Tag Archive for 'Age of the Seller'

In the new Age the Force is with the customer

It’s the Age of the Customer, is your small business ready?

—Earth, Stardate 8507 (The Age of the Seller)
Once upon a time, in a galaxy that today must seem far, far away, sellers controlled all information about their products, services and innovations. Consequently, customers learned what they needed to know from salespeople, who traveled far and wide dispensing information to, and collecting sales from, grateful and beholden customers.

If one had observed such a meeting, the customer would have nodded his head in wonderment as the salesperson revealed the virtual magic that was his product. And in this land, the Force—control and availability of information—was with the seller.

Photo courtesy of Freshbooks.com—Earth, Stardate 10912 (The Age of the Customer)
On present-day planet Earth things haven’t changed. Customers still buy from sellers that still provide product information. But observing a customer and salesperson today you will see the former explaining how much she knows about the business’s products, while the salesperson nods his head in wonderment. In this universe the salesperson is grateful and beholden if the customer will just contacts him before deciding from whom she will buy.

In The Age of the Customer, the Force—access to lots of information—is with the customer. It began with the remote control, video recorders, TiVo, DVR, Internet, on-demand everything, social media, and more recently, mobile computing. All of the platforms that make up what we now call social media have become the Light Saber of consumers and business customers in the new Age.

Armed with an abundance of online content, commenting platforms, and social media communities, customers not only have access to the information they need to make a better decision, but also co-own brand messages in the sub-space chatter about any given seller or product as it is being evaluated in the online dimension. Alas, too many small businesses are still operating a Stardate 8507 strategy in Stardate 10912. The predominant response by one of these sellers is frustration that they have diminishing control over customer relationships, and therefore their future.

Scotty won’t be able to beam you up if you don’t learn that the only way to end this frustration and assume at least co-ownership of the Force is to embrace online community-building and join the conversations that are being conducted about your business, products, service and industry.

The good news is that this “joining” is not only relatively easy, but also can be done with minimal direct cost. If you don’t know how, ask a 25-year-old customer.

Write this on a rock … In Stardate 10912, the Force is with the customer.

Your future and customer paradigms

In his book, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future, futurist Joel Barker explains that paradigms are filters through which humans view the world and around which we pursue our lives.

Things that align with our paradigms sail right through; otherwise they meet resistance. A favorite color, for example, is a paradigm.

We also establish marketplace paradigms. Perhaps the most interesting paradigm dynamic is between a customer and a business, because a customer’s product paradigm logically becomes a business’s production paradigm.

Product paradigms always work for customers because they can pick and choose at will. But for a business, a production paradigm comes with significant risks, because they can be left with an investment – physically, financially and emotionally – in a newly unviable production paradigm.

When there is a paradigm disruption – like customers changing preferences – that’s called a shift. Barker says when a paradigm shifts, everything goes back to zero; what once worked so well becomes unavailable or obsolete.

When a shift occurs – the ability to buy stocks online, for example – customers easily transition to the new thing that likely caused the shift. But for a business with multi-faceted investments in the old paradigm – only stockbrokers can place stock orders – such a shift can be expensive and dangerously disruptive.

In the past I’ve introduced you to several examples of how the marketplace is transitioning from The Age of the Seller to The Age of the Customer™. This transformation is creating a number of shifts which are at once exciting for some and disruptive for others.

In the new Age, there are three primary shifts a business must now monitor constantly; each associated with a key element of customer relationships.

The Buying Decision
Customers have always controlled the buying decision element, but they now need less decision-making help from a business. The paradigm shift question: “How do we prevent our marketing and sales strategy from becoming obsolete?”

The Information
Previously controlled by businesses, access to information is now almost completely controlled by the customer. The paradigm shift question: “How do we maintain a relevant value proposition?”

The Product
Once controlled by the business, customers increasingly influence product development. The paradigm shift question: “How do we love what we do without loving how we do it?”

Discover the future by monitoring customer paradigms.

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The Age of the Customer: the new normal

The shift in who has control – seller or customer – is causing the 10,000 year-old Age of the Seller to succumb to the Age of the Customer™. Understanding this is key to the survival and success of your small business.

For millennia, there have been four basic elements of the relationship between a customer and a business: The product, the buying decision, control of information and word-of-mouth. For the first time in history, two of these elements are shifting in favor of the customer.

1. In the new Age, control of the product or service still remains with the Seller, but has diminished as a control factor for at least two reasons: a) virtually everything you sell has become a commodity; b) customers have multiple shopping and purchasing options including traditional and online markets.

2. As it has always been, the Customer continues to retain control of the buying decision. Shifts in the next two elements represent the primary difference between the Age of the Seller and the Age of the Customer.

3. Not since Guttenberg’s printing press first made books available to the increasingly literate masses has there been such a shift in access to information. Indeed, innovations in the past 30 years made the entire universe of human knowledge generally available with a very low barrier-to-entry – including information formerly controlled by Sellers.

4. Once upon a time, knowledge about Customer experience was a function of the word-of-mouth maxim: “If a customer likes you they will tell one person, if they don’t like you they will tell ten people.” In the new Age, the influence of Customer experience has morphed and expanded from classic word-of-mouth to the disrupting phenomenon called “user generated content,” or UGC. This is the electronic posting of customer experiences, questions, praise or condemnation of a Seller’s products and services. If that old word-of-mouth maxim were being coined today it would sound more like this: “Whether customers like you or not, they have the potential to tell millions.”

Here are two Age of the Customer realities to which your business must be able to adjust: 1) customers have virtually all the information they need to make a purchase decision without ever contacting you; and 2) there is no place for bad performance to hide.

Write this on a rock… Your future survival and success depends on whether you embrace or disregard the Age of the Customer.

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For more information on The Age of the Customer, click here.

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It’s The Age of the Customer - Get over it!

Your small business is now operating in a new age where customers rule. Sellers that transition to the new Age with their customers will be successful.

Watch as Jim talks about the transition from The Age of the Seller to The Age of the Customer™.

Watch more of Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Check out more great SBA content HERE!




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