Archives for posts with tag: crm

My talk from the Clickasiasummit in Mumbai, India.

As they say: It’s easy to come up with ideas, it’s extremely hard to execute them. Case in point, below banner ad.

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Ok, the first part gets my attention: 3M will determine the perfect pocket projector for me, based on my Twitter feed. No clue, what they are analyzing, let’s give it a try. Once you type in your Twitter name, a brief message tells me they are analyzing my feed. Three keywords came up: iPad, Awareness (last post) and Social Media. And, here’s the result of their analysis.

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No explanation why that pocket projector is the perfect fit for me. I can’t even click on the ad and explore the product further on a microsite. The only thing I can do is enter a sweepstake to win a pocket projector. I guess, 3M is not really interested in selling anything to me, they want to give their product away. Oh, and get me into their CRM system. The “analysis” of my tweets doesn’t seem to be that deep or my tweets are just very ambiguous: I ran the “analysis” again and this recommendation came up.

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I morphed from a serious businessman to a family man, sharing his memories with loved ones, in a few seconds.

This is a typical problem in digital marketing

We all have been there before: A fantastic idea turns into a sub-par execution. Technology challenges, budget problems, resource limitations. Or all of them at once. It’s hard to execute a display ad that makes a difference. Brands are willing to pay millions of dollars for media buys, they still remain reluctant in signing off on a creative execution above $100k. We’re trained to believe that commercials should cost at least $500k and a display ad should be around $10-20k. That’s the reality but digital marketers don’t want to face it. There is a reason why print ads seem fresher and more creative than any display ad. Agencies have learned to play within the limitations of the print medium. Print remains a sexy medium, display ads are not sexy. They are small, look meek when presenting to client and, oh yeah, that average CTR of less than 0.1% doesn’t really help. Because they are so unsexy, digital marketers try to make them sexy by adding/tapping into new technologies. Often, without understanding them.

So, one day a digital creative presents the CD an amazing idea: “We know the target audience for each of the 4 pocket projectors. Why don’t we analyze the Twitter feed of people and recommend them the perfect projector based on their tweets?” The CD is happy, the client is happy, the account people are in heaven. Executing the creative is easy but the problem is the analysis. Damn technology. This sounded so easy and it turned into a complex task. Ah, let’s just fake/shortcut it. And, while we’re at it, let’s forget about a link to the product page of each projector. Nobody clicks on banners anyway, right? Oh, and the media agency called. Wired just offered free sweepstakes as added value to the media buy. Helps us with the engagement metrics.

Screen shot 2010-11-30 at 9.23.38 AMLast but not least, let’s make sure to add as many form fields as possible to the sweepstakes page. People should work when they want to get something for free.

It’s not that hard

  • If you ask people to share their Twitter handle with you, they expect something in return. A brief analysis of their tweets, their twitter personality. Anything. Teaming up with Twitter analytics companies could have helped to group 4 target audiences into Twitter personalities and make it a more engaging experience.
  • Always, I mean, always have a link to the product page/microsite.
  • If you want people to fill out forms, make sure the forms are integrated into the banner.
  • Less work for people is more return for your client.
  • And, most importantly, don’t get blinded by a great idea. A flawless execution of a good idea always beats a sub-par execution of a great idea. Don’t get me wrong: Always shoot for the stars. But make sure you have the right equipment (budget, resources, technology) to have a good chance to hit the stars. Or you will certainly hit the gutter.


Brands are addicted having relationships with people. They build Customer Relationship Management systems, 360 models of customer relationships, measure the number of followers and “likes”.

What kind of relationship are we talking about?

When I was 13 in summer camp, I started a “relationship” with a girl. After a few days of staring at each other, blushing and looking away, she found the courage to ask me if she could be my girlfriend. I said yes. Both of us had no clue what that meant or what the relationship of boyfriend/girlfriend entails. So, we continued to stare at each other, blush and look away. I think I held her hand once for a minute. A few days later, camp ended. We never saw each other again.

We’re dealing with the same kind of confusion when talking about relationships between people and brands. Since people don’t care that much having relationships with brands, the onus is on companies to define the desired relationships with customers before engaging with them. Is your brand a partner, an advisor, a consultant, butler, temporary guest, friend, acquaintance, enemy, drinking buddy, bro, BFF?

The rise of the Social Web has allowed to form larger number of weak social ties. And they allow us to connect with people just on the basis of shared views, preferences, ideas or “likes”. That doesn’t mean I want to hear from them daily, weekly or even monthly. Instead, I want to interact with them when they need help and I can provide them with value. Or vice versa. I would argue, that’s where most brands should start when engaging in the Social Web. Help people get things done. Be a butler. A servant. An advisor. A consultant.

And, maybe, just maybe, one day both will walk off into the fog, saying: “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


My first impression: It’s still early in the game. Very early. We’re still wrapping our head around the whole concept of VRM. Since the idea was to bring together visionaries/practitioners of VRM and CRM, the discussion often reverted back to CRM and how to monetize the customer/data. Clearly, all of us have problems transitioning from the old marketing/advertising paradigm into a new world where advertising is pure demand creation, driven by the attention economy, and relationships between brands and people fall under the VRM umbrella, purely intention driven.

CRM was designed to control customers even better. VRM is an added layer to provide customers with controls. To create an ecosystem that delivers value to all parties. Value doesn’t necessarily mean monetary value. To build all these systems to get $1 off on a deal doesn’t seem worth all the effort. The value is in creating real relationships between people and brands. By collaborating and co-creating value with customers. The future of business is in creating something more valuable and meaningful than just pure shareholder value.

As Umair Haque says in his “Smart Growth Manifesto”,

21st century economies will be powered by smart growth. Not all growth is created equal. Some kinds of growth are more valuable than others. Where dumb growth is unsustainable, unfair, and brittle, smart growth is sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

Here are the four pillars of smart growth – for economies, communities, and corporations:

1. Outcomes, not income. Dumb growth is about incomes – are we richer today than we were yesterday? Smart growth is about people, and how much better or worse off they are – not merely how much junk an economy can churn out. Smart growth measures people’s outcomes – not just their incomes. Are people healthier, fitter, smarter, happier? Economics that measure financial numbers, we’ve learned the hard way, often fail to be meaningful, except to the quants among us. It is tangible human outcomes that are the arbiters of authentic value creation.

2. Connections, not transactions. Dumb growth looks at what’s flowing through the pipes of the global economy: the volume of trade. Smart growth looks at how pipes are formed, and why some pipes matter more than others: the quality of connections. It doesn’t just look at transactions at the global, regional, or national level — how much world trade has grown, for example — but looks at how local and global relationships power invention and innovation. Without Silicon Valley’s relationships powering the development of personal computing and the internet, for example, the volume of trade between Taiwan, Japan, and China, would be a fraction of what it is. Smart growth seeks to amplify connection and community — because the goal isn’t just to trade, but to co-create and collaborate.

3. People, not product. The next time you hear an old dude talking about “product”, let him know the 20th century ended a decade ago. Smart growth isn’t driven by pushing product, but by the skill, dedication, and creativity of people. What’s the difference? Everything. Globalization driven by McJobs deskilling the world, versus globalization driven by entrepreneurship, venture economies, and radical innovation. People not product means a renewed focus on labour mobility, human capital investment, labour market standards, and labour market efficiency. Smart growth isn’t powered by capital dully seeking the lowest-cost labour — but by giving labour the power to seek the capital with they can create, invent, and innovate the most.

4. Creativity, not productivity. Uh-oh: Creativity is an economic four-letter word. Why? Because it’s hard to measure, manage, and model. So economists focus on productivity instead — and the result is dumb growth. Smart growth focuses on economic creativity – because creativity is what let us know that competition is creating new value, instead of just shifting old value around. What is economic creativity? How many new industries, markets, categories, and segments an economy can consistently create. Think China’s gonna save the world? Think again: it’s economically productive, but it’s far from economically creative. Smart growth is creative — not merely productive.”

While many VRM initiatives will be driven by innovative divisions within enterprises, the real change agent will be customers. They will be the enzyme in the evolution of VRM. We have to help them understand that tools will be soon available that give them equal footing with brands, that give them power to engage with brands on their terms. That’s a powerful message. Especially in this new normal economy, people want to extract more value out of brands than just a coupon or a silly loyalty program.

And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If done right, VRM tools will revolutionize all aspects of our lives: health care, government, education – you name it.

From what I gathered from the workshop so far:

  • We’re close to achieve data portability
  • While Doc Searls believes VRM code should be open source, I heard some dissenters
  • The value proposition for people is still too vague to excite people outside of our bubble
  • We’re too focused on transactions. Instead, we should focus on value exchanges
  • We still have to identify the change agents within organizations. Marketing? Customer Service? (Gulp) IT?
  • How can fourth parties create stakeholder value?
  • How can VRM complement legacy VRM systems?

I don’t think anybody was expecting comprehensive answers for all these questions in a workshop. On the contrary, I hope for more questions to arise on Day 2. My goal for this workshop was not to get all the answers. My goal was not to stop questioning.

Below a few Twitter highlights from Day 1:

@jyarmis: 1995: the invention of the cookie. the end.

@missrogue When we solve problems for individuals, we actually end up solving problems for businesses in the process.

@mjayliebs Search is really the entire set of activities i perform, including talking to friends, neighbors, trusted sources,oh, and google

@nitinbadjatia User driven search (VRM search) – control over input, control over output and control over who gets to help you

@glfceo enterprises trying to predict customers intents will fail

@joeandrieu John McKean: the real challenge is the behavioral one: will individuals move from a CRM-directed world to a self-directed one?

@joshuakahn yeah, a lot of the stuff I’m hearing here is early, but actually alot farther along than I thought.

@missrogue With VRM, I have the opportunity to say, “You earn my trust and I’ll give you the key to all of my information.”

@kevinmarks Josh Weinberger: who are the best communicators in your org? your support people. Why get them off the phone to customers?

@mkrisgman Business is based on exchange of value, power, expectation, and degrees of valuation.

@mjayliebs VRM and CRM are whole lot closer to each other than people think – the gap is culture and understanding as much as principle

@DeanLand For VRM enterprise level uptake: leverage data, show benefits (aka: enable the information) create a VRM ecosystem.

@nhbaldwin vrm offers the vendor a b2b relationship, tighter personalization, with the consumer

@candres this is the confluence of intention and solicitation.

@joshuakahn cookies; designed to be low level machine ID’s, not useful for human ID’s, no matter how you bake ’em. <- Craig Burton

@jyarmis privacy is only as good as the number of people you can be confused for

Looking forward to Day 2


I proposed a keynote entitled “Let’s kill advertising and start over.” The keynote will explore the journey beginning with CRM to Social CRM to my hope for the future: VRM.

In brief, VRM gives people the power to interact with brands on their terms. People will regain ownership of their personal data and decide themselves who they want to share this information with. This has many advantages for all stakeholders:

  • It gives companies a much better understanding of the market, reducing the waste of the current guessing game we call advertising
  • Data is not housed in silos, allows for more opportunities to interconnect systems
  • VRM is based on opt-in, improving trust between brands and people. Increasing likelihood they will be open to your message
  • It opens the market up for real competition
  • VRM is the perfect companion for the evolving prosumer.

Here are a few more thoughts about VRM: Let’s leapfrog from Social CRM to VRM and Edison, Insull and planning for the future of VRM.

VRM is a logical evolution of the inefficient seller-buyer relationship we’re experiencing each and every day.

Does a world ruled by VRM need advertising?

Yes. But we need a big reset.

The advertising industry is in an arms race with people right now. Gather as many data points as possible, hoping for more relevancy, and then let’s hunt down the target. Banner Blindness? Let’s add bigger ads to the mix. Declining Engagement Rate? Hide the close button, design the ad and page in a way that people have to engage. Declining metrics always lead to more disruption. To new ways to segment people. To annoy them more. That mindset has to go. And I don’t know many people who would cry if the disruption race would finally take its last lap.

That doesn’t mean advertising will disappear. VRM will help advertising to have a very profitable renaissance.

I love good advertising. And I can’t stand bad advertising. I’m pretty sure most people feel that way.

  • Good advertising gives me valuable input for my decision-making process. I would like to find out about new products through an entertaining commercial
  • And, if that commercial pays for a good network show, even better
  • Some ads (just look at fashion magazines) provide an emotional and cultural undertone, and change the way I feel about myself, the world and the product. Sure, it’s superficial. But true. Can you imagine seeing an Old Navy ad in Vogue? What would that do to your connection with the magazine?

To create demand for a product/service, we need good advertising. (And better marketing) But not top-down advertising driven by data silos. We need to develop new ways to advertise to people, incorporating co-creation and collaboration. By regarding people as partners and not targets. By showing respect to people (opt-in) and not as victims (opt-out).

The combination of VRM and an advertising reset is just plain exciting and offers benefits to everybody. More people need to join the conversation and discuss the implications of VRM for all stakeholders. And, that’s why I want to speak about VRM at SXSWi.

Interested? Please vote for the keynote here


I was just reading Nicholas Carr’s “The Big Switch”, especially intrigued by the chapter discussing Edison and Insull. As a brief reminder:

Unlike many inventors, Edison didn’t just invent individual products; he created entire systems. This sets him way above lesser inventors who focused on products first before they tackled integrating these new inventions into the overall system. Edison first imagined the whole, then he built the necessary pieces, making sure they all fit together seamlessly. Edison talking about the vision of his electricity system:

“It was not only necessary that the lamps should give light and the dynamos generate current. but the lamps must be adapted to the current of the dynamos, and the dynamos must be constructed to give the character of current required by the lamps, and likewise all parts of the system must be constructed with reference to all other parts, since, in one sense, all the parts form one machine.”

To develop this system, Edison had to pursue technological breakthroughs in every major component of the system. He had to pioneer a way to produce electricity efficiently in large quantities, a way to transmit the current safely to homes and offices, a way to measure each customer’s use of the current, and finally, a way to turn the current into controllable, reliable light suitable for normal living spaces. And he had to make sure that he could sell electric light at the same price as gaslight and still turn a profit.

Despite his visionary genius, Edison couldn’t see beyond his licensing and components business. It took an employee of Edison, Samuel Insull, to perfect the economics of the technological system. What Insull understood was that utility-supplied electricity could serve a far greater range of needs than it had up to then. Electricity could become a true general purpose technology, used by businesses and homeowners to run all kinds of machines and appliances. But, for electricity and electric utilities to fulfill their destiny, the way power was produced, distributed and consumed would need to be transformed. Insull’s biggest challenge would lie in convincing industrial businesses that they should stop producing their own power and instead buy it as a service from central plants.

Which brings me to VRM.

Doc Searls just posted a few blog posts, discussing the state of VRM. Check them out here, here, here and here.

We’re in the early stages of VRM. In Edison terms, we’re about to invent indascent light. We’re still far away from developing systems and even further from integrating these systems for Fortune 500 companies, dramatically changing their business model. That leaves us with some time to think through and discuss what systems need to be developed to make this a smoother transition. Much smoother than the disruption experienced in the music and overall publishing industry.


According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, global ad revenue will climb to a half trillion dollar business by 2014. That’s a lot of revenue. A lot of jobs. And, even more important, deep integration into the overall fabric of our global society. What will happen to all of that when VRM takes off and becomes the dominant expression of the marketplace? What will advertising transform into? How can advertising support the VRM concept? Doc Searls states that “the amount of advertising that does nothing for customers is usually close to one hundred percent.” (I don’t agree with that statement at all. Good advertising still delivers value to people and creates demand. And always will. Unfortunately, good advertising is rare these days.) How, as a community can we bridge this gap between Doc Searls statement and the advertising industry? I’m concerned that pushing advertisers into a partisan corner might lead to obstruction and pointless territory fights. Instead, we should work collaboratively with advertisers how to make the VRM model work for each stakeholder.

It might be my own bias as a life-long marketer but I don’t believe the attitude “Marketing messes everything up” is productive and won’t get us where we want to be.

Sunk-Cost Fallacy

Rob Knight wrote brilliantly about the challenges of persuading companies happy with the current Status Quo to consider VRM as a viable concept. Larger enterprises have invested billions in CRM systems they expect to improve their ROI for decades to come. Executives have put their career on the line believing in these systems, convincing boards to spend a pretty dime. For VRM to become more than a niche concept, we need to convince Fortune 50 companies to buy into this concept. We can’t just rely on small companies with limited resources for CRM systems to create a groundswell that will force global enterprises to participate. We have to develop systems that help CRM-centric enterprises to transition into the VRM world. For many companies, Social Media was just another Second Life until the big boys (Ford, Best Buy, etc.) showed up. Doc Searls makes a good argument that VRM gives CRM systems more to relate to, and we’re not fighting a religious fight of CRM vs. VRM. Still, as we experienced with the advent of digital marketing and its challenges to be a partner on the marketing table, there are struggles ahead with people staying on the pure CRM side as long as they can. And we should be prepared for it.

Human Nature

One of the pillars of VRM is the ability of individuals to take charge of their data instead of managing them via a platform and exchanging that data for the functionality that the platform might provide. For VRM to succeed, adoption rate has to be huge. And that concerns me. We rely a lot on the willingness of individuals to participate and co-create these new systems. Let’s not forget: intelligent people post their full birth date on Facebook and check frequently on Foursquare into their own homes. My point: We can’t just rely on the individual. We have to take into account human nature which often includes laziness and carelessness. We need to invite anthropologists and behavioral psychologists into the discussion and allow them to help us in the effort. Some of this will happen organically since the VRM discussion starts to flare up more and more. But some organic planning for a more collaborative development wouldn’t hurt.

Warren Bennis once said:

“Innovation – any new idea – by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.”

Right about now, we need the courageous patience of Samuel Insull.