Okay, I just finished reading “Real-Time Marketing” by David Meerman Scott.
Now, full disclosure: not only am I a big fan of David Meerman Scott, but he was also kind enough to put a little excerpt from my musical memoir, “Real Men Don’t Rehearse,” in the book! So obviously, with that much fabulous promotion, there is absolutely no way I’m going to trash his book 🙂 So instead of attempting to offer an objective review of it, let me just offer my personal reactions to it, to wit:
First of all, the first third of this book is downright terrifying, at least it was to me. The reason I say that is, David gives numerous examples of how Fortune 100 companies are simply not on the ball in terms of understanding how “social media” (that is to say, the now instantaneous nature of customer communication) is affecting how we do business worldwide. I mean, however you may feel about corporate America, these people are in charge of a great deal of our national wealth. They may not pay a lot of taxes, but they employ an awful lot of people who do. Our general material wealth and well-being is tied to their performance, like it or not. So to see so many of them being so slow out of the starting gate is more than just a little disturbing.
Now… this book is really more directed to companies, but there is a very important message in it for sole proprietors like myself, which is the power of right now.
Being a self published sole proprietor, I am capable of being more nimble than your average organization. The most obvious example is in the shipping department. I have been publishing and shipping books for the last five years, I have an unblemished 100% customer satisfaction rate, and while the content of the books is important of course, the real excitement of customers (that motivates them to give feedback) is based almost entirely upon the speed of shipping. People just love to get the thing that they ordered quickly. The speed at which it is delivered to their door is almost half of the value they are deriving from the transaction, or so it seems. People are so used to slow shipping, fast shipping makes a huge impression.
In the realm of publishing music and speaking, I get a fair number of e-mail inquiries, and I typically respond to people the moment they drop into my inbox. To me, this is just simple common courtesy and politeness, but consistently, I get comments back from these newcomers and strangers saying “thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly.” After all, once they send that inquiry e-mail, they are now in the realm of “waiting limbo;” they can’t ask another speaker, or move on with their project, until they get a yay or nay response from me. By getting back to them instantaneously, I make their life ever so much better and easier. And it is good to have new customers associate pleasant feelings with dealing with you.
Now I will confess to you, there was a time of my life when I actually cultivated slowness. I’m not sure where I got this idea, but I very often would purposefully not get back to people right away. It was all a big fat lie. I didn’t want them to think that I had nothing else to do but talk to them. I wanted to give the impression of being very very very busy, therefore in higher demand, therefore worth more money. And when people asked me for some product or service, I would phony up a distant delivery date even though I could’ve done it for them instantly. I figured they would think, “well, if it takes that long to do, it must be worth the money he’s charging.”
This attitude was very much a legacy of the factory worker mindset I was taught in public school. Back then, we were taught that the more time it took, the more money you made. This dogma is more entrenched in our culture than many people realize, and David’s book flatly contradicts this concept.
I suspect there are a lot of people who think if they do things instantly, they will get paid less money. There may be some truth in this. When a service person fixes your appliance in 2 seconds and charges you 180 dollars, it feels like a ripoff. (There will always be customers who feel this way– that’s another blog post.) The reason you pay a skilled professional is not because of the time it takes them to do it, you’re paying for the skill they have to do it quickly. The value is not in the time it takes, it's in the time it saves.
What I took away from David’s book is a major reinforcement of the economic importance of responding instantly and right now. When interacting with customers, it is much better to respond quickly if incompletely, than slowly and perfectly. That hanging period of limbo time, between the moment a customer contacts you and the moment that you get back to them it is, in essence, for the customer, a state of being ignored, lonely, isolated, and even shamed.
I am now placing a much higher priority on immediate responses to customer contacts. Like MacDonald's, the speed itself has major value.
David is a rare visionary in the business world. He has the guts to go against the common dogmas. If you haven’t read his books, you should.
©) Justin Locke