Meet Them Where They Are, Then Move Them Where You Want Them to Go

Customers aren’t going to take the time to tell you what they like.

least, not directly.

problem with focus groups, feedback forms, customer satisfaction surveys,
digital suggestion boxes and online questionnaires – besides the fact that
they’re tedious and inane and most people only participate out of guilt or
bribery – is that the data isn’t organic.

tend to act better when they know they’re being watched, so when answering
questions about their experience, most will just give you fives across the
board, take their free cookie and get on with their lives.

But if
the goal is to deliver more personalized service, you have to reverse the

of artificially squeezing customers into your marketing plan, you have
to join them first, participate in their world and celebrate how you fit into
their lives.

Not the other way around.

You meet them where they are, then move them where we want
to go.

is the ultimate example. Through the process of social sharing, sensational
imagery, joyful discovery and indulgence curation, aka, pinning stuff they like, customers are telling companies everything
they need to know.

And that’s the greatest advantage of social media. The
ability to listen to your customers in their natural habitat.

might be housewife porn, but it’s also the wish list of the web. And it’s certainly
cheaper and more effective than asking customers to fill out some stupid online
survey for the chance to win a free cruise.

Measuring The Price of Freedom

If you read enough headlines, and it seems like every idiot with a hoodie and a half an idea is getting a million dollars to try it.

But the reality is, less than one percent of entrepreneurs secure funding. Most
of them are scrappy as hell, building projects around not waiting for
the miracle, spending time, not dimes, working their faces off until their idea
gains traction.

is certainly a lot more work.

again, if you don’t take anybody’s money, nobody can tell you what to do.

Perhaps the price of freedom is measured in sweat.

Are You Making War on the Competition or Making Love to the Customer?

Anyone can make customers happy.

But if you really want to be a hero, if you want to wow
people’s pants off and get their mouths moving about your brand, you need a way
to make the people who aren’t your customers wish they were.

Here’s one that pays.

Every day, people complain. Publicly. They tweet, blog,
review or digitally kvetch about crappy service, disrespectful treatment,
failed technology, lack of support, poor product quality, underwhelming
shopping experiences and outrageous prices.

And nobody listens to them. Their complaints disappear into
the digital ether.

This is the best thing that ever happened to you. Especially
if these people are complaining about one of your competitors.

First, actively seek
out negativity.
In less than ten seconds, you can have your finger on the pulse
of millions of frustrated customers. Social media isn’t a sales tool, it’s a
hearing aid. And most search functions will tell you everything you need to

Second, do some light
Get to know these people. Find out who they are, what they love
and where they hang. Follow them. Search for kernels that give insight into
their whole world.

Third, respond to
people’s emotions.
Complainers just want to feel validated. Before
launching into a solution, honor their humanity. Be fundamentally affirmative.
Show some lighthearted personality to help the cause.

Fourth, apologize on
behalf of your competitor.
Tell customers they deserve better. Tell them that’s
no way to be treated. And tell them they’re not in competition for the right to
be treated decently.

Fifth, make it
Take a picture. Send a card. Publish a video. Mail a delight
item. Nothing fancy, nothing contrived. Just something that takes effort and
care. Something completely unexpected that they’ll never forget.

The point is, you can still make things right, even though
you weren’t the one who made it wrong.

You’re not making war with the competitor, you’re making
love to the customer.

Evolve into Something Bigger, Better and Different

Not every startup dies.

come back reincarnated as something else.

Flickr started out as as a multiplayer online game, but
evolved into a photo management and sharing application. Amazon started out as
a bookseller, but evolved into the planet’s biggest and best ecommerce
retailer. MySpace started out as a social network, but evolved into an
entertainment destination for performers. Nintendo started out as a playing
card company, but evolved into the world’s largest video gaming company. And Twitter
started out as way to make announcements, but evolved into a news and content
sharing platform.

Just when we think we’re going to die, we evolve into
something different, something bigger and something better than we ever could
have imagined.

A Modern Approach to New Client Acquisition

A few weeks ago, my friend AJ Lawrence of The Jar Group said something that got my brain working.

“Instead of making a cold call to customers, we make a warm zone
around them.”

He’s right. We desperately need a modern approach to new client acquisition. 

It’s about courting.
Instead of trying to make a sale to someone, earn the right to start a relationship
with someone.

It’s about
Instead of hanging your fortunes solely on chance, make
friends before you make requests so you’re not speaking from a deficit

about research.
Instead of pretending to know everything, you study the ecosystem
around their business and discover insight worth sharing.

It’s about permission. Instead of darkening
customer doorsteps, work creatively and respectfully to earn the privilege of
following up.

It’s about respecting.
Instead of sending prospects an article of interest, publish content that turns
their brand into the article of interest itself.

It’s about generosity. Instead of being
selfish with knowledge, obtain information of high value and help at a high
level first.

It’s about positioning. Instead of showing up as a
service provider, come in as a strategist so you’re treated as an equal

It’s about understanding. Instead of artificially
squeezing your product into their overcrowded lives, help people become better
at what’s important to them.

It’s about relaxing. Instead of being the hero who swoops in to solve the customer’s problem, be the friend who stands as a fixture in the customer’s life.

It’s about prioritizing. Instead of trying to close everyone everywhere, place value on building the relationship over making the sale.

beats cold calls, direct mail and print ads.

How Does Your Product Help People Meet Each Other?

Access to information is free, but access to each other is priceless.

In a connection economy, if companies want to win loyalty
beyond reason, they ought to create apps that help people meet each other, not
just make them a less bored on the subway. They ought to create products that
help people become better at something they care about, not just help them
bookmark something cool.

Humans are creatures who want to count. They are driven by
the desire to create, connect and contribute. If organizations want to remain
relevant and profitable, the secret is simple.

First, create a place, either online, offline or both, where
humans get to talk with one another, in our their voices, about what matters to
them. Second, market around people’s interests, not just around what they buy.
And third, try actually caring about those people, all the time.

See what happens.

Sitting Around Waiting for the Miracle

You can’t be a bystander in your career.

Position yourself
of showing up as a service provider, come in as a strategist so you’re treated
as an equal partner, not a day laborer.

Beat them to the punch. Instead of asking people what
they want, show them you’re already doing what they need more of.

Frame the context. Instead
of selling an idea, sell people on the unique approach and philosophy behind
the idea.

Stuff your sleeves with aces.
Instead of
talking, go do something, and then you’ll have something to do the talking for
you when you arrive.

Sure beats sitting around waiting for the miracle.

The Time of Trial is Always

The amplification of effort has never been greater.

The time of trial is always. Everything matters, everybody’s
watching and everything’s a performance. And when we care, I mean really,
really care, and do so with daily consistency, we will see greater residual
value than ever before.

A single tweet sent out in a moment of caring can erase the
memory of every bad review every written. A single response to an underappreciated
user can earn hundreds of loyal fans in an instant. And a single interaction
with an angry customer can turn a moment of empathy into a movement of

Understand this wave, and you can ride it.

Put Your Customers At The Center

Your job isn’t to be an entertainer, it’s to be an enabler.

of forcing consumers to consume your content, why not provide more power
outlets and invite them to bring their own content?

so doing, you preserve customer control by creating tools that put them
in the driver’s seat rather than in the back of the bus. In so doing, you stand
out because the user
experience of your brand is completely customized, enjoyable and memorable. In
so doing, your customers find a place to hang their individuality at the
center of their own digital lives.

That’s what I would do.

The Artist Coefficient

The problem with Radiohead’s model is, it only works if you’re Radiohead.

Without the coefficients of skill, smarts, fame, fans, time,
money, history, resources, labor, luck, leverage and platform, their distribution
equation doesn’t yield much for us lay folk.

Most artists are, for the most part, winking in the dark.
Even if we do offer our work for free, that doesn’t guarantee a spike in sales, an avalanche of new fans or a
flood of social media buzz.

As an artist, I’ve experimented with dozens of models over
the years, with varying level of success. Sometimes it went like gangbusters.
Sometimes it failed miserably. And sometimes it was marginally effective.

But I kept slogging, I stayed positive and I remained kind
to myself when I fell short.

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