I have a really big mouth, not in the physical sense - my actual mouth is a fairly ordinary size, but in the sense that I talk a lot. Some would call me an evangelist, others would call me an early adopter, Seth Godin would call me a sneezer. The long and short of it is that I use products and services, and I actively talk about them.
What's A Sneezer?
In Seth Godin's "The Purple Cow" (which I highly recommend), Seth talks about the different types of people who buy products and services. He identifies the most important group as the Sneezers; the early adopters who use things early in the development cycle and then actively talk about them, spreading the news like a common cold. They are the catalysts of public perception... make them happy and you're half way to winning big.
I'm a Sneezer. I'm a big time Sneezer.
How To Make Sneezers Work For You (and how not to)
It's pretty easy to identify a Sneezer online: they have a blog, they tweet a lot, and they're vocal with their customer service enquiries.
How to make sneezers work for you: I'm going to be talking a lot about FreeAgent over the coming week, so consider a this a short introduction. I started using FreeAgent (on recommendation from Ryan Roberts) about a month ago to help me out with my accounts. Within 5 minutes of Tweeting about it, their lead designer (Roan Lavery) had sent me a couple of replies and to let him know if I had any problems. That same day I started getting some time-out issues, so I sent Roan a direct message and within 5 minutes he'd replied apologising and letting me know that a new server was being brought online within 2 days to help deal with the increased traffic that they were experiencing. Very nice.
Within 48 hours I was totally sold on FreeAgent, and tweeting like mad about how much I was loving it. Know what they did? Retweeted me from the official FreeAgent account, and upon my request, happily arrange a telephone call for me with the CEO to discuss how I could get my accountants to support FreeAgent (as they were showing some reluctance). I had an awesome chat with Ed at FreeAgent the next day, and also asked him about promotional opportunities to use on this very blog, which he was more than happy to go over with me. (watch this space)
Now as a result of all this, FreeAgent have already gotten 4 referrals from me, and I haven't even blogged about how much I love them yet. All I've done so far is tell all my freelance and self employed friends how awesome they are via Twitter and instant messaging.
How not to make sneezers work for you: So having become totally hooked on FreeAgent, I tried desperately to get my accountants on board to start using it with me. You see FreeAgent already has the facility to let your accountants log in, but mine refused to use it. In fact when they asked me which invoice transaction xxx was relating to, they refused to look at the FreeAgent screenshot which I sent through which contained the answer.
Over the next month they became increasingly difficult to work with, disputing everything that I said and becoming defensive when I questioned their work because FreeAgent was telling me something different. I'd just like to point out at this point that FreeAgent was right every time, and they were screwing up my accounts to a fairly large extent.
Now the kicker here is that my accountants KNOW I'm a sneezer, I've blogged about them here, I've done an interview with their president, and I've told them how much traffic I get... but they still had no interest in keeping me happy?
The result? They got fired.
But they didn't just get fired, as we've established - I have a big mouth, so I told people I fired my accountants, and a lot of them took an active interest.
Then, my tweet (right) got picked up by a well known accounting blog, who's author; Dennis Howlett also writes for ZDNet (alexa:1,500). It's a VERY interesting (short) post, and one which I totally agree with.
Here's the quote that made me most happy:
"...so what, it’s one person? Until you realize that John has more than 5,000 people in his Twitter network alone. That means he can potentially influence that number of people to not only consider using FreeAgent but, if they’re using something else, make a switch and possibly fire their accountant in the process."
Now I don't mean all that to sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet, cause in the grand scheme of things I'm not an "important" person by any means. But the key principle here is that I'm not the only sneezer around, there are more of me, and we all talk. In this day an age if you think "one person doesn't matter" - then you're living in a dream world. Dennis really gets it.
What Could They Have Done Differently?
If I was my (old) accountants, and I genuinely was not able to support my loyal customer who wanted to use this piece of accounting software, I would (without question) offer my customer a month's refund and recommend them to another accountant who I knew and trusted who did support the software.
Had my old accountants done this for me then I would have left them, but still praised them for their service.
Find A Sneezer & Make Them Happy
Sneezers are so important to small businesses, their big mouths can make or break your reputation. But they shouldn't be feared, they should be embraced. If you can make one of them happy then they will become an evangelist for your product and your company.
Photo by Phineas H