“Managing relationships, not each other”

by jonl

I’ve become a fan, adherent, and hopefully participant in Project VRM – Vendor Relationship Management – a practical extension of the Cluetrain Manifesto coordinated by Doc Searls as fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center. I have a lot more to say about Project VRM in future posts – essentially it’s about establishing (restoring?) a symmetrical relationship between customers and vendors. Doc describes this in a post following last week’s Internet Identity Workshop as “managing relationships, not each other.” I wanted to post that link asap. Here’s the opening paragraph, which gives you an idea why this is important thinking:

During the Industrial Age, the power asymmetry between vendor and customer got so steep that vendors got to talking about customers as if the latter were cattle or slaves. Customers became “targets” that vendors “captured,” “acquired,” “locked in” and “managed.” As the Information Age dawned, however, customers gradually became more independent. So, midway into the second decade of the new millennium, customers were no longer the ones being managed. Nor, however, were vendors. Instead, relationship itself was managed by both parties.

This gets to my issue about broadcast media, which includes broadcast strategies deployed in “social media” contexts, which we see often enough to know that the cluetrain hasn’t quite left the station. Marketing culture doesn’t warm to symmetrical, interactive customer engagement – for many marketing professionals, a VRM approach feels inefficient and cedes too much control to the customer (though VRM is about finding technologies that make the interactions more efficient). I’m building my practice around facilitating relationships (businesses/customers, ngos/constituents – I’m especially interested in the latter, working with mission-driven organizations).

Out of time for now, but more to come.

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