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Embracing the Tiger: Why do we Fear the Customer-Driven Business Model?

January 28, 2013

Although the customer driven business model is not new, it’s been around for years, I think it will be the biggest thing to happen in business within this decade. What could be better than your very own customers driving your success?

As people begin to understand the customer-driven business model and begin to let go of the fear they have in “truly” adopting it, more and more businesses will begin to reap its rewards. Right now we’re still in that stage where people use the name as buzzwords to make themselves appear savvy, but secretly they are still marketing blindly to the masses and hoping to get a few bites. In a true customer-driven business model, you become confident enough in your abilities to give away something of value to potential customers, such as practical information and advice they can immediately apply, without asking anything in return. That’s where the Tao concept of ‘embracing the tiger’ comes in. When you lean into, or embrace, your fear rather than avoiding it or running away from it, you begin to take control of it, and it becomes just another challenge to meet or solve–no longer something so foreign.


So why would you give potential customers something for free? Number one, you do it to first and foremost, show them that you understand their business, and their needs; and secondly, that as an expert, you can solve their business issues and immediately deliver value. Doing those two things helps to begin building trust. Doing so can also open the door to potential leads, which you can ultimately turn into paying jobs or contracts.

Why does this work? Research has shown that even if you give a room full of people a step-by-step blueprint for improving their business, only a very small percentage, less than 5%, will actually take it and apply it. The greater percentage will still choose to hire you to help them do it or to do it for them. Most people feel better letting the experts do it, so there’s tremendous opportunity in presenting yourself as ‘an expert’ in your field instead of making sales pitches. Yet most ‘experts’ still fear that if they give away their valuable blueprint, potential customers won’t need to hire them anymore. That’s the hurdle we need to overcome in order to allow our customers to drive our success.

When you give someone something that can help solve their business problems, even if they don’t go apply it on their own, they are more a lot more likely to trust you, than if you just try and sell them something. Why? Because the sales pitch is generally about you, not about them. When you give them something of value, you generally get an opportunity to nurture a relationship and learn even more about what problems they are trying to solve. That’s worth its weight in gold to you, because with time the added knowledge makes you become better equipped to tackle their major business hurdles–when they finally come to call–and they will. That’s where patience comes in. There’s no short cut to the customer engagement process because the foundation of the customer-driven business model is about truly getting to know what your potential customers value. That takes time, not sales calls, not product pushes, not cold calls, not generic web sites, or advertising, or even old-school-marketing collateral.

In essence, the process of customer engagement in the customer-driven business model is much like dancing with someone for the very first time. You take a few steps and show them you know what you’re doing–without stepping on their toes–and they relax a little and begin to trust that they’re in good hands. Once they don’t have to worry about your dancing ability, they can engage in conversation–and that’s when the dance truly begins. You share a little bit of information, then they do, and so on, and before you know it, you’re getting a second dance. Now you can repeat those steps, take what you learn and improve your overall customer engagement process–and you work toward making exponential gains over the long term. Eventually, you learn how to shorten the process of that engagement and get to the win-win a lot sooner.

A true customer-driven approach should be based on truly understanding your potential customers, not just knowing “the market.” Someone said recently that, “the customer-driven business model is a journey, not a destination,” and I completely agree. In that sense, it’s much like life. If we focus on building bridges, instead of just products, we will make it easier for customers to connect with us, and we won’t have to invest so much in trying to “ lure them and catch them” as if they were fish.

When you build a valuable connection, people want to succeed, because you’re helping them to succeed.

Embrace the tiger, and enjoy the dance!


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