Originally posted at ZuberRants

Remember the old small business customer service mentality?  Where pleasing the customer came FIRST, and the need to delight them was “a given” not an option?   Great news – it’s back (or at least on its way back)!

The democratizing nature of social media has returned power to the customer, making Brand Advocates one of our strongest marketing assets.  If we want to share their power (not take it!), we need to adopt customer service as the new way of marketing – or “unmarketing,” a term mentioned by Brian Solis in the introduction to his book Engage, and Scott Stratten details extensively in his blog and book UnMarketing.

Considering this power shift, the #1 question we should be asking our Brand Advocates is “How may I serve you?” Ask early and ask often.

This “How may I serve you?” question shows our Advocates that we are back on the customer service bandwagon, and just as importantly, it keeps us in check.   If you aren’t ready to make “How may I serve you?” your priority question, consider these implications for use:

1.  It flattens the traditional hierarchy of “push” messaging, giving even more power to our Advocates.  The more power our Advocates have, the more power our brand has.

2.  It reminds us to arm our Advocates with tools for evangelizing in their own way. Side benefit: those tools are also of great value internally in our organizations!

3.  It reminds us of the necessary two-way street of communication between us and our Brand Advocates.  The era of mutually beneficial brand-Advocate relationships is here – let it work for you, your brand and your Advocates!

4.  It reminds us that our egos need to turn the spotlight over to our Brand Advocates. The success and impact of our product or service is not about how muchwe love it, but about how it “serves” our customer.

5.  It gives us direction for innovation. When we know what our Brand Advocates want more of (or less of), we have a blueprint for change.  We have unprecedented access to the needs and desires of our market – why would we even consider not tapping into that??

So here’s your new 4-word marketing strategy for 2011: Guess Less, Ask More… and always start with “How can I serve you?”

Ted Rubin Ted has a deep online background beginning in 1997 with Seth Godin, as CMO of e.l.f. Cosmetics, & recently as Chief Social Marketing Officer, Open Sky

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