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If You Still Think The Customer Is King

Marketing podcast with Aaron Shapiro (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Users Not Customers

You know the old adage – the customer is king, well there’s a new king and every business today must shift their focus to the much broader world of the user. A large segment of this user community may never buy from you, but in today’s increasingly digital world they do influence how your brand is perceived and, in the end, who does or does not become a customer.

For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visit with Aaron Shapiro, author of Users, Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business

The trick is to become indispensable, through content and interaction to a large group of users, those that may never spend a dime with you, and your customers will naturally fall from this group. The larger the user group, the larger the customer pool.

Building products and adapting your business for users over customers takes a bit of a mind shift, but successful organizations are doing this in a variety of ways.

From my own experience, I can tell you that making your free products more valuable than your competitor’s paid products is one of the best ways to install this principle.

Shapiro also addresses one of my favorite topics – rapidly deploying new technology that benefits your users.

In one of the more telling moments in the interview Shapiro explains doing focus groups with millennials and when asked how much time they spent online they didn’t know how to answer the question. The next generation is so digital they can no longer distinguish moments when they aren’t online.

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99)

How to Be Present for Your Business

The ability, some might say attempt, to multitask is a curse of sorts. While working on ten things at once may seem efficient, each of those things gets roughly 10% of our greatness while we’re doing it.

That may actually be fine for, say, deleting emails, but is that enough for writing a note to a client, creating an action plan for a product launch or determining the fee you plan to charge for a project? Probably not.

Attention is one of our scarcest resources these days and guarding it in a way that allows us to work with intention requires the ability to remain present and mindful in the midst of the storm raging all around us. (Otherwise known as your business)

In fact, it not only requires us to be as present as possible for the daily tasks we tackle, it also requires us to be continually mindful of where we are going and why we are going there and that requires a process of its own.

Planned Mindfulness

It’s one thing to conduct annual strategic planning sessions and quite another to live the intention of those sessions after the white boards are erased.

I believe that you need to create a daily routine that involves revisiting your greatest goals and objectives and developing what I’ve come to call a passion mantra that upon seeing, hearing or reading energizes you and snaps you back into a state of mindfulness.

Creating your passion mantra may require time sitting and writing about what matters most to you, what drives you, what motivates you, what scares you and what excites you, but if you can create a simple statement that helps hold you accountable for what you intend to do, you’ll have a tool that consistently inspires right action and keeps you out of the act of wallowing in self-pity and doubt.

I’ve shared my own personal passion mantra before and I’ll share it here, but know that these are merely words and their real power if the feeling I attach to them.

My mantra is: My life is an amazing adventure; my business is an amazing adventure.

Witness Your Thoughts

Another habit that you may need to form in order to work steadily towards the intention of your business is to actually start to pay attention to your thoughts and reactions throughout the day.

Frankly, this can be exhausting work, but if you can begin to step back and analyze how your mind unconsciously processes everything that happens throughout the day, you might start to get a glimpse into some of the negative and limiting ways we view things as either good or bad.

The problem with most of reactions to things is they don’t always serve our overall objectives. If your intention is to be a business that provides incredible value by helping your customers achieve their goals, you’ll find that giving more than you take is the surest path to success. However, if your first thought in most relationships is what’s in it for me, or I’ve got to watch my back, you’ve got some powerful forces working against you.

How we view things is simply a choice, but that choice can become so ingrained that we no longer even make it, it simply occurs out of habit. When we start to slow down and observe these choices as they are happening, we gain the power to make or not make them in accordance with our driving intention.

Present Actfullness

Our intentions drive our thoughts and our thoughts form our actions. That’s what makes planning, goal setting and mindful thinking so powerful. However, there are armies lined up and waiting to derail you from your path to success – some come in the form of your own thoughts and others come in the form of an evil printer that won’t work as advertised.

In addition to witnessing how your thoughts create and form your reality, you must develop habits that help you change your physical state and bring it intentionally into being present along with your thoughts.

This is the easy part. Develop routines that require you to stop your work hourly and do ten pushups or take a lap around your office building. Fill up a jug of water and empty it hourly. Take a fifteen-minute afternoon nap. Write a handwritten thank you note several times a day.

What you do physically isn’t as important as the act of stopping and bringing your awareness back into the room by removing your attention from all the tasking at hand. I find that the simplest of planned physical mindfulness, even intentional breathing has the power to center me.

Present for Customers

So, really the point of all of this mindfulness is to help you build a better business that delivers value to world and less stress to you in the process, but the practical side is that it will allow you to be present for your customers and that will pay off immediately.

We all like to think we have our customers needs and desires in mind at all times, but quite often we get caught up in attempts to appear to have all the answers, in stating our case rather than listening, or in feigning care when our real motivation is the sale.

You can’t be fully present in every client interaction, but occasionally, maybe systematically, you need to look your clients in the eye, in a way that lets them feel you are listening, and ask them how you could help them more – and then shut up and listen without judgment. My guess is you will find this incredibly rewarding.

Present for Staff

In the midst of the day-to-day rush of projects, tasks, questions and actions the real development of the people that work all around you can get lost.

Meetings are scheduled and conducted with to dos and takeaways in mind and are often seen mostly as something in the way of getting your real work done.

Again, you can’t be fully mindful in every interaction with your staff, but in order to create an environment where your people can participate in the fulfillment of the organization’s objectives, you must provide a way for them to be heard as well.

Once a week, put 30 minutes on your calendar with everyone that reports to you and make them own the agenda. There may be times when several agenda items revolve around projects, but there will be times when you simply listen to what they really want out of life and how you can help them get there – and I believe that may be one of the most rewarding gifts you can participate in giving.

So, this being present stuff isn’t for the timid, but if you’ve ever come home and night and couldn’t really tell your spouse what you did all day that made you so busy, there’s a pretty good bet you need to dig into this a bit.

Image credit: SirPecanGum via Flickr CC

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