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Oct18
The End of Business as Usual

If I thought that yesterday’s BlogOn Social Media conference had a lot to say about listening, today kicked it up another notch.   

Social media can also be thought of as grass roots media.  It is the collective intelligence that exists on any one topic and it can be indexed, searched, organized and aggregated through the web.  If you can think of the Internet as one giant focus group, you are on the right track.  But it gets better, it is free.

David Weinberger, a thought leader on the effect of social media on business and co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto – the End of Business as Usual, shared some important ideas as the opening speaker.  The Cluetrain Manifesto suggests:

“For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.”

Traditionally, as a leader, you and your company knew more about your company than anyone else but you wanted to know more from your customers.  Isn’t that why you spend money on focus groups or on collecting customer satisfaction information? 

Today, connected networks, know as much or more about you and your products than you do.  Wait, how can that be? Do customers know more than me about my product or service? 

Well it’s true and it should make sense.  Perhaps one customer may not know more, but the collective of customers certainly do know more.  After all, your customers use your product – in ways that you can’t even imagine.  They would also like to use it in ways that you can’t imagine. And lucky for you, they will tell you on their blog.

From the Cluetrain Manifesto:

“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” 

That is good perspective.  It feels like social media is taking us back to market conversations.

“In this new place, every product you can name, from fashion to office supplies, can be discussed, argued over, researched, and bought as part of a vast conversation among the people interested in it.”

I agree.  Markets are conversations.  Are you listening?  Are you asking?  How can these conversations lead your product and market strategy?

I have talked a lot about JetBlue and its customer service leadership in an industry that is otherwise ailing.  Am I alone in this conversation?  Quite the opposite.  When you search Google for “Jetblue customer service,” you find 300,000 plus references.  Of the first 20 results, only one was from JetBlue itself.  Others are talking and it is not just main stream press.  The top search was a report from Motley Fool, while not a blog, it is an online publication.  My guess – the executives at JetBlue foloow most of this.  If they don't , they should mine this fertile  ground.

Henry David Thoreau said, “It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to listen.” 

As a leader, you should be interested in truth.  If you listen, you will be a better leader.  The Blogosphere, is a great place to listen.  So start a conversation with your market.

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2 Comments/Trackbacks




I'm not sure it's a question of "know more" but rather "know different". I think it's an issue of your customers know more about what's important to them about your product, which is why we do research to find out what they "know". We can know lots of information about our product but if we don't know that our customers don't like the color--and more importantly, aren't buying it for that reason--then it seems they "know" more than we do.

The real danger is when companies decide that customers don't know enough...and therefore decide that the company needs to inform them instead of listening and conversing ( a la "cluetrain manifesto").

In the above example, if we keep pounding our customers with the information we think they need to know, but never listen about the color, or any other concerns they have, we're doomed.

Mike

Well said Mike. Thanks for reading and for writing. Listening is how we can know more.

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