photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/niklaswikstrom/
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/niklaswikstrom/

Here’s something interesting I read today on the effects of smartphones on shopping. The article matters because it’s about a big trend (changing habits in shopping, especially in everyday environments like grocery stores) and has long-term societal implications. For example, what will be the next social habit that’s disrupted or changed by smartphones? You might wonder why an article on shopping and smartphones matters to our conversation.

I shared this link because I thought it was intriguing and could help you with your day. You might not have liked it if I shared a cat video, pictures of breakfast, or another Internet cliche (or maybe you would. Everyone needs a momentary distraction now and then). I believe that when the content is truly useful to you, it will make your day better.

When you share content with customers, you should make the same decision and thought process. What’s interesting to your customer? It might be something you care about deeply that’s related to serving the customer. It might be a piece of relevant information about your product or service that you feel they should know. And it might be an article about larger industry trends. In any of those cases, sharing to the customer should create value.

And value is subjective, so it’s not often easy to decide what to communicate. Aside from the obvious (be smart, and only share the things you would want other people to attribute to you in public), there are a few easy ways to share what’s going on in your industry, what you think the customer should know, and how to share what you care about in a thoughtful way.

First, start with the context – what matters about this item? For an industry-relevant post you could be sharing information about trends, market validation, and the “big picture” – the shopping article linked at the beginning of this post is a great example. The knowledge is relevant because it demonstrates how society is changing in long-run ways, and will change behavior.

Second, you should also share why you think this item matters to the individual (or to the class of customer). When you’re sharing product or service knowledge, if you present the information in a value/benefit statement it will be easier for the customer to see the value of the content. “What’s in it for me?” should be your mantra when viewing the content from the customer’s perspective – if there isn’t value there, perhaps you should share something else or not at all.

And finally, it’s ok to share things that matter to you that aren’t directly relevant to the customer – just make sure they are broadly applicable. Imagine the “how would this play on the front page of the New York Times” test and you’ll figure out pretty quickly what not to share (and if you don’t know, ask a friend first). When you share, focus on incremental improvement. Don’t be afraid to ask customers, employees, and partners: “how can we do better”?

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