” The hair coloring options are either go to a salon for an expensive treatment or buy a cheap “store option” in a box. But eSalon found a happy medium, and it’s much more personalized, they offer consultations online, and eSalon walks you through the entire coloring process. What they’ve done is they’ve integrated a need with a fantastic journey at a very attractive price point, one that’s between buying a cheap store-bought solution and visiting an expensive hair salon. It’s a great example of co-creation opportunities that come from listening to the market and satisfying unmet customer needs. You’re starting to see these co-creation examples in all industries.

Why do you believe customer retention is the best customer acquisition strategy?

Nour: There’s this drive to get more customers, get bigger, and expand market share. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s “more customers at any cost,” and I don’t believe in that strategy. In an effort to get more customers, companies often neglect existing customers. But you can actually drive more profitable growth if you go deeper and wider within your existing client base. 

By taking care of those existing clients who know and trust you, by going deeper and wider with a more impactful portfolio of products and services, you actually retain profit margin, and nurture relationships that can create barriers to entry for competitors. You also reduce the acquisition costs and distractions of constantly chasing after new customers.  

What else would you say to middle market leaders about co-creation?

Nour: It’s a mindset, it’s a road-map, and it’s a set of tools. I advise middle market leaders to get outside of their industry and explore what other industries are doing. There’s a reason hospitals are recruiting folks from the hotel/hospitality industry -- to create a much stronger, more engaging patient experience journey. There’s a reason healthcare is hiring supply chain executives to streamline what resources they need, and having those available at the time the need arises. Middle market leaders who get out of their industry can bring in outside expertise to help with ideation, experimentation, and building a culture of innovation. Those leaders and their companies are going to thrive.  

Listen to "Interview with David Nour, author of "Co-Create"" on Spreaker.