Be Time Wise When Providing Wisdom

by | Sep 19, 2010 | Blog | 0 comments

“Time is more important than money,” Adrian Ott says in her fascinating new book, The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy.

The book focuses on why and how companies can strategically “harness the ebbs and flows of customer time and attention” so they can win over customers in today’s extremely competitive marketplace.

And what a competitive marketplace it is! Consumer choices in virtually every product category have increased dramatically in the last 30 years. Yet, the time we spend shopping is stagnant. On average, U.S. consumers (including business people) devote just 2.81% of our waking hours to researching, evaluating, and purchasing products and services, according to research cited in the book.

To explain the economics of time and attention for products and how to take advantage of them, Adrian provides tools such as Time-Value Tradeoffs and the Time-ographics Framework. The latter is a clever quadrant to differentiate how customers allocate their time and attention among different products and services.

For example, customers are willing to spend the most time and attention on products they find motivating. These “time magnets” include Nike+ iPod Sport, Webkinz, Disney World, and other products that help provide status, pursue personal pursuits, and gain acceptance with family and friends.

By contrast, customers want to minimize the time and attention with value products. These are defined as commodities–standard products you need. You tend to buy them based on price because the product features either don’t vary or you can’t distinguish among them.

The other two quadrants are convenience and habits. Convenience products are low time yet high attention, such as FedEx. Habit quadrants are low attention yet high time, such as Google Search, toothpaste and other sundries, and cell phone and cable companies.

For each of the quadrants, Adrian defines the new rules that apply to establishing and maintaining a position there. She also suggests tools to use to help companies succeed in those positions.

So what about the implications for those of us who provide services rather than products?

And time-sensitive services at that? Namely those who provide our time to counsel others who are even more starved for time than we are—leaders of organizations?

Here are some of my thoughts about how we trusted, strategic advisors should consider time.

1. Be extremely conscious of how you use leaders’ time. Keep in mind the money value of time, not the time value of money. We work with people who have more money than time and cherish their discretionary time.

2. Measure the value you provide and the impact you make, not the amount of time you spend with leaders. If you can make a difference in seconds and minutes rather than hours, you could be worth your weight in gold to them.

3. Look for trigger events that will give you an opening to provide needed advice. For example, if you sense an emerging issue or are aware of a situation in which the leader could benefit by speaking out or participating, take the initiative. Show him or her what to do and explain the benefits.

4. Be convenient to work with. In other words, make yourself available so the leaders feel they are controlling their time, not you. Let them lead the relationship in terms of setting times to meet or talk. Contact them in their preferred communication channel, such as phone or email. Avoid any extra steps they need to take. Work with their assistant if that’s easier for them.

5. Become a habit. By being convenient to work with as well as providing high-quality, trustworthy advice, you may be able to become indispensible. You’ll have a high time/value tradeoff. Breaking in a new advisor would be perceived as too time consuming, not worthy of the switchover cost.

In our information overload world, those who can better cut through the clutter to harness information and time can enjoy a competitive advantage.

How are you managing time these days?

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