Confused? Consider Rox’s 180 Rule

iStock_000002029756XSmall-red-cycleWhen I am doing social web training these days, at least once or twice an hour I implement what I call “Rox’s 180 Rule.” It is very simple, though not always comfortable to implement. As people and companies are learning how to participate on social networks, deciding what sorts of content to create, or even how to set pricing for web-based services, they initially experience that nervous pit in the stomach that comes from a lack of knowledge in the space. Travelers know this angst well – will I be scammed by unscrupulous merchants and fall into a tourist trap?

Most companies tend to move into research mode at this point and seek out what others are doing or attempt to guess what others would want. They find safety in being a copycat, even though that cuts off a key source of creativity right at the beginning: your own experience and understanding. The faster life moves, the less I rely on formal research. It’s something I am exploring in my personal life as well.

Instead I often recommend using the 180 Rule. Simply turn the tables and think of yourself as the customer. What would you want? How would you want to be treated? How much information is too little or too much? What would you be willing to pay? What does that road look like from behind your own eyes?

The old hierarchies of the marketplace are gone now. Anyone can be a publisher, a reviewer, even a service provider. No one entity is in charge of your brand. Thanks to blogging and Twitter, even people who have never used your products can have more influence on buying than any other marketing channel! You can use this peership to your advantage though.

Bruce Fisher of runs a highly personalized travel service here in Hawaii and competes very successfully with the mega online travel agencies like Orbitz and Travelocity. Not only does he use internet platforms smartly he also understands the value of providing local and personal service. He gives what he wants to get: live customer service from people who actually live in Hawaii.

Likewise, 37 Signals, a very successful tech company that proves daily you can charge for your web-based apps, implements the 180 rule in their pricing strategies. They do often have the luxury of creating products with little initial competition. But even when entering such competitive spaces as online jobs, they rely on their own perspective: “What would I be willing to pay for this service and believe to be getting a good value?”

I think the side benefit of this 180 rule is that your business more organically attracts the type of customers who are a good fit for the things you are creating and selling. It’s one more aspect of having genuine conversations with the marketplace, starting in your own office and radiating from there.

Life can be this simple. Look at the situation from 180 degrees—not what would they want but what would you want—the next time you feel confused about how to proceed.