For me, it was like a perfect storm.
I was reading the pre-publication version of Curation Nation, Steve Rosenbaum’s impressive book on web curation as a business strategy. My friend Aaron Strout [l] has suggested I post a blog on the very same subject.
Simultaneously, I’m still pondering how people are influenced on the Web and I’m seeing curation as just about the most effective way to do it.
Curation can guide people through the perfect storm they face when looking for stuff that is valuable and interesting to them at a particular point in time.
Let’s back up.
Time was when the word “curator” referred to an old and probably eccentric guy in a museum. He found interesting and useful stuff to display for museum visitors. The best museums enjoy that status, because–among other reasons–they have the best curators. But then there are others. They have always been there. There’s your computer buddy who advises you on the best stuff to buy and how to work around annoying bugs. There’s the neighbor who helps you with home improvement problems.
You have friends who help you with movies, theater, music and restaurants. Each of them is a topical curator. They examine stuff and recommend it. They probably have more influence on what you buy, where you shop, where you travel and even who you vote for than all the add and marketing messages that get inserted in front of your eyes or get shouted at you as you go through life.
That brings us to the internet, a place that has more stuff on display and more places to go than 1000 Smithsonians or all the airline routes in the world.
We all need curation, and that brings us to Rosenbaum and his book. His central point is that businesses would do better if they stopped trying to produce their own content all the time and just become a resource to point customers to cool stuff.
To me that goes to the real issue of influence. In almost every topic important to me, there are different folk who show me the way to good stuff. The better the stuff is, the more I return. The more I return, the more I trust them and the more loyal I become. When I can help them, financially or with information I have, I will jump through hoops to help.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your customers wanted to do that for you?
I used to speak a lot with Robert Scoble. He’d often tell the story of his first job as a salesperson in a camera store. He would often tell shoppers theycould get a better deal on a particular item through a competitor. He might lose the sale, but he would gain a customer, one who would trust him to curate them through the complex world of camera equipment.
In the long term, it pays off big time. Your prospects will visit your site before your competitor’s site. They will buy from you when it makes sense, and they will most likely come back and try to buy from you again–after you pointed them over to a competing site.
It is a form of what I call lethal generosity. Help your customer, even at your own expense by showing them the best possibilities for their needs and you will absolutely screw your competitor every time, even when the competitor gets the single sale.