I admit, when I started reading this book I was skeptical. I’m a social media pro. I thought I knew all about it. But no, as it turned out, I really had to read Jim Blasingame’s new book The Age of the Customer. And, if you’re running a business (or thinking about business), so do you.

Jim Blasingame The Age of the Customer

I started this book in the airport waiting for the first flight of a business trip, thinking I was reading it because Jim is a good friend, a smart guy, and one of the best small business journalists around. I’m on his radio show The Small Business Advocate whenever he invites me.

As I got into it I discovered that I couldn’t put it down. Page after page, story after story, Jim puts general concepts into specific context that affects me and my business. The big picture is fascinating—the whole business landscape is changing and this is large perspective. And the details are practical and actionable.

The subtitle is “Prepare for the moment of relevance.” When I read this story (quoted here exactly as it is in the book) I realized how important that is:

An executive is traveling to meet with Customers in their city. As she checks in late at the hotel, she realizes she didn’t make reservations for a lunch meeting the next day. She is aware of three restaurants in the area and has a preference, but at 11pm, before she goes to bed, she needs to know that she has a place reserved to take her Customers to lunch tomorrow.

Opening her laptop, she searches for her preferred restaurant and finds that it doesn’t have a website, just a listing in “Area Restaurants.” Even though a phone number is listed, it’s now after closing time.

Her next search finds that the other two restaurants both have websites, but only one had after-hours reservations capability. Even though the latter restaurant would not have been competitive by Age of the Seller standards–higher prices, limited menu and not as convenient–it was more relevant to this Customer because it made itself available 24/7/365. Consequently, relevance trumped competitiveness and they got the business.

That story snapped the lightbulb on for me. Relevance is real, and it’s the future of our business. Yours and mine. Jim lays it out with data, research, checklists, specific recommendations, and—by far the most useful—a series of true stories that make it come alive.

So I ended up devouring the book on that one trip. And recommending it for people I work with—even buying it for a couple of them. Read it.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.