As previously revealed in this space, the Age of the Seller is succumbing to the Age of the Customer. In the new Age, control of the relationship between Seller and Customer has shifted to the latter.
This paradigm shift is largely caused by online platforms that are: 1) increasing the access customers have to information about a Seller and its products; 2) allowing customers to express and share what they have learned about and experienced with a business.
To put two fine points on the first element of the shift, in the new Age: Customers have access to virtually all the information they need before you know they’re interested, and prospects are similarly informed before you even know they exist. Such access to information is changing - or disrupting - the way you market to and connect with customers, as well as how you train sales people. Plus it demonstrates why your greatest danger in the Age of the Customer isn’t being uncompetitive, it’s becoming irrelevant.
The second element is the new kid on the block, but corresponds to a centuries-old marketplace maxim, “If you make customers happy they will tell someone; if you make them unhappy they will tell 10 people,” which describes the ancient practice of word-of-mouth. The theory behind the 1:10 ratio is that all businesses, regardless of size, are motivated to perform, or risk a marketplace indictment by the judge and jury of word-of-mouth.
In the new Age, online platforms have caused word-of-mouth to transmogrify into a powerful dynamic called “user generated content,” aka UGC. This is when customers post online their experiences, questions, praise or condemnation about a seller’s products, services, and general behavior in the marketplace. In the vernacular, it’s word-of-mouth on steroids.
Indeed, if the word-of-mouth maxim were coined today it would sound like this: “Customers may post online their opinion – positive or otherwise – about your business, making it available potentially to millions.” To paraphrase Mark Twain, comparing word-of-mouth to UGC is like comparing a lightning bug to lightning.
In the new Age you have to do two new things: 1) anticipate that customers are already well informed; 2) track and respond to UGC about your business. And how well you do these two will influence whether the new customer control becomes a sales lever, or a disruptor that makes you irrelevant.
It’s the Age of the Customer - get over it.
Last week on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with Alan Maites, President of Robinson & Maites, an unconventional marketing firm in Chicago, about the Age of the Customer and how it will change relationships with customers. Take a few minutes to click on one of the links below and listen to our conversation. And, as always, leave your thoughts on the Age of the Customer.
Marketing in the Age of the Customer featuring Alan Maites
Serve communities in the Age of the Customer featuring Alan Maites