3M casts a wide net to gain customer input and ‘fail faster’

Customers are such a vital part of the company’s communications strategy that their words often make it into product descriptions.

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“We’ve always had a customer-centric mindset,” he says.

Back then, sales teams used to meet with customers to ask about the products and how the company could improve them. Now, the company takes an even more proactive approach with its customer communications, getting customers involved before, during, and after a product is on the market in the hopes of what Gerik calls “failing faster.”

Input methods

While lots of companies are plowing a lot of effort into Facebook and Twitter—where the company does have well-followed presences—3M takes a broader approach. With so many products being sold in countries worldwide, “all those marketing teams, all those customer support initiatives revolve around a lot of different platforms,” Gerik says.

About 80 percent of 3M’s sales are to other businesses, and those companies aren’t really jumping on Twitter to ask questions, he says.

“We shouldn’t be like other manufacturers, putting everything on Facebook and Twitter,” Gerik says. “It’s about us being available where [customers] already are. That varies by customer. That varies by industry.”

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