I just finished Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, The Thank You Economy, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’s trying to make sense of what’s going on online right now, anyhow who has questions like: do Twitter and Facebook really mean anything? Should I invest in these tools to build my business? Can I really use these tools to stand out and to build strong relationships?
His forceful, compelling argument is that the game has changed forever. Business used to be a small-town endeavor, where word of mouth spread quickly and where you had to treat all of your customers right – even the elderly woman who never bought much, because the hammer would fall on you if word got out that you treated her wrong. Then big companies and mass marketing and TV advertising on 3 channels came, and for 50 years it made perfect economic sense for businesses to be impersonal and not to care. And now we’re back to a world in which the only way to succeed is to build powerful, one-on-one relationships with our customers – the elderly woman has morphed into the person commenting on Yelp, posting to her blog, or tweeting to her 100,000 followers about how great or terrible your product or service was.
I found the book to be incredibly optimistic – Gary’s breathless enthusiasm is contagious, it is filled with enough practical examples to be actionable, and he pulls the lens back just enough to let you see that there’s something bigger going on than people uploading twitpics of their grilled cheese sandwiches. One on one communication is back, it’s still in its infancy, and folks who wake up to this fact now will have an incredible lead on their competitors.
Gary’s case studies bring things to life. He shares how, for a while, restaurant-reviewer Zagat’s missed the social media boat and, in so doing, allowed Yelp to build a site with 25 million unique visitors in December 2009 (to Zagat.com’s 270,000); this same month Yelp turned down a $550 million offer from Google and a $700 million offer from Microsoft (Zagat tried to sell for $200 million in January 2008 with no takers). He describes the over-the-top efforts of Joie de Vivre hotel employees to make guests feels at home and special. He surprises with stories of a dentist in San Francisco named Irena Vaksman who built her practice through online marketing; and a lawyer (a lawyer!) named Hank Heyming whose firm let him tweet and blog under his own name, and in so doing he became a leading startup lawyer in Richmond, Virginia.
The point of the book isn’t that you should passively stare at your Twitter and Facebook feeds for hours a day and call that work. That ain’t work – that’s being a spectator. This is a new undertaking requiring, first, a new attitude (caring like crazy about your customers), and then a specific strategy for building genuine relationships with these customers – in a way that blends online and offline experiences to create something exceptional.
Whether you’re someone who directly employs online tools or someone who has people asking for permission to do more online, this book will help you make sense of what’s going on out there in the big bad web 2.0 world – most importantly, by demystifying it and bringing it back to the simple, powerful notion that we can, finally, get back to the business of caring about and taking care of our customers.