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On Tuesday July 12th the existing Cablevision’s Optimum Business Benefits customers as well as prospective OBB members were treated to a wonderful breakfast, an opportunity to network, and a stimulating keynote presentation by Jim Blasingame from Bloomberg TV.   Author of Three Minutes to Success,  Jim was accurately represented as an engaging speaker who connected with the audience and involved them by crowd-sourcing examples and input from the audience about their small business successes, challenges, and goals to make it more relevant to them.  The audience was extremely engaged as many people had a lot to say.

The topic of Jim’s presentation was the Age of the Customer™.  This is the direction we are heading, says Jim, away from the Age of the Seller.  This shift, which limits the access to a sellers marketing message, is due to technology evolution, digital communities, and the ability for users to generate comments.  According to Jim, this began in 1995, when the first html page was viewable by consumers online.  Since then consumers have been exercising their online voice in communities, social media and blogs, they continue to influence and even co-own your marketing message.  How small business owners approach consumers must match the change.  For example, as a small business think of your customer list as your customer community.  The most successful businesses will be tuned into their communities and ultra responsive to their needs to get the best results.

As far as how the customers have changed, they are more educated than they use to be.  With access to information online, customers have already vetted many possible purchase options, and when they come to you – the small business owner – they are ready to complete the transaction and take delivery.   Once they make the decision to purchase from you, you want them to agree to what Jim calls the “follow me home” principal.  This is the customer agreeing to your request to opt into your newsletter, your email message, your Twitter message or your Facebook community.  This indicates that the customer has gained your trust and it is your mission to keep that trust.

Back in the Age of the Seller, you could provide a product or service that the customer liked and you would have their trust.  In the age of the Customer, the bar has been raised and you have to message to your customer (aka your community) about things that are relevant.  Jim calls this the Moment of Relevance.  It is when you meet the expectations of today’s savvy consumer by showing them you are tuned into their needs and are delivering interesting, timely and very specific, relevant information, products and services to them to keep them engaged in today’s hypercompetitive environment.   Jim says, “In the Age of the Customer, it’s not enough just to be competitive – you have to also be relevant.”

Many people automatically think of the computer as the main tool, but Jim challenged attendees to consider the reach to people via mobile phone.  This includes texting your customers to reach them in the Moment of Relevance™ and as a business owner and having your website be mobile enabled.  Those small businesses that are the most responsive to change as their community changes will be the most successful.

Attendee Bob Helstoski was inspired by what Jim had to say.  Bob attended the OBB breakfast because in the next 2-3 months he hopes to launch an online store offering specialty products just for guys.  “It was great to hear what Jim had to say about starting up a small business.  I feel better prepared to launch mine after this breakfast event.”

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