Category Archives: Moment Of Relevance

Five Things to Do for a Successful Referral Strategy

For as long as businesses have tried to get customers to buy their stuff, a referral has been the holy grail of prospecting. Like the mythical chalice, a referral is golden.

To emphasize the power of referrals, allow me to introduce “Blasingame’s Prospect Entrée Spectrum” (BPES), which is a way of valuing the method used to get in front of a prospect.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

The BPES is on a scale of 1-10, with a cold call being a 1, and the unqualified referral a 10. The difference between scoring a referral and making a cold call is, to borrow from Mark Twain, like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Let me put a sharper point on that: In the Age of the Customer, cold calling is a fool’s errand.

Asking for and getting an appointment is a 5. From 2 to 5 on the spectrum are varying degrees of quality of connection that you attempt without a referral, like networking. From 6 to 9 represents varying quality of referrals. For example, a 6 is a casual referral with one of two qualifications attached: either the referrer doesn’t know you well, or doesn’t know the prospect well. The goals is to demonstrate you’re worthy of a full-throated, unqualified referral — 10 — which is almost money in the bank. When you hear someone say they’re working smarter, not harder, it means they’re earning lots of referrals, including an increasing number of 10s.

Here are five things to do to sustain a successful referral strategy:

2. Help customers give you referrals by teaching them how to tell others about you and your business. Instructions must be short and sweet, like an elevator pitch.

3. Be worthy of a referral. Take good care of the referred prospect, even if you don’t make a sale.

4. Thank the referrer every time, in person if possible, regardless of the result of the referral. Remember, getting a referral is success.

5. If you want to get referrals, give them to others.

On that last point, in Ecclesiastes 11:1, King Solomon wrote, “Cast your bread upon the water and in time it will come back to you.” Three millennia later, Ivan Misner, my friend and founder of Business Network International (BNI) gave us a handier way to remember the law of reciprocity. Ivan simply says, “Givers gain.” Beautiful.

In the Age of the Customer if you’re not asking for and getting referrals, you’ll have to work much harder than is necessary just to survive.

Write this on a rock … Seek the holy grail and Perfect 10 of prospecting – the unqualified referral.

It’s time to adapt to the new age of technology

Henry Ford is generally credited with being the creator of the assembly line. To meet the demand for his Model T automobiles, Mr. Ford knew that just hiring more people wouldn’t be enough to mount the challenge of building Ford Motor Company — it would take technology.
His technology was crude by modern standards, but it did what technology does: leverage the productivity of human beings. During the year Ford’s assembly line was first put in service, he wasn’t just using technology he was creating it. He also turned 50.

The list of technology options today is long and growing and available in features-rich products that support and improve virtually every business task.  How much are you adopting technology to help you leverage the humans in your organization?

 

Yes, some employees don’t want to embrace technology because they think they’re too old, or have gotten too far behind the curve. Hogwash! There is so much point-and-click technological capability these days that you can ramp up on any learning curve within a matter of days, if not hours. And besides, rapid changes in technology means you can catch up with anyone by being prepared to fully adopt the next generation of capability that’s usually never more than 90 days away.  You can literally go from being technologically illiterate to being an application expert within weeks. But you do have to take that first step.
The great Roman statesman, Cato (234-149 BC) began studying Greek at the age of 80. When asked why he would contemplate such an undertaking at such an advanced age, he replied, “This is the youngest age I have left.”
Regardless of your age or level of technological proficiency, learn how to leverage technology. No excuses! Remember, it’s the youngest age you have left.

 

Ready, set, GO!

In the Age of the Customer, you don't-3

Crowd funding is not new, but crowdfunding is

Crowd funding is not new, but crowdfunding is. Completely intuitive, both terms mean funds conveyed by a crowd to a solicitor.

It’s largely due to those two words, innumerable and anonymous, that crowdfunding has caught on to the point where several online platforms now aggregate funds seekers with funding crowds. Now with crowdfunding, the Internet simultaneously facilitates and disrupts our experiences with what I call the Four Cs of Modern Society: Connect, Communicate, Communities and Commerce.

So far, crowdfunding fits primarily into two categories:

crowdfunding-photoContributions/Fundraising

This is where an emotional connection motivates members of a crowd to give to a cause, project, idea, ideal, etc.  Besides the emotional motivation, merchandise like a T-shirt or first album, for example, are likely to be involved as a token of thanks. This crowdfunding form is nothing more than donations.

Business funding

This money goes to a commercial venture, often a startup, with the expectation of receiving a first-of-its-kind product or future discount. The crowd knows the funds partially pay for the merchandise and partly capitalize the venture to which this crowd also has an emotional connection. This is business funding in the form of a commercial transaction, not investment.

Recently, crowdfunding has nudged closer to debt and equity capitalization. Peer-to-peer lending is an emerging form of crowdfunding, while the investment model still has legal and practical hurdles.

It’s clear that the future of small business capitalization will look a lot different than it does today. But for most small businesses the jury is still out on how the crowdfunding options will be part of their capitalization future.

In my next column I’ll use a practical approach and some tough love to reveal the challenges facing both the debt and equity sides of crowdfunding.  Ironically, those two advantages of crowdfunding mentioned earlier, innumerable and anonymous, will manifest as potential barriers as we discuss the more sophisticated forms of crowdfunding.

Write this on a rock…

Crowdfunding is just new tools to accomplish traditional fundraising and capitalization.

Small business success through life-long learning

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s a popular phrase, but in the Age of the Customer small businesses are learning the hard way that their old dogs need to learn some new tricks — and quickly.

In the second century B.C., the Roman statesman, Cato, began learning Greek at the age of 75. When asked why he was undertaking such a challenging educational enterprise at his advanced age, he replied, “This is the youngest age I have.”

BusinessLearningNo matter what we do, no matter where we go, owner or employee, we must continue to study, train and learn. Everyone in your organization. Everyone, every day, needs life-long learning. And in the age of globalism and interconnectivity, it is more important than ever before.

Are you feeling threatened, maybe even frightened these days with all of the economic challenges, plus the changes brought on by the advent of the information age? Me, too. Sometimes it seems we’re like Alice – running as hard as we can just to stay in one place. And in our Wonderland, everything is changing so fast that what we learned today may be obsolete tomorrow.

The irony is the thing creating so much potential for anxiety is also the thing that can help you stay competitive. That thing is called technology. Specifically, the unprecedented wealth of information available on the Internet.

When I feel threatened by all of the new knowledge and capability that’s emerging, I just make a point to learn something new every day, with emphasis on social media and e-commerce, or how my industry is adapting to the virtual marketplace. When I acquire that new understanding or capability, I smile like Alice’s Cheshire Cat because learning makes me feel stronger, as if I’ve gained a little ground in the marketplace. Maybe today I put the heat on a competitor.

Advantage: Me.

Give it a try. The only thing better than your garden variety smile is one that comes from knowing you just got a little smarter.

Remember the wisdom of the statesman: This is the youngest age you have.

It’s your moment of relevance. Take advantage of it.

Serving customers online is not an option, it’s imperative

In this new Age of the Customer, accessibility to a business through online content is nonnegotiable.

Four years ago, we asked this question about e-commerce: How much of your small business’ annual revenue comes from online sales?

Online Shopping·  Five percent said all revenue came from e-commerce.

·  Fourteen percent said more than half of their sales came from the Internet.

·  A little more than fifty percent said e-commerce represented less than 50% of total sales.

·  Twenty-five percent said they had no online sales at all.

E-commerce has been around for a big chunk of the commercial Internet age, which began in 1995 when unencumbered access to the Internet was fully allowed. In terms of historical marketplace practices, e-commerce is just a baby.  So I’m actually quite pleased with the mix of responses we received as it indicates 75% of small businesses are generating some e-commerce revenue.

But over the next five years, there will be significant increased pressure to generate online sales.

According to the research firm Forrester, online sales will reach $248.7 billion in the next five years, accounting for 8 percent of total U.S. retail sales by 2014. But the next statistic may be more important (read: ominous) for small businesses.

Forrester also predicts that by 2014, over half of all retail sales will be influenced by online product and company research before customers make a purchase.  The reason this stat is so significant is because of another piece of research that produced this astonishing number: Half of small businesses DO NOT have a website.

Regardless of size or industry, no business can expect to be successful in the future without a web presence. Even if you don’t sell online, you MUST be available online so prospects can find you the way people are looking today. Here are two words that make having a website even more of an imperative: local search.

Local search is increasingly replacing the phone book or dialing 411. Even when customers don’t expect a business to have e-commerce capability, like a restaurant or dry cleaners, they do expect to be able to find you online, with product offerings, directions and a clickable phone number.

If you don’t have a website, get one; today you can actually get a simple one for free. And unless you sell nuclear products or Stinger missiles, please, find a way to offer e-commerce to your customers; It’s not free, but it’s no longer cost-prohibitive.

Serving customers online is not an option, it’s an imperative.

Blasingame’s new law of customer relevance

When you take a photograph, the resulting product is two-dimensional: tall, wide, and flat. But in most cases, you want the photo to actually show depth, where images in the foreground and background are all in focus.

In photographic terms, the range of focus front to back is called depth of field. The way to expand depth of field so more of the subjects in the photo are in focus is to add light. Light creates depth of field.

Photo courtesy of Business2Community.com

Photo courtesy of Business2Community.com

If you were given a photo of people who were the most critical to your success, you’d easily recognize your customers in the foreground in perfect focus. But as you look deeper into the photo you’d notice the images behind that first row increasingly drop out of focus with each receding row. The reason is because for most of the history of the marketplace, businesses have gotten away with having a very narrow customer depth of field.

When the coin of the realm was to be competitive, that meant you spent all your time thinking about how to serve the person in the foreground, the first row of your business world: your customers. But as I’ve revealed in the past, being competitive has been trumped by being relevant. And in The Age of the Customer, perhaps the most important component of being relevant to business customers is helping them serve the most important person in their photo: their customers.

Let me say that again with Blasingame’s New Law of Customer Relevance:

If you want to have customers for life, help your customers help their customers.

The way to accomplish this is to increase the depth of field of your customer photo. Light up the view beyond the first row of customers so that the second row is completely in focus. This three-step process works every time:

  1. Identify the customer of your customer.
  2. Find out what your customer needs to do to become relevant to their customer.
  3. Whatever the answer to #2 is, help your customer do that.

Executing this approach is how you acquire customers you almost can’t run off. Because when you help your customers help their customers, they know you’re doing more than just delivering stuff; you’ve become part of their team – integrated and committed, like a true stakeholder.

And if you want to pull off the customer relevance hat trick, light up the third row of your businesses photo: Help your customers help their customers help their customers.

I’ve done it – it’s a beautiful thing.

Achieve maximum relevance with customers by helping them serve their customers.

Blasingame’s new law of customer relevance

outoffocus1When you take a photograph, the resulting product is two-dimensional: tall, wide, and flat. But in most cases, you want the photo to actually show depth, where images in the foreground and background are all in focus.

In photographic terms, the range of focus front to back is called depth of field. The way to expand depth of field so more of the subjects in the photo are in focus is to add light. Light creates depth of field.

If you were given a photo of people who were the most critical to your success, you’d easily recognize your customers in the foreground in perfect focus. But as you look deeper into the photo you’d notice the images behind that first row increasingly drop out of focus with each receding row. The reason is because for most of the history of the marketplace, businesses have gotten away with having a very narrow customer depth of field.

When the coin of the realm was to be competitive, that meant you spent all your time thinking about how to serve the person in the foreground, the first row of your business world: your customers. But as I’ve revealed in the past, being competitive has been trumped by being relevant. And in The Age of the Customer, perhaps the most important component of being relevant to business customers is helping them serve the most important person in their photo: their customers.

Let me say that again with Blasingame’s New Law of Customer Relevance:

If you want to have customers for life, help your customers help their customers.

The way to accomplish this is to increase the depth of field of your customer photo. Light up the view beyond the first row of business-people31customers so that the second row is completely in focus. This three-step process works every time:

  1. Identify the customer of your customer.
  2. Find out what your customer needs to do to become relevant to their customer.
  3. Whatever the answer to #2 is, help your customer do that.

Executing this approach is how you acquire customers you almost can’t run off. Because when you help your customers help their customers, they know you’re doing more than just delivering stuff; you’ve become part of their team – integrated and committed, like a true stakeholder.

And if you want to pull off the customer relevance hat trick, light up the third row of your businesses photo: Help your customers help their customers help their customers.

I’ve done it – it’s a beautiful thing.

Achieve maximum relevance with customers by helping them serve their customers.

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.

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.

Your future survival and success depends on whether you embrace or disregard the Age of the Customer.