Digital Reviewer

#EmptyShelf 2016 #13: The Thank You Economy: Gary Vaynerchuk (Harper, 2011)

thank-you-economyI’ve had this book on my shelf since it was published, and always something has got in the way, but this time, enjoyed reading through fully on a weekend.

I liked the approach – the focus on keeping a customer happy – not entirely altruistically, but because “happy customers are worth a lot more than any other kind.” Relationships with customers are key, and what they say outside the walls of your business are important – and previously have been beyond your control, but even more importantly, good relationships are pivotal on a brand’s ongoing success – especially when it’s possible to have emotionally charged interactions. Social media has been embraced because it makes people happy – and companies need to embrace the change that is here:

The cultural changes social media have ushered in are already having a big impact on marketing strategies, but eventually, companies that want to compete are going to have to change their approach to everything, from their hiring practices to their customer service to their budgets.

The book starts with an emphasis upon human nature – many things have changed, but human nature – and human interaction – are as old as time – and no relationships should be taken for granted:

When given the choice, people will always spend their time around people they like. When it’s expedient and practical, they’d also rather do business with and buy stuff from people they like.

People don’t talk about things they don’t care about, so businesses need to make people care (by exposing its heart and soul), because people are increasingly making business and consumer decisions based on what they see talked about on social media platforms.

There’s only so low you can go on price, so you need to differentiate on a different platform, particularly caring about your customers, offering them content that they need without any (immediate) expectation of return builds trust, and trust builds relationships. Social media has returned us to the state that we had in the past – like a small town on a grand scale – the currency of caring, the the power of word of mouth – nostalgically people believe they knew their neighbours, treated each other with courtesy and respect, and knew your name – and people are looking for that again. Vaynerchuk believes that the development of suberbs/the car, etc. removed the need for valuing each individual customer – something that has now returned.

Social media allowed us to become more aware of the minutiae oin each other’s lives, of what was going on, of what people were thinking and doing, than ever before.

People comment on the banality of such exchanges, but people have seized the opportunity to recreate the regular exchange of small pieces of news on which relationships thrive. In exchanges with business, the power has shifted back to the consumer, as views are exchanged in real time – with

our opinions and purchasing decisions.. being affected and influenced even as we stand in the store aisle and weigh our options.

Social media can be a great tool for putting out fires, but is even better for building brand equity and relationships with customers – and this requires the personality, heart and soul of people at all levels of the business to show – whether dealing with one person or 10,000 – treat everyone professionally – and mean it. Take every customer seriously – aside from anything else you might not know that the small spender actually manages a big budget, or is friends with someone else who manages a big budget, or may progress in their career – and that could pay back in the long-run. Nearly everyone can find somewhere else to buy what you’re selling, so everyone at every level of the business should be prepared to engage in authentic customer service. In some cases people just want to be heard and taken seriously – if you can’t meet their needs, give them an honest answer why and maybe suggest somewhere that does.

Vaynerchuk says if you’ve experimented with social media and it doesn’t work – your product/service isn’t any good, or you’re doing it wrong. Take every opportunity to show that you can about your customers, including random thank-yous. If someone has a problem and you believe that the company product is good, you’d want them to have a great experience, so look at how you might raise their expectations of service (not something I’ve recently experienced from WD or Apple!). The entire company can listen out, step in at an early stage to deal with problems, and turn what could be a PR disaster into a PR win (see Dell) – too many leaders are so focused on the short-term results, they are not playing the long-game – which is what the digital requires. It’s never too late to start!

The book probably now looks a little over-optimistic as to the world-changing power of social media, but the heart of the content is still key – and chimes with a lot of what I’ve worked with the church with over the past five years – be authentic, care about individuals, change the culture across the entire organisation!

Buy the book from Amazon.