It’s not uncommon for me to get the questions, what looks interesting to you these days? … or where are you focused? Since joining Mozilla, I’ve filtered pretty much all of my knowledge and history with “user empowerment” and the area I keep coming back to is the quiet but growing VRM space. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s Vendor Relationship Management, the opposite and complimentary tool of CRM: Customer Relationship Management.
The VRM conversation is being championed by Doc Searls of Harvard Berkman Center but at this point, the ecosystem is growing larger than the one individual. You might recognize Doc’s name as he was one of the authors of the book, Cluetrain Manifesto and followed it up with The Intention Economy.
In the beginning of The Intention Economy, Doc posits that soon, customers will be able to:
- Control the flow and use of personal data
- Build their own loyalty programs
- Dictate their own terms of service
- Tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it, and how much it should cost
When you think about these four points, they empower the customer/user and play nicely into the idea of VRM. Joe Mandese, a VRM list subscriber and all around amazing MediaPost Editor-in-Chief wrote a piece recently titled: Acronymity: The Three Most Important Letters You’ve Never Heard Of. In this piece, Mandese writes about the shift from brands at center to users at center of the value equation.
Per the above points and Mandese’s piece, you’ll start to see some consistency around empowering the user.
On Madison Avenue, there is a lot of talk about empowering the user but the funny thing is, it’s done completely opaque, without user permission (or with permission under a ton of legalese), and the user has been given no access to their data…. among many other things.
Social media has pushed us a little closer to a world of VRM….incrementally- but at least in the right direction. In social channels, users have a voice – one that can be exponentially radiated. If I have a bad experience on Delta, a simple 140 character tweet can help solve the problem where not-so-long-ago, it took a penned letter and weeks of waiting to hear back from them.
In The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuck writes, now customers’ demands for authenticity, originality, creativity, honesty, and good intent have made it necessary for companies and brands to revert to a level of customer service rarely seen since our great-grandparents’ day, when business owners often knew their customers personally, and gave them individual attention.
The power of social media (individual voices) and VRM (individuals being empowered, commercially or otherwise) will put us ahead in the next decade. It’s a bigger opportunity than search (SEM*). So, this is where I’m focused for now and hiring people and meeting people who want to experiment here. If you do, please contact me.
* SEM: probably one of the purest forms of intentcasting which plays into the VRM space but is not entirely the VRM space.