Customers are Looking for You, or are They?

Russell White

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Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a day with one of my gurus: Seth Godin. Seth is the best-selling author of seven business books on subjects from web marketing to creating remarkability in your business. Seth helped me open my creativity even more by talking about how dramatically and quickly things have changed and how far behind so many businesses are lagging.

15 years ago

  • Businesses didn’t have the internet.
  • The general public didn’t have mobile phones.
  • Cable television was a basic set of 20 or fewer channels.
  • The fax machine was a wonderful invention.
  • Desk top computers had 40k hard drives with monochrome monitors.
  • 800 numbers were a sign of a significant-sized business you could trust to be real.


  • Businesses must thrive on the Internet or they are losing customers and market share even with B to B businesses.

  • The general public, including children of all ages, expect to be accessible by phone at all times, no dead zones allowed.

  • Cable television, or its many competitors, now offers 500 channels of broadcasting.

  • The fax machine has gone the way of the typewriter because of very inexpensive online fax services (cheaper per month than a dedicated land line!).

  • Personal computers are more powerful than most mainframes were 15 years ago and storage and speed are cheap - and required.

  • 800 numbers are suspected as a draw down a tunnel of fees and disreputable businesses waiting to pounce on unsuspecting customers.

    Some companies get it and are making great changes; others are lost in history.

    Airlines still have gate agents using archaic terminals with complex coding on which they received minimal training to load passengers onto equipment designed for a 1960s public. Employees are frustrated. Customers are frustrated. Is it any wonder the industry considers bankruptcy a positive managerial strategy?

    So how have you changed your business model to be in front of the competition?

    1. Build relationships with your customers.

    As Seth says, there are two ways to get married. Walk into a bar and approach every woman in the place … “Will you marry me?” “Will you marry me?” “Will you marry me?” How likely are you to get married to a wonderful person that way? Same goes for your sales approach. If you are cold calling or walking into prospects and asking for the money right off the bat you are going to have the same luck and frustration as the man looking to get a wife in the bar.

    Date your prospects and customers. Get to know what makes them tick. Get to know what are their real concerns that they need help with. Get to know the customer as a person, instead of an SKU or lot # 32-539-0288 which shipped last week. Someone – a person - is making purchase decisions for your products. Don’t treat them like a company, treat the buyers like individual people, and get to know them. How? Go on a date. Take him to lunch without asking for the business! Send her a book you know she will find interesting. Pick up the phone and have a three-minute conversation on something important in his life. Get to know the person buying the product and she’ll want to know about your products and services.

    2. What is your web presence - from the customer’s point of view?

    Pretty much everyone knows to have a web address for their business but many seem to think that’s plenty. The average person will spend three seconds on a website before deciding to stay or go. So the first question you need to ask is - Why should the customer or prospect stay? Secondly, what do you want them to do? These are questions not only for your front page, but for every page on your website. I have to say, after my day in Manhattan with Seth, my web designer got plenty of new directions for the new sites we are creating. As he put it, everyone who comes to your site is a monkey looking for a banana - so where is the banana? I learned that way too many of my monkeys are going hungry on my site.

    Do a quick customer survey. When was the last time you visited my website? How frequently in a week do you visit? What pages are most important to you and why? What would you like to find on my site that doesn’t currently exist there? How easy was it to find the things you were looking for?

    Take notes and look for ways to make your site more inviting and needed by your customers. How often do you make changes to your site? New information and constant updates and changes keep people coming back with regularity. If your site stays the same except you add something every other month, you’ve already lost the advantage of being in the front of your customer’s mind.

    Russell J. White an international speaker, author and consultant is president of Russell J. White International and founder of The Edgewalk Institute. His cutting edge ideas assist businesses in strategic planning, branding, leadership development and growth strategies. He can be reached at or at 877-275-9468

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