Consumer or Prosumer?

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How do you view customers and your relationship with them amidst this great shift in consumer behavior?

“What is the difference between Consumer and Prosumer?”, you may ask.  Is this just semantics; more Internet ‘mumbo-jumbo’ or propaganda to keep us as business owners in the dark as to where our marketing dollars are disappearing to?  You ask very good questions!

By definition, Consumer is: “One that consumes, one that acquires goods or services for salesman10 thumb Consumer or Prosumer?direct use or ownership” or put another way, A heterotrophic organism that ingests other organisms or organic matter in a food chain.”  It’s all about the sale, who cares about the person.  Ever been on the other end of that?  Wow, what a selfish, demeaning view of our valued customers, definitely web 1.0!

Now a Prosumer is: “One who is converse to the consumer, denoting an active role as the individual gets more involved in  the process.” That’s right, we are interested in others 1st, sharing, giving, untitled thumb Consumer or Prosumer?earning their trust.  Hmm… you mean customers have feelings?  Opinions?  They are not just mindless organisms who just consumes matter?  (Yuck – who would want one of THOSE in your store.)  You better, if you want to have a store in the near future.

The point – our view of our customers is critical.  They are changing, they have choices. They can get poor service anywhere.  Life is stressful, anxiety is growing in our neighbors lives, procrastination is up 40%, rage and rudeness are increasing across the board amongst ‘service’ providers.

Think of the Apple Store (I love the Apple Store!) – they are a perf2QEJCCAVCU7J8CA66RYEHCACZ0BFLCASOEM29CAL2C6XUCAWUUJ0FCA93MEXICAVLEBPSCAK25Y0GCAASE93DCA51EBC6CARS7G7GCAVR6UTBCAF4GXVMCAR6LXKZCAU2EIX5CAXVZ4PACA13OIOCect example of everyone in the company, top to bottom, viewing everyone that  walks in the door as a Prosumer.  They are there to help you, no pressure, as you walk around, you notice everything works and is unlocked, feel free to use as you wish.  If you have something broken, they will fix it for free.  Need a genius, go the genius bar and get excellent service from people who want to help you and get it right the first time.  We love it as Prosumers, we feel great, we are comfortable here, we will be back.

You may be now asking yourself, what do I do now if I see that I am old school’? and How do I change it”?  First, I commend you for your honesty (more business leaders needs more humility when it comes to examining their business model and accepting that changing to a social media system is going to be disruptive to the current one in place, but it is critical) and second, you ask very good questions.

As those of us who run businesses, we find ourselves in the most anxiety filled time in modern history; along with that, there are a couple of obstacles we have to acknowledge first before proceeding.  Today’s climate is hard on us as business leaders, with uncertainty at every turn, the complexity of adjusting to new demands, increasingly shorter product lifecycles, competition, etc., there are the facts., which can lead some to succumb to the “eat or be eaten” mentality. Ahh….what do I do???  Please step away from the ledge… slowly…. thank you.  Here are just a few helpful suggestions, to see things from the Prosumer’s perspective that may help us tweak our operation and get us on the right path without having to do a lot of heavy lifting:

1) Understand we are all in the same boat – every business is in a similar situation.  They are all struggling trying to catch up to the social behavior shift which has left there showrooms empty.  Face it, we have created a monster.   Our poor customers 3002786976_4be7cc609c_mare left to fend for themselves,  our culture of treating them like customers (who’s next in line? hurry up..) has left them feeling suspicious, distrustful, with no inherent loyalty, and only focused on price and convenience, and feel defensive, suspicious and that we are the adversary as soon as they walk into our business.  I do.  That means whatever your price is, I’m looking on the web to find it cheaper.  Result? – we all lose, business profits dwindle in our community, jobs lost.   We have to understand it is what it is, and IT doesn’t work anymore.  We have to lift our heads out of our computers and look around, realize the situation, and do something about it.

2)  SEE the goal – Our goal is simple, sustainable profits and growth right?  The only way, let me repeat that, the ONLY way for that to happen in your business in today’s climate is to build customer equity = trust, confidence in us, we c2901627253_be1ff1dd70_mare, NO hype, NO infomercial techniques, those are dead.  Our customers,  Prosumers, need to realize and see manifested in our business model that we don’t have a hidden agenda, help them to learn from their experience with us that they can trust us.  And finally, they should pick up from their interaction with us that when they deal with us, it’s not about ’selling them something’, it about their experience and making it the most enjoyable that we can. (i.e.; Apple Store) .  Look at your operation and SEE where you can adjust and apply some of these principles.  Look hard, they are there.

3)  Make the shift ASAP – Most businesses still operate in the adversarial ‘consumer’ arena and use traditional media to advertize their ’sales’ and ’sales’, blah, blah, blah.  This does not work any more – in fact, most companies that remain in the status quo are finding they are paying a “trust tax”, a transaction (soon to be reaction) costs which can be up to 70% of the item, which destroys 2562838770_3473e1ac30_m profit margin and will force companies into extinction if they remain unchanged in their methods.   (BTW: we earn trust, it’s not automatic, it takes time and isn’t as easy as advertising it, like the guy in the photo on the left)  We must make the shift from ’selling things’ to noticing people!  We need to build a desire with our Prosumers, cultivate relationships, create a sense of comfortable community for them.  If you have been reading my articles over the years, you will recall my simple formula: Thoughts + Feelings = Actions.  Now, this is a two edged sword, but one that if used right, and all the focus is on the Prosumer’s experience when we get an opportunity, that we are going to dazzle them with service, since we are all human, using my formula will create – Trust + Desire = Purchase, and continued experience results in loyalty and brand (“your brand”) advocacy.   It works, 100% of the time!

So, how do you view your customers?  Why not ask some of them, unless your afraid of what they might tell you.  If you are, then you should.

 

Why Start Blogging Again?

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Good question. One I’d like to comment on so you know whether this space has value for you or not.

WHY DID I STOP?

Time. While I’ve published my own and contributed to numerous blogs over the years, there are only so many hours in the day and so it came down to priorities for me.  With  the  explosion of interest in social media and how it could apply in business situations, and the relentless pursuit of organizations wanting ROI strategy plans, I found  myself over extended with consulting, a couple of startups, and traveling a lot to keep up with a hectic training, and speaking schedule. The crazy hours were taking it’s toll, I was burning out.  I needed to catch my breath and redraw my lines. So I stepped back.

WHAT HELPED ME?

Userville. While I’ve remained engaged online through great tools like Posterous, 12seconds.tv, I’ve been meeting fantastic new people and organizations via my radio show, Facebook and other virtual stops all over the web. I’ve also done a lot I needed to recharge my battery.of very fulfilling reading.  I found refreshing honesty in Trust Agents by Chris Brogan which helped me be ok with, well, being myself.   Brian Solis’ Engage encouraged me and reinvigorated me that all the noise online shouldn’t frustrate me, but inspire me that I do add value in sharing my take. Seth Godin’s practical, bite size, no-fluff wisdom is always applicable and strikes a chord with me.  Along with Google Play, and all the other great bloggers I subscribe to and read daily, I got my groove back.  Cutting out the noise did it.

WHAT I LEARNED?

Focus. Opening up and looking at my schedule was a valuable learning point. I had allowed so many business demands to impact my personal life – like totally and ruthlessly sideline it.  After a frank assessment, and some pruning, I’m renewed and determined to not allow it to happen again. I have simplified my focus down to a few key elements, here they are:

            1. Spending my time caring for my loved ones, clients and colleagues.  I love people and love what I do. So reallocating my time to care for these and let the rest go was liberating. Now as incredible opportunities come along, I have the bandwidth to participate.
            2. Becoming an interdependent professional, not independent. I’ll be extending my relationships to include collaborating with other high-trust thought leaders.  Regaining my balance also has refreshed me to share my creativity and passions and work together through future challenges – challenges unlike anything most of us have ever seen in our life time!
            3. Be ok with missing out on the immediacy of brilliance. So many in userville are masterful and brilliant.  I’m going to find joy in sharing their expertise and in celebrating and advocating their success. Being first isn’t that important to me anymore, quality and value is.

I’m in a good, healthy place and it feel’s great.

SO WHAT?

Another good question.  The reason for this explanation is that I really believe in adding value to anything I do, especially when publishing or mashing content. I also believe, when we are so immersed in this field, one can be so absorbed in whatever it is, that we lose sight of reality a little bit and start taking shortcuts to keep ahead of the competition.  Some end up focused on tools rather than people, and impressive technical buzzwords instead of practical solutions for userville. We may even wake up one day and find that we’ve gotten dumber as a consequence.  hands_together

I promise future posts won’t be this long, all the content will be about putting the “we” back in the social web, share practical tips, tools and strategies that we can all use and collaborate on as one collective. Enough about me, so, here we go.

Giddy up!

Does this make sense to you?  Was this helpful to you in any way?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.