Saturday mornings is farmer market’s day Guarulhos, Brazil, where I grew up. My mom is a customer of this particular meat stand for more than 35 years now.
Last week I was in Brazil and woke up early on Saturday to accompany her grocery shopping for the week.
When we arrived at the meat stand, the butcher greeted mom and looked at me. After a few seconds of puzzlement, he smiled. “The boy who went to college and then moved to California!” (in the community where I grew up, going to college is memorable).
He immediately left what he was doing, cleared the edge of the stand and pulled a few boxes to improvise a coffee table. He then got a thermos from his pack under the counter and served three cups of coffee. Made us sit there and asked me how I had been.
That is a portion of the world frozen in time. My mom doesn’t use a bankcard. The food sellers know what she buys every week and some still remember that I used to follow her as a child along those aisles 35 years ago.
Brazil is changing fast and Carrefour and Walmart are building giant supermarkets all over the country as fast as they can, selling meats in much flashier (and probably more sanitary) facilities.
Business is no longer like it was in the good old times.
Or is it? As most of the world is still shifting from relationship-based business to a marketing-driven business models, in Social Media circles and Enterprise 2.0 conferences the talk is about a new era of “Social Business”, where companies invest on building personal relationships and creating positive customers experiences and trust that “marketing” will take care of itself if we our job well.
Happy customers tell others about their experiences and bring their friends. That is how business has always been done.
I certainly don’t expect the butcher at a Carrefour store to remember me after 35 years and invite me for coffee. But companies who spend more energy promoting themselves than understanding and addressing customer’s needs will not survive in an era where consumers recover the ability to influence each other via Social Media in a similar way as they did in small communities.
And, if you grew up in a small community, I suggest you go back to some old store of the past and see how business is still done there. You might learn more about business than at an Enterprise 2.0 conference.