So much has changed in business in the past 20 years. And it continues to change daily. As Brian has said before, today a business has to engage… or die. And you know what? That delights me. It is the way it used to be. Shopkeepers knew their customers very well. They didn’t need mechanical analysts or teams of test consumers to determine how to best serve them; they heard it directly from the customer.
A year ago el Presidente Dave Munson asked me to build a relationship team for his Saddleback Leather Company.
The best way to describe a relationship team would be to first look at the core mission of Saddleback, “to love people around the world by making excessively high quality, tough and functional leather designs.”
Love is the key ingredient to any good relationship. Saddleback already had a world class customer service team. What was missing was a team of people that could consistently add the ingredient of love to social media, engagement, public relations and our community at large.
Luckily, Saddleback had connectedness and social built right into irs DNA. To this day, Dave still engages with as many customers as time allows (Dave and his wife even met each other on MySpace!)
As the company grew, so too did our thriving Facebook community. By the time I showed up it was nearly 30,000 strong. Thirty percent engagement was normal. What was missing was a consistent, cohesive and unified approach.
Looking back, one of the greatest resources I had in my quiver was Brian’s book WTF (What is the Future of Business). I had many folks on the team read it. I had Jenny, our resident people-watcher, also read Brian’s much heavier and more academic book, The End of Business As Usual.
Engaging Our Customer
Brian’s concepts brought detailed clarity to how we sell and connect with our customers. From design concept to advocacy, the customer today is the source of brand awareness and often consumer decision making. As a business we are faced with the challenge of giving the customer resources and opportunities for those roles. The more we include the customer in what Brian calls the Influence Loop the more power they have. Every interaction, content share or product release becomes an opportunity for them to be reviewers, testers, loyalists and advocates.
The Saddleback Leather relationship team became that glue between every stage of the loop. We shared the design process through photos, social posts and blogs from the very moment that Dave had the first idea all the way through to a customer expressing excitement opening the box. We delighted customers with over the top care whenever a question was asked. We gave them the tools to best share about the products on youtube videos and EDC (every day carry) photos. And all along the loop a well trained and talented team is there, learning, advocating, educating, engaging and certainly entertaining the crowd.
So, what is the future of business? Well for those like Saddleback Leather who are willing to learn, grow, and take risks by including their customers, the future looks like an ever-growing, fervent, and contagious community. Their advocates will continue to glady lead others to what they have experienced.
If you have a vision worth catching you will only find success. If you don’t? Well, you better find one soon. The world is shrinking.