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Becoming Patient Zero

Everyone wants to go viral. Almost every company I work with or discuss buys into the concept of word of mouth marketing, or social media “sneezing,” as the best way to move their product and services to the next level of success. Their focus is external, that is, allowing the customer to market their product. Management teams and consultants, like me, often kick around “what can we do to WOW our customers?” And the customer who starts the word of mouth is patient zero for the new company idea. The more influential ( or is it influenza:)) the customer the faster the virus spreads.

Yet having a keen interest in leadership and motivation, I wonder about spreading to without what is not first spread within. Specifically, can you develop a customer WOW without developing your internal WOW?

Shouldn’t your behavior inside the company be remarkable first? Could Zappos create their viral buzz with women without first having remarkable happiness within their organization? I think not.

As Seth Godin points out over and over, remarkable is delivering beyond what is expected to the point that the receiver wonders how you did that.

And here’s how you know if you’re remarkable. Your employees and colleagues start remarking about your level of service and leadership. If you are in a leadership position, remarkable/viral service can become epidemic.; and if you are not is a leadership position, remember that virus’s are no respecter of title or position. You don’t need permission to paint your daily performance purple! Your virus may take a little longer to spread. It will spread though.

Anyone can become patient zero when they are willing to do something weird:

1)Look at your job and look who you come in contact with each day.

2) Ask yourself, ” What do they expect from me?”

3) Then ask, “what would blow their minds and exceed their expectations of me?”

4) Then go ahead and start doing those things without telling them and without looking for immediate recognition.

5) After you’ve done this for a month with one contact, repeat for a second one, and so on. Superstars are free to multi-WOW.

As your virus starts to spread, here’s the really weird part. You will start to feel “better” about yourself, your job, and your future. Internal viruses resulting from moving from a) meeting expectations to b) WOW level  performance within the company always spreads faster than outside the company. Why? Because it’s a rarer strain of the idea virus. Most people accept the “fit in first” vaccination that comes with average performance. But even that vaccination is of little use in combating your WOW virus. 

When your company first goes viral internally, who will it attract as future employees? And if your company has an internal  positive service virus, how much easier will it be to discover the next remarkable product or service for your customers? How much easier will it be to deliver on the remarkable product or service if everyone inside has the virus?

Anyone can be an inside patient zero. To paraphrase Gandhi, “You be the virus you want to see in your world.”

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