[I just posted an answer to questions raised by Al and Max in the comment thread under the Go from hell post. But when I hit “submit”, nothing happened. When I went back and hit “submit” again, WordPress told me I’d posted the comment already. I tried another browser. Still not there. So I copied it, expanded it, and posted it below.]

Al said,

  Also thinking about VRM as coming from the reciprocal of CRM, maybe thats the wrong approach. Maybe we should be looking for the reciprocal of advertising ? i.e. something more aggressive and direct in the same way that advertising rudely interrupts our attention, maybe we can rudely interrupt the producers attention.

That’s appealing at an emotional level, but I don’t think VRM can work if it’s a reciprocal either of advertising or of CRM as we know it today. But at least with CRM we have something that respects the ideal of relationships.We need to be able to relate to vendors. Being rude or aggressive isn’t a good place to start.

Max said,

  I agree with your spirit, but I’m struggling with the notion of “creating the tools to serve me versus them and on my terms.” I think I would like some of those tools! But I wonder if there’s a paradox. When those tools are created, and then achieve success with real scale and impact, don’t they assume high propensity to become what you’re arguing against in the first place — big companies trying to serve many, with a desire to grow bigger? Every big, evil company started as an ambition, an idea, then became a small business, then a mid-size business, then a big business. Regarding tools, what about the all-important individualist tool of voting with your wallet, or voting with your attention? Is there not an ongoing erosion of the monopolies that big companies once had on information, essentially empowering individuals to vote with their wallets and attention more effectively — at least for the subset of society which chooses to?

The tools I’m talking about here are not ones big companies can control. I’m talking about tools like the open source suite that started with Linux and Apache and now includes several hundred thousand hunks of code that approach (even if they do not technically achieve) the NEA ideal: Nobody owns it, Everybody can use it, Anybody can improve it.

There is no giant Apache company. Nor even a giant Linux company. There are large companies that take advantage of both Linux and Apache, however. IBM, Google and Amazon, for example. But they do not control those code bases.

Also, I am not arguing against “big companies trying to serve many, with a desire to grow bigger”. If they do that by serving customers respectfully and well, I don’t care. Instead I’m arguing against companies of any size continuing to relate to customers as “consumers” that can be herded into CRM-maintained silos like cattle, or assaulted with endless “messages” the vast majority of which are irrelevant, no matter how well “targeted” they are.

And yes, we do vote with our wallets, but we need to give companies more than a wallet to relate to. And we can’t depend just on sellers to give us that “more”. That’s what we have with loyalty programs, for example. They provide fancy and sometimes fun ways of relating to them (and to each other) inside their silos. Airlines are good at the former, and Amazon and Facebook are good at the latter. But we’re still just talking about silos here. The data we accumulate in those silos is too often theirs, not ours. My Netflix movie reviews cannot be shared with Yahoo’s. My shopping choices, presumably recorded by the grocery store in some database somewhere, are theirs, not mine. And, in the absence of a true relationship, the data we provide too often gets used in ways that are annoying for everybody. Loyalty cards, for example, inconvenience the buyers (one more card to carry in the wallet, one more fob for the keychain), slow down the check-out line, force the seller to provide dual pricing for countless SKUs — and then give the buyer a receipt with a discount on the back for stuff the buyer just bought.

Buyer-side tools would be independent of sellers, and would provide sellers with better clues for serving buyers than would ever come from any locked-down CRM system.

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3 Responses to Answers

  1. Al says:

    Your probably right Doc and I find being rude hard work personally , but many (this is changing) companies are still insistent on sending us messages post cluetrain. In these cases we may have to send messages back for them to actually get it.


  2. Doc Searls says:

    Well, we do the best we can, however we can, in the current systerm. Or lack of one.

  3. Al says:

    Doc you might find this idea interesting it’s called satisfaction they have only just started their beta : . There is an obvious cross over with VRM ideas, and I think it’s an interesting angle.


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