Markets were born when humans chose to acquire what they needed by trading with each other rather than producing it themselves or taking from someone else by force. The moment of proto-market conception was when the first seller offered to trade with the first customer, and that offer was accepted.

For millennia, this marketplace dance was as beautifully simple as it was exquisitely effective, having at its nucleus three primary elements:

1. The product, controlled by the seller

2. Information about the product, also controlled by the seller

3. The buying decision, controlled by the customer

From that first transaction, when shells were the reserve currency, to about 1995AD, the marketplace dance was performed zillions of times with little variation. I’ve termed this period “The Age of the Seller,” because the Seller controlled two of the three elements.

Then something happened that had not occurred for 10,000 years: A new age – I call it The Age of the Customer®.

This new Age was born as micro-computers and associated innovations converged with high-speed Internet and associated applications. As this convergence shifts marketplace paradigms, it conveys the balance of power from the seller to the customer.

The millennia-old marketplace dance is still beautifully simple. But when the dancers come together in the Age of the Customer, a new leader emerges, because control of the three major relationship elements has changed:

1. Products and services are still controlled by the Seller.

2. Information – including customer experiences – is now easily and abundantly available to the Customer without being controlled, filtered or distributed by the Seller.

3. The buying decision is still controlled by the Customer.

The Age of the Seller is succumbing to the new Age as customers resist the restrictions of the former Age and embrace the empowerment of the new. During this transition period, Sellers are operating in parallel universes, but not for long.

Your small business is now operating in a new age where customers rule. They like this new-found empowerment, and increasingly expect sellers to connect with them on Age of the Customer terms. Sellers that transition to the new Age with their customers will be successful. Hidebound sellers, nostalgic for when they had control, will become irrelevant and perish.

Write this on a rock … It’s the Age of the Customer – your world has changed.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning new book, “The Age of the Customer®: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance” www.AgeoftheCustomer.com .

Jim is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and founder and president of Small Business Network, Inc. www.SmallBusinessAdvocate.com . He’s the founder and host of the syndicated weekday radio program, “The Small Business Advocate® Show,” where for more than 16 years he has conducted over 1,000 live interviews annually with his “Brain Trust,” the largest community of small business experts in the world.

©2014 Small Business Network, Inc.