In The Age of the Seller, three groups mattered to a business for sales growth: suspects, prospects and customers. Let’s talk about these in order of appearance.
A suspect is anybody and everybody; think of the names in the local phone book. Initially, a business has no relationship with a suspect until contact is made in some way. Then, if the qualifying criteria turns them into a prospect, the relationship develops further until they’re converted into a customer, or not. For 10,000 years, of these three, only prospects and customers were influencers of a business.
In the Age of the Customer, which was born of the Internet, businesses have to learn how to operate where influencers are not only evaluating their traditional activity, but their online presence as well. And in the new Age, there are now three influencers: the original two, plus a new one.
Like suspects in the original Age, users are people you probably have not yet developed a business relationship with. Unlike suspects, users become influencers of your business in at least five ways, but only if you have an Internet presence:
- Users find you online and appraise your offerings, information, and behavior before you know they exist.
- Users can influence others by posting their appraisal – good or not so much – on any of the commenting (Yelp) or social media platforms (Facebook). And even if the appraisal is not good, you still get the next three.
- The very act of users finding you, especially if they leave a commenting trail, reveals themselves to you.
- Some form of contact information (email, handle, cookie, etc.) is left behind.
- You can assume that the user has at least a tacit interest in what you do and sell.
Users are suspects on steroids. I have identified them as a new class of prospect, because as they wield their influence, they actually self-qualify themselves without any direct cost or involvement by you. How much could that impact your prospect development plan?
If you’re still unimpressed with the potential of this new group of influencers to your business, remember this: The drivers of value for the big social media platforms are not customers, but hundreds of millions of users. And every small business has the ability to convert a user into a paying customer in a way that makes Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn green with envy.
Develop a strategy to turn users into your new class of prospects.