The End of An Era: Navigating in a World that has Changed Radically Forever

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Consider for a moment just how powerful you and I have become in today’s day and age.

In 2005 a man named Jeff Jarvis was in need of a computer after he left his corporate job to find new found freedom and excitement as an entrepreneur.  He chose a Dell computer for its reasonable price and Dell’s history of good customer service.  There was one problem – his computer turned out to be a “grade A” piece of junk!  There were seemingly endless “crashes” and “bugs”.  After months of frustration he decided to vent by writing a post on his personal blog hoping to warn others who might be reading before they made the same mistake.  His blog was brief and filled with emotion.  What happened next was astounding and important to note.  The post hit a chord with people in communities across the country and beyond.  Thousands of people replied to his post and many others linked his post onto their blogs.  Soon his blog post was receiving so much traffic that a customer who google searched for “Dell” would see Jarvis’s post and conversation right there on page one just below Dell’s official Web address.  The conversation was beginning to damage Dell’s brand.

Two months following Jarvis’s original blog post the conversation was picked up by mass media when Business Week published his story in their August 2005 issue.  Others got involved, most notably the magazine, Fast Company, which jokingly turned the concept of an online customer complaint into the phrase, “You got Dell’d”.  But even more eye opening than all of this was a story that came from someone who emailed Jarvis to tell him an interesting story about everyday business people in small town America.  He told Jarvis that he was at a neighborhood food court when he overheard two people talking.  They were having a casual conversation about computers when one of the women said she was considering buying a Dell until she heard how horrible Jeff Jarvis had been treated!

There are new rules in today’s economy and they are important not only for big business but for professionals of all walks of life, including those of us in behavioral healthcare.  These rules form the foundation for success in the 21st century and they offer some helpful guideposts for building an effective business development plan.

Jeff Jarvis in his new book, “What Would Google Do?” offers a few of these rules and I have chosen to add to the list.  Some of these rules are as follows:

  • Customers are now in charge. Dell and many other business examples have served notice of this phenomenon. This shift warns that everyone must take a hard look at their approach to business development if they are to succeed.
  • We are witnessing a revolution where the power has shifted from the few to the many. With this revolution comes a wealth of opportunity, a chance to be heard and the ability to build influence at levels never before seen in our history.
  • We have shifted from an economy based on a scarcity of resources to one of abundance. And in a world of seemingly infinite choices, no one picks something that is “good enough”! Customers will easily ignore your marketing messages and discount your service if it is not “remarkable” in their eyes.
  • The most successful business people are making a shift from finding customers for their existing service or products (using traditional marketing channels to accomplish such a feat) to dedicating their resources/efforts to create services/products that customers say they want.
  • It’s the conversation that matters. People can find each other anywhere and they can rally around you and your message or work against you. The Clutrain Manifesto, considered to be THE published work of the Internet age to date, boldly stated in 2000 that “Markets are conversations”. This means the key skill for any business person in this age of technology will be the ability to participate in a conversation with customers rather than simply marketing to them.
  • Jeff Jarvis points out that today’s successful companies no longer treat people on mass, rather they see the new economy as made up of “a mass of niches”. Once again, it is the individual who has the power not only to say yes or no but also to start their own conversation and build their own following.

The new era is about quality, value, relationships, speed, networks, permission, and customer need.  Create a practice based on these principles and you will find yourself well positioned.

David Diana, MA, LPC, NCC


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