My mindset and thought process to write this article primarily come from three books I've read this year: The Icarus Deception and This Is Marketing by Seth Godin and Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—And Keep—Friends by Marisa G. Franco Ph.D. All fabulous books that explain and teach you how to thrive in The Connection Economy.
What is the Connection Economy?
The below definition is from Forbes, and it captures the heart of the connection economy and the qualities that drive it.
"The connection economy is the economy of prosperity, collaboration and infinite possibilities. It's the vision of an economic ecosystem, a complex network of interconnected systems built on trust, value alignment and reciprocity.
As society continues to evolve beyond the industrial economy and the information economy, we are seeing personal connection, trust and authentic relationships emerge to become valuable commodities. This economy is significantly different from those that came before because inherent in this economy is the connection to a deeper sense of community, purpose and meaning over mass production, competition and consumption.
This is a key difference from the aggressive winner-takes-all approach to the old way the world works. The connection economy is driven by qualities such as generosity, collaboration, cooperation, communication and sharing. This new way of operating provides a fresh perspective for solving today's toughest problems in business, education, sustainability, politics, and government."
How to connect: Start with you
Start with yourself: good therapy and self-awareness. Therapy teaches you how to live as a human being and how to suffer less.
If you find true connection difficult, don't worry—so does every human who has had more unsafe connection experiences than safe and positive connection experiences. Our brains direct us to a state of comfort; what is comfortable for us is our current mindset. If your mindset lives in a state of fear of vulnerability, your comfort zone is currently in a state of trauma responses. This is why all positive change starts with your internal mindset. If you constantly live in a state of trauma responses, your body will physically block your mindset from changing for fear of leaving the comfort zone that kept you safe for so many years. Vulnerability is the key to building connections.
How to establish connection
Establishing a connection starts with showing vulnerabilities by communicating your honest thoughts, ideas and feelings. The quality of the connection development depends on the quality of communication. The delivery and engagement of all people involved reflect the quality of communication.
Your body and mind cannot physically communicate with the intelligent part of your brain—the cortex—without awareness of internal emotional triggers. The information will get lost in your limbic level. According to the book What Happened to You? By Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey, the way our brain takes information is from the bottom up: brainstem -> Diencephalon -> Limbic -> Cortex, as illustrated in the graphic below.
The struggle with communication from one human to another is you have to get information from your cortex to another human's cortex. We are emotional beings before we are intellectual beings, meaning the information has to flow through the limbic level to reach the cortex.
Picture the plot of a movie where human beings connect, and their relationship strengthens. What causes this? Vulnerability through communication leads to connection.
Why build your company around the connection economy?
Let's consider a situation to illustrate the importance of the connection economy in business. Say you need to patch a tire. Certain tire stores will patch for free—just schedule an appointment online. But once you get there, an employee tries to convince you to buy a new tire. This is exactly the kind of experience customers don't want.
Now, let's say you're renting a car and accidentally booked it for Portland, Oregon, while standing at the airport in Portland, Maine (this happens often and daily). The kind person at the rental car counter responds, "Don't worry, I've got you." They get you a nice hybrid for $150 less than you were planning on paying and answers all your questions honestly and efficiently. This is an example of precisely the kind of experience a customer wants. The employee knows exactly how to solve your problem with a quality solution.
Here's another example: have you ever shopped for something you knew very little about? When I first started ordering coffee, I had no idea what I liked or what to order. It all looked like a different language to me. All of you non-Starbucks people might resonate with this.
During a slow afternoon, I saw an opportunity and built up the courage to ask a barista to explain the menu. (As a recovering people pleaser, asking for help is difficult) I walked out of that coffee shop with the most delicious iced coffee I'd ever had, plus knowledge of what was in it and how to make it at home. I felt good about tipping more than 350% because I was smarter and more competent leaving that connection.
Every interaction is an opportunity for connection and contributes to your brand reputation.
Connection causes change. Everyone you interact with is changed forever. The only questions are: how will they be different? And how different will they be? – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
"Connection affects who we are, and who we are affects how we connect." – Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D., Platonic
Building your business to thrive in the connection economy
The people in your company make up the culture. As your people change, your culture changes. As your culture changes, your clients change. Your culture and how you market it will course your future outcomes. How well you develop your company culture correlates with how you enter the connection economy. I believe everyone can learn to enter the connection economy. It takes honest, kind, intentional leadership.
Start with getting a cross-functional team together to answer the question, "What would I want?" to every problem you want solved. Engage with your clients to bring them with you on the journey. They'll learn something about their own business while helping you with yours. Then distribute the marketing of your culture.
We make connections. Humans are lonely, and they want to be seen and known. People want to be part of something. It's safer that way, and often more fun.
We create experiences. Using a product, engaging with a service. Making a donation, going to a rally, calling customer service. Each of these actions is part of the story; each builds a little bit of our connection. As a marketers, we can offer these experiences with intent, doing them on purpose. The entire organization works for and with the marketer, because marketing is all of it. What we make, how we make it, who we make it for. It is all the effects and the side effects, of the pricing and the profit, all at once. – Seth Godin, This Is Marketing
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As a Solutions Advisor for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Megan works to provide the highest level of client service to existing and new clients through building and maintaining relationships. Her primary focus is on Vendor/Sponsor relationships. Megan is passionate about helping clients excel through Boomer Consulting Services.