Surprised that your prospects and customers seem to play by a different set of rules? Don’t be. In the new age, they seem to have morphed into a new species inhabiting a world with one extra dimension than the one you’re familiar with, and you’ll have to quickly evolve to operate in the same world or you’ll lose them forever.
Old money is 2-D, your business is 3-D, but your prospect or customer is now 4-D!
The old formula for understanding your prospects and customers is no longer valid and there are new rules of engagement. Businesses still approaching and managing prospects using the old rules not only risk doing poorly, but will probably cease to exist altogether before they figure out what hit them. (Illustration on right adapted from creation of Robert Webb’s Stella software: http://www.software3d.com/Stella.php).
It seems easy enough to appreciate the 2-D nature of currency notes in your wallet as well as the 3-D character of your business due to it occupying physical space and having the usual physical rules apply. In the case of your prospect or customer however, there is urgent need for a new and different way of looking at her.
The evolution of the internet has facilitated (perhaps even forced) the parallel evolution of your potential customer. Her previous three-dimensional nature has been changed beyond recognition.
Previously, she transitioned from suspect to prospect to customer on the basis of the fact of her existence as a member of society and the fairly predictable rhythms of life and social norms. Businesses merely needed to make provision for her demographic needs and everyone was happy.
Your prospect or customer of old no longer exists; instead you have a new more demanding four-dimensional species.
These days, the persona of the prospect or customer is more clearly defined and segmented into four dimensions.
I. First dimension: everything of the old. This encapsulates all the facets of the prospect or customer that marketers had to contend with in the past. Basically, all of the assumptions and indices that marketers previously used define the prospect or customer are now contained in this one dimension.
Therefore, every company (and that is increasingly the majority) still using the old assessments for the prospect or customer must now realise that such outdated tools are no longer adequate for the new multi-dimensional person; she now needs and indeed demands much more than she did in the past, thereby creating lots of problems for businesses wedded to the old paradigms.
George Bernard Shaw put the fundamental issue rather well when he said, “The only person who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, whilst all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me.”
II. Second dimension: knowledge through widely available information. This is a new dimension defined by a new-found savviness in defining a need. Plus an awareness through the internet of the high standards that the means to satisfy that need can be held to.
This is because today’s prospect or customer has various tools at her disposal to evaluate your service or widget and usually knows other providers who can provide an equally good or even better service or product.
III. Third dimension: efficiency pressures (e.g. just-in-time ordering and easy cost-comparisons). In this dimension, your prospect or customer is decidedly unable or even unwilling to expend more time or money than she needs to.
Modern warehousing and logistics make it possible that if she needs an item in two days time, there are many vendors happy to guarantee next day delivery so she doesn’t have to place the order until tomorrow. Even then, she still expects to get it at a bargain!
IV. Fourth dimension: connections. The modern prospect or customer wants to have some actualisation of self through buying your service or product. Everything she buys has to make a distinct contribution to the emerging picture of her self.
Not only does she want to connect with her self, she also wants to know that you “get” her; that you and her belong to the same “tribe” in that you have the same or at least similar values. Lastly, that you have enough respect for her that enables you not to take her for granted.
The classic example of a company relating to their “tribe” in the fourth dimension is Apple. There is no doubt in the mind of “iPad woman” that her gadget is as much a tool as it is a statement of her being. She is also confident that Apple as a company is firmly committed to helping her become a more evolved and fulfilled person. In fact, she is sure that both the company and herself are on the same mission!
This pact between your prospect or customer and your business is fragile, even fickle, and must be constantly and actively nourished otherwise it will disintegrate. And your first awareness of such a disaster may well be the realisation that your customer database appears to have gone up in smoke!
Your license to print money
The new four-dimensional nature of your prospects and customers requires that you have much more than a passing understanding of their personalities, values, preferences and dislikes. In fact, they will reward you substantially if you make it your business to become the provider that has the greatest understanding of and makes the best connection with them. In essence, they will grant you the “license to print money”!