Selling In the Age of the Customer

January 27th, 2014

Human history has been marked by technological innovations so significant, they ushered in an entirely new era. Think Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age. Or more recently, the Age of Discovery, the Age of Enlightenment, the Machine Age, the Information Age.

In his new book, The Age of the Customer, Jim Blasingame argues that we are undergoing such a shift right now. And its implications are huge for anyone in business.

Blasingame divides human economic activity into two Ages: the Age of the Seller and the Age of the Customer. The former began when early people first started trading with each other. The latter, Blasingame pinpoints to April 30, 1993—the date the Mosaic web browser was introduced, opening up the Internet to the average person.

The web has fundamentally altered how people buy, according to Blasingame. He identifies three specific elements that have changed:

Product

• “Virtually everything a business can sell has become a commodity.
• It’s much less frequent for a seller to introduce an innovation that is so unique that it provides any level of control over customers.
• For millennia, customer purchase options were from a limited number of merchants. In the new Age, customer have multiple shopping and purchasing options.”

Information

• “The entire universe of human knowledge—including information formerly controlled by sellers—is now generally available to the entire universe of humans.
• Humans now have the ability to discover, learn, comment on, and share their experiences, opinions, and appraisals.”

Word-of-Mouth

“In the Age of the Seller, word-of-mouth was incidental and had a marginal impact on how a seller conducted business. In the new Age, word-of-mouth has expanded and morphed into User Generated Content (UGC): the posting on digital platforms of experiences, attitudes, questions, praise, or condemnation. UGC is word-of-mouth on steroids.”

Blasingame comes to a scary conclusion: “Prospects have access to virtually all the information they need before the Seller even knows they’re interested.”

Let that sink in a moment.

The rules of the game have changed. Dramatically. Irrevocably. Which leads Blasingame to a powerful insight: “In the new Age, the greatest danger for every business is not being uncompetitive, but becoming irrelevant.”

So how does a business become and stay relevant? That’s what Blasingame devotes most of the book to, addressing marketing, sales and customer service. He discusses:

• How to build trust with prospects and customers
• The critical difference between demographics and communities
• Why you must become a publisher
• Three Laws of Small Business Social Media
• How your brand has been co-opted by people you don’t even know
• The evolution of expectations
• Why quality process trumps quality service
• And much more.

The Age of the Customer is well written, with plenty of stories to illustrate Blasingame’s points. The book is peppered with graphs, quotes and “Blasingame’s Laws”—pithy nuggets that are worth the price of the book themselves.

Every new age has presented challenges and opportunities. Those that fail to adapt suffer, while those who take advantage of the new opportunities thrive. Think of The Age of the Customer as your guidebook to higher sales in this new—and exciting—age.

Get it at Amazon:

The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance

Are You Thanking Your Customers or Insulting Them?

January 16th, 2014

I recently celebrated a birthday, which I tend to do about every year or so. In addition to the cards, phone calls, texts and Facebook messages from friends and family, I also received numerous e-mails from businesses I frequent.

Each e-mail bore warm wishes for a wonderful day and presented me with a special “gift”—a coupon for a free desert with the purchase of an entrée, a buy-one-get-one free offer, or a discount off a regular purchase.

Gee, thanks.

The subtext of their message is “We’d like to celebrate your birthday by having you come by and give us some of your money!”

How generous of you.

I get similar e-mails from time to time with subject lines like “Thank you for your loyalty” or “A Special Gift for You.” The message inside always expresses the company’s gratitude for my business, and as a token of that gratitude, they’d like to extend me a special offer. Which again is always some type of discount.

Understand this:

A discount is not a gift!

A discount offer is a sales pitch.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with offering an existing customer a discount on a future purchase, per se. But saying you want to “thank” or “celebrate” a customer by getting them to buy more is insulting as hell.

I would rather you just ignore my birthday and my loyalty than send me sales come-ons disguised as gifts, because the self-servingness offends me.

And guess what? It offends your customers as well.

If you really want to thank your customers for their business, send them a real gift. Something absolutely free, that requires no purchase or obligation. It can be your product or service. It can be a gift card. It can be something unrelated to your business. It can even be a donation to a charity in their name.

That conveys your gratitude.

And when your customers feel that you truly appreciate them, they return more often, spend more money, and tell more people about you.

So stop insulting your customers. Start thanking them instead.

Five Resources for a Breakthrough Sales Year

January 7th, 2014

Would you like to create a record sales year? You can!

Although you can’t do it alone. You need people to provide you with information, advice and feedback. Which begs the question, where can you find them?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio with Michele Price. In this nine-minute segment, I share five resources where you can get all three of these critical elements. Tap into one or more of them, and you’ll be able to seriously boost your sales!

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

Five Resources for a Breakthrough Sales Year: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio (mp3)

To learn more about Michele Price and listen to her interview other business experts on Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio (which I highly recommend), check out WhoIsMichelePrice.com.