4 Phases of Customer Building….

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I’m always looking for ways to reframe the debate about how to grow your business and I was revisiting Seth Godin’s freelancer course on Udemy recently when he talked about the 4 levels of a freelancer.

That got me to thinking about how we can all think about the levels of our customer base by 4 simple levels.

Here’s a go at it:

Sign spinning: 

When I first moved to DC in 2012, it felt like every new apartment building had vacancies that they were trying to fill.

The rents were premium and the amenities were as well, but there wasn’t much to differentiate them except their location and if you were downtown, that likely wasn’t a huge difference for most people either.

That’s when I saw sign spinners start popping up.

Not a lot of differentiation here. Just the hope that your spinner might draw the person’s attention as they passed and were thinking about a new apartment.

I’m honestly not sure if this strategy ever drew in one person. But I’m sure if I searched hard enough, there is at least one instance.

Sign spinning is basically the same as standing on the corner, jumping up and down, or sending your resume into the void of an online resume depository.

You’ve done something, but I wouldn’t bet my career on it.

Coffee is for closers:

Boiler room selling.

That’s what this is about, loosely.

But not really.

By this, I mean that you have taken the mentality that you are going to work your ass off to sell as much as you can.

This type of selling works well for some things, but those things are likely less and less saleable as we go on.

But for the intention of this post, I mean that you are out there flogging your wares.

This totally works, to an extent.

But as I’ve mentioned in all of my work about “The Differentiation Gap” it only works so well.

Because when you spend all of your time selling in this manner, you aren’t highly differentiated and this leads to an environment where you are largely selling based on price.

No differentiation, no pricing power.

Get in early:

We like to be the first person that people think of when they have a challenge.

In many cases, we can anticipate a challenge before our customers start thinking about it.

If so, we need to do a better job of getting ahead of the curve.

We want to get to them early and have them commit to us.

Is this effective, yes and no.

You might not end up being the solution of choice, but you can be ahead of the people that are in the two levels before you.

I’m your fan: 

Anyone that follows this blog or any of my work will know that I love Pearl Jam.

And, they are a great illustration of what this idea means because they have this thing called The 10 Club.

It is their fan club and you can join each year at 2 levels:

Analog or Digital: $40 or $20.

What’s genius about this is that this really is a tool for them to sell to you.

You are committed and an active member of their community.

This means people will build a summer vacation around seeing them or travel all over the world to see the band.

What does this have to do with you?

Well, it means that I need you to start thinking about how you can get people to raise their hands and say that they trust you and are willing to follow you on your path.

For businesspeople, you’ve got lots of choices on how to do this:

  • Email lists
  • Social media
  • Mailings
  • On and on

The thing is that by gaining permission early on, you have established yourself as a partner and you are nurturing this connection throughout time so that you don’t have booms and busts, but more that you have a steady dripping of interest and connection so that when people face the challenge you are dealing with…they go right to you.

That’s differentiation and the key to “The Differentiation Gap.” I think.


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