The local paper published my review of Gary Vaynerchuk's "The Thank You Economy" this morning.
Photo and article here.
I liked this book because it goes against the grain. It's a business how-to book, but instead of saying you've got to soak your customer for every penny, fool them, take your money offshore and then light a cigar with a hundred-dollar bill, it says to succeed in our Internet-connected world, you've got to care, because people talk.
Vaynerchuk's story (try this one, too, it's snarky but informative) is well-known and well-publicized, but at heart he is like a million other first-generation immigrants who run a family business, a corner store. And to succeed at a corner store, you do have to care.
I remember corner stores. When I was growing up there were two in my neighborhood. One didn't put price tags on the milk and upped the price depending on what type of person came into the store. The other gave us credit when we didn't have quite enough in our pockets to make the sales tax on our pound of ground beef. Guess who we went back to? And guess who went belly up?
Vaynerchuk believes the Internet takes word of mouth to a whole different level. Instead of gossip at the back fence, we've got Facebook and Twitter. On the Internet, talk can make or break companies. His message: make people want to praise you when they update their status.
I've been monitoring my business transactions lately with this book in mind. ProFlowers.com gets a great grade for customer service. They messed up the beloved's Valentine's Day's roses, but they made it right later, and more. I will use them again.
I also give an A+ grade to the guy who delivered our mulch and topsoil this year. Caring-wise, he was head and shoulders above the competition. Another first-generation immigrant, by the way.
Vaynerchuk's book is on the surface for business owners. But he also is a big-picture guy. This book is about our culture going forward. This is about how we're going to live in the future.
In that old movie from way back, "Wall-E," the people of the earth had fled to a spaceship to escape environmental disaster. Wandering about the cosmos for hundreds of years, earth people became dependent on their computers for entertainment, and spent their entire lives looking at screens.
Movie still from here.
They all wore identical blue body suits, and when someone on the system said, "Red is the new blue," everyone automatically pushed a button, and they were wearing red body suits.
I'd say that's one popular idea about the Internet. Not that it's going to continue to be a robust engine of ideas, arguments, intellectual ferment, and vitality, but a means by which we are made to conform. It doesn't have to be done in a sinister way, just that everyone, in their fear of being singled out, would follow whatever an Internet monopoly would tell them to do.
Right now, though, we seem remote from a "Matrix" style mind-control through computers. Events in the Middle East have borne out the utility of fast, global communication for political organizing and mobilization. Governments that try to shut down the Internet have failed. No government, with the possible exception of China, has been able to use the Internet to enforce conformity, a la "1984."
Well. Good luck to you, Gary Vaynerchuk, immigrant corner store owner who has taken your corner-store values global. I'd sure like the Proctor and Gambles of the world to follow your advice, and for us, the little guy, to be able to take on the big guns. I hope it is that simple. And I hope we're smart enough not to mess it up.