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THE CUSTOMER WILL SOON BE IN CONTROL

July 23, 2012

A core philosophy of my POWERSHIFT MARKETING approach is focusing on your customer.  A new book, “The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge” (Harvard Business Review Press) by Doc Searls with Wall Street Journal’s Gary Rosen, introduces a fascinating concept called VRM, Vendor Relationship Management. Searls runs ProjectVRM at Harvard University. If you want to see the future of customer marketing in the age of the internet, his book should be required reading.

Briefly, as outlined in a recent WSJ story (The Customer as God), Searls believes that companies have historically focused on “Treating customers as large populations rather than as individuals.” That’s why businesses focus on collecting data “By placing tracking files in people’s browsers and smartphone apps without their knowledge – so they can be stalked wherever they go.”

But the Internet has now given individuals this same power. Instead of chasing and herding customers, businesses will soon need to deal with customers that are in charge. They will decide when and how you can reach them. Searls points out what is already happening with one VRM tool: browser add-ons that block ads and tracking. Usage of these is on the rise. In May, Microsoft announced that the “Do Not Track” (DNT) feature will be turned on by default in the new Internet Explorer.

Searls believes that this revolution in personal empowerment won’t be complete until we are free to use our computing and networking powers with any device we like, outside the exclusive confines of providers. Of course, there is big money behind the belief that a business can know you better than you know yourself. But like Searls, as I highlight throughout my book, this is rapidly changing.

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