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.
—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.