Earth, Stardate 8506 (20th century)
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, businesses controlled all new information about existing products and services, as well as information concerning anticipated innovations. Such information was only available through the business’ representatives. Consequently, customers learned what they needed to know from salespeople, who traveled far and wide throughout this great land dispensing information to, and collecting sales from, grateful and beholden customers.
If one had observed such a meeting, the customer would be seen nodding his head in wonderment as the salesperson, sitting right in front of him, revealed the virtual magic that was his product.
In this land, the Force – control of information and timing of its release – was with businesses.
Earth, Stardate 10906 (21st century)
On present-day planet Earth, some things haven’t changed: Customers still buy from businesses that still produce information about products and services, plus news about anticipated innovations. But if you now observe a meeting between a customer and a business’ salesperson, you will see the customer explaining what she knows about the business’ products and services, while the salesperson nods his head in wonderment at the fact that this person – as if by magic – knows as much about what he sells as he does. The salesperson, in this era, is the one who is grateful and beholden if, and when the customer gives him her business.
In the 21st century, the Force – access to information and control of its use – is with the customer. It began with remote controls and progressed through video recorders, TiVo, DVR, the Internet, on-demand everything and, finally, what is commonly known as social media.
Social media, or, as I prefer for business purposes – building online customer communities – is the Light Saber of 21st century customers, whether business or consumer. Armed with this power, customers not only have access to virtually all the information they need to make a better decision, but they also control all of the sub-space chatter about any given company or product, as it is being evaluated in the online dimension.
Alas, too many small businesses are still operating a Stardate 8506 strategy in Stardate 10906. The predominant emotion identified when observing one of these companies is frustration that they have diminishing control over relationships with customers and the future of their businesses. Destruction will come to those who don’t learn that the only way to end this frustration and find their way to the current age is to embrace the online community reality and join the conversations that are being conducted about their industry as well as their business.
The good news is that this “joining” is not only relatively easy, but also can be done without direct cost. The great resource commitment for a business is in determining how it wants to engage with – and be engaged by – online communities.
Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about how to enter the Light side of the Force and operate in the current age of online communities with two Jedi Masters. Neal Creighton is with Ratepoint.com and Adam Boyden is with Conduit.com. Both are experts at establishing, growing and serving online communities. Take a few minutes to listen to what these two Masters of the Force have to say, and be sure to leave a comment.
For Neal Creighton:
For Adam Boyden: