Category: crm (page 1 of 5)

Which CRM companies are ready to dance with VRM?

Early on at ProjectVRM, we had a community meeting in at Oracle headquarters in Silicon Valley, where some VRM-friendly Oracle employees had kindly found us some space. During the meeting we got a surprise visit from Anthony Lye, then the Senior VP of Oracle CRM and later VP of Cloud Applications there. (He has since moved on.) We had a good conversation, after which one of the employees who hosted us disclosed that Anthony had earlier said “Whoever wins at VRM wins at CRM.” It was encouraging to hear, but I never got the quote confirmed, so I don’t know if he said it or not. But I still believe it’s true, because CRM needs VRM for the same reason that companies need customers: the market is a dance floor and it takes two to tango.

As CRM companies go, I count Oracle as clueful, mostly because they provided extraordinarily helpful grist for the VRM mill in the form of this graphic here…

Oracle Twist

… which puts at the heart of CRM two verbs — BUY and OWN — that are the customer’s and not the company’s.* It also helps us sort VRM tools and services into two main concerns:

  • BUY — Intentcasting
  • OWN — Personal clouds, plus personal data stores, vaults, lockers and services, including privacy protection

Other VRM development categories (e.g. code bases, trust frameworks, infrastructures, consortia) lie underneath those two, or blur across them.

Still, friendly as Oracle seems, I don’t hear them asking to dance with anybody doing VRM yet.

So I’m looking now at this Louis Columbus piece in Forbes, reporting on this Gartner report (sorry, ya gotta pay), saying, among other things, that the CRM market (all B2B) reached at $18 billion/year in 2012, with a 12.5% growth rate over 2011. The top six companies, in order, are:

  1. Salesforce, 14%
  2. SAP, 12.5%
  3. Oracle, 11.1%
  4. Microsoft, 6.3%
  5. IBM, 3.6%
  6. Adobe, 3.1%
  7. Nice Systems, 2.5%
  8. Verint Systems, 2.4%
  9. Amdocs, 2.3%
  10. SAS, 2.2%

“Others” are 39.7%.

Additional details:

Worldwide CRM software spending by subsegment shows Customer Service and Support leading all categories with 36.8% of all spending in 2012 ($6.6B), followed by CRM Sales (26.3%, $4.7B), Marketing (includes marketing automation) (20%, $3.6B) and e-commerce (16.9%, $3B)…

Ten fastest growing CRM vendors as measured in revenue Annual Growth Rate (AGR) in 2012 include Zoho (81.2%), Hybris (78.6%), Teradata (70.4%), Bazaarvoice (56.2%), Marketo (54.3%), Kana (44.2%), Demandware (43.9%), IBM (39.4%), Technology One (37.1%) and Neolane (36%).

Communications, media and IT services were the biggest spenders on CRM in 2012 due to their call center requirements.  Manufacturing including Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) was second, and banking & securities were third.

Looking at these, I see a few that might like to dance with VRM. Teradata is big on data warehousing (potentially for personal clouds). Bazaarvoice is into “genuine online conversations.” Zoho does collaboration apps. Neolane does “conversational marketing.” TechnologyOne considers customers “stakeholders.”

If anybody from any of those companies (or the bigger CRM companies on the list above) wants to come out here on the floor (or sit at the table), let us know. We’re patient, and we know you’re coming.

* The original source of the graphic, Ray Wang points out in the comments below, is Esteban Kolsky. And, as I say in my comment below Ray’s, I did hear that from my friend Nitin Badjatia at Oracle (and formerly of Right Now), but didn’t remember it when I wrote this piece and the one before it yesterday. Again, it is the verbs — BUY and OWN — that make the image especially useful for VRM, because they are the customer’s. I don’t yet know if those verbs are Esteban’s or Right Now/Oracle’s. Let me know and I’ll give credit where due.

Prepping for #VRM Day and #IIW

The 16th IIW (Internet Identity Workshop) is coming up, Tuesday to Thursday, 7-9 May, will be tat the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. As usual, VRM will be a main topic, with lots of developers and other interested folk participating. Also as usual, we will have a VRM planning day on the Monday preceding: 6 May, also at the CHM. So that’s four straight days during which we’ll get to present, whiteboard, discuss and move forward the many projects we’re working on. From the top of my head at the moment:

  • Personal Clouds, including —
    • The Internet of Me and My Things
    • QS (Quantified Self) and Self-Hacking
  • Fully personal wallets, rather than branded ones that work only with payment silos and their partners
  • Intentcasting — where customers advertise their purchase intentions in a secure, private and trusted way, outside of any vendor’s silo
  • Browser add-ons, extensions, related developments
  • Licensing issues
  • Sovereign and administrative identity approaches, including Persona, formerly BrowserID, from Mozilla
  • Legal issues, such as creating terms and policies that individuals assert
  • Tracking and ad blocking, and harmonizing methods and experiences
  • Health Care VRM
  • Devices, such as the freedom box
  • VRM inSovereign vs./+ Administrative identities
    • Real estate
    • Banking (including credit cards, payments, transactions)
    • Retail
  • Personal data pain points, e.g. filling out forms
  • Trust networks
  • Harnessing adtech science and methods for customers, rather than only for vendors

The morning will be devoted to VRM issues, while the afternoon will concentrate on personal clouds.

We still have eight tickets left here. There is no charge to attend.

In the next few days here on the blog we’ll be going over some of the topics above. Input welcome.

 

The all-silo mobile marketplace

In the beginning was the browser, and the browser was yours. You drove it on the Information Superhighway of the World Wide Web:

As a driver, you experienced the same kind of independence that you did with a car. You had a private space inside a private vehicle that you alone operated. You thought and spoke about it with first person possessive pronouns. So, just as you still think and speak of my car, with my engine and my tires, you also thought and spoke of my browser with my bookmarks and my history.

But, because the Web was designed on the client-server model (aka calf-cow), sites could do what t hey wanted with your vehicle. So, while each site gave you both what you came for (pages, usually), it also gave you cookies to help you both remember where you were the last time you visited. And, for the convenience of you both, it also gave you a shopping cart. Thus, to them, and to you, this is what your browser became:

But there was a cost to this: you were no longer an independent human being with your own private space, but a shopper in the site’s private space. This asymmetry of power and dependence was — and remains — so absolute that it became pro forma for sites and services to use the first person possessive pronoun for you: myspace, myfitnesspal, myverizon. This only made sense in the context of not being able to say it for ourselves.

As a result, our browsers on the commercial Web are not really our own. They are re-skinned at each site with whatever the site wants to make of them:

On the commercial Web, we may still think we’re drivers, but inside each site we are passengers — or, in the now-favored lingo of retailing, “guests.”

Being guests rather than drivers has put us each in a slow-cook hell with these features/bugs:

  • Accumulating up to hundreds of different password-login combinations
  • Needing to fill and re-fill hundreds of mostly-redundant forms, over and over again
  • Submiting just as often to one-sided terms of service that we never read because there’s no point to it

This absolute submissiveness, this complete yielding of personal power to “providers” of all kinds, has boundless upsides. But it has been a Faustian bargain from the start. What we deal away is our time and our agency, both of which matter to our souls.

Seeing the success to be found in dominating customers online, brick-and-mortar retailers have replicated some of the same systems, requiring that regular customers carry around loyalty cards, one for each store. Here’s how “loyalty cards” shows up in Google’s Ngram Viewer:

The timing is no coincidence. Nor are the inconveniences these cards impose on customers and stores alike. But, so long as “free” means “your choice of captor,” the captive-captor system prevails.

That’s what’s happening in the mobile space as well.Shopping carts on websites have become the shopping apps on smartphones. The result is an all-proprietary subset of the World Wide Web:

And they proliferate. If you go to CVS, you get told to download an app. If you’ve already done that, you get told to download another one:

cvs pitch

Or so it appears. I just spent 20 minutes trying to figure out if the Pill Identifier is a feature of the CVS pharmacy app, or an app of its own. Hard to tell when you look up “cvs” on Apple’s App Store app:

To CVS, these are all conveniences for both of you. Never mind that these end up cluttering your phones. Nor that you can only get these (at least on the iPhone) at just Apple’s store, and that your phone company also controls what you can do with it (far more than any car company controls what you can do with the car you buy, lease or rent from them). The inconvenience is yours, not theirs.

The benefits, again, are enormous. For example, it is surely a good thing, for some people, to know what kinds of pills they have. And it’s a good thing that CVS provides a way to do that. But it’s CVS’s app, not yours.

To get the difference, consider an ordinary thermometer.  When you buy one from CVS, it’s yours when you walk out of the store. It isn’t CVS’s any more. Maybe it would be good if the thermometer were smart enough to communicate  your temperature to your doctor or to CVS. But that option should be yours, not CVS’s. Yet there are many who would urge CVS to get your temperature, if it can. And these are the people who are running the “big data” conversation today, at least around marketing.

We are already down a steep and slippery slope here.

See, once you have an app, it’s hard to know for sure what information about you and your life the app is sending back to the company, or to its third parties. According to the Wall Street Journal, countless apps are reporting on you and your activities to marketers, without telling you that’s what they’re doing. Or at least not in an obvious way. Yes, they have privacy policies, but nearly all of them reserve the right to change those. And yes, you do have the choice to not participate in the app marketplace. But as the world becomes more and more networked, that becomes less and less of a practical option.

In respect to the Faustian bargain with the all-silo marketplace, it doesn’t matter how good the silos get. They are still silos. Making better silos doesn’t solve the problem.

After awhile all this power asymmetry adds up, and at some point it breaks. Our job with VRM is to make that  break happen — by showing customers and providers alike that there are better ways to operate a free marketplace, starting with free customers. We do that through tools and services that are more like cars than like shopping carts: that make us both independent and equipped to engage.

A list of VRM developers is here.

Bonus links:

 

Wanted: a handshake across the paywall

For five years I was a loyal subscriber to the Boston Globe. When I was out of town, which was a lot, I’d read it online, because the print subscription covered that too.

This academic year I’m out of town more, so I canceled the subscription, because I didn’t want to pay $3.99 per week for a digital-only subscription. Not when I’m also in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and other places, with other papers that I also like to read — and to pay for, preferably on an à la carte basis, or something close to it, like I can when I buy a paper at a newsstand. There’s no way to do that. But I still go to the Globe often, to catch a story, such as this one, which hits a paywall:

I only get that on the browser I use most, and which I assume carries a cookie telling the Globe that I’ve visited too often without subscribing. It’s annoying, but I get around it by using other browsers and other machines.

I don’t do that to avoid paying. In fact I’d be glad to pay, because I believe information wants to be free but value wants to be paid for. That means I’m willing to pay something for all the media I use, including music for which I hold rights to play (one doesn’t really “own” music, but instead holds rights to it). But this is impossible as long as media vendors supply all the mechanisms of relationship. There’s no handshake with that system. Just the sound of one hand slapping.

The promo-covered paywall in the screen shot above tells me the Globe’s subscription system has no idea that I was a loyal subscriber for a long time, and am willing to pay more than the $0 that I’m paying when I go around their wall. It also tells me the Globe values data justifying its 99¢/week promo more than its relationship with me as a reader and a long-term subscriber. But I’m not insulted because I know I’m not dealing with human beings here; just a software routine.

Many questions come to mind when I look at a fail like this. Like, Why should a new subscriber get a better deal than a veteran one? Why not have, say, a frequent-reader program, modeled on airline frequent flyer programs?

The answer is that it’s a pain in the ass for a paper (or any business) to do something different than what it already does. In the Globe’s case the bureaucratic overhead is even higher than it looks, because the Globe is a subsidiary of the New York Times, which has the same 99¢ promo (that I wrote about almost a year ago). Even if the two papers don’t use the same content management and subscription software, the policies obviously work in tandem, meaning there is at least twice the inertia to overcome.

Additional inertia is locked up in the heavy burden of sole responsibility for a “relationship” that barely qualifies for the noun. If I had a real relationship with the Globe, I could respond to the above with a message that says “Hi, there. You know me. Remember? I do. Here’s the evidence. Now, can we come up with something that works for both of us here?”  CRM (Customer Relationship Management systems should help, but typically don’t. “Social” CRM is built to listen for signals from prospects or customers; but neither Twitter nor Facebook are mine, nor do they represent me as fourth parties — ones that work for me.  (Twitter and Facebook may serve me, in a way; but they are paid for that work by advertisers.)

There are some VRM-friendly signs on the horizon. For example, in this Guardian interview, Tien Tzuo, the founder and CEO of Zuora, explains what he calls “Paywall 2.0.” Here’s what he says about 3:50 into the video:

Don’t think about it as just a paywall. Don’t think about it as just a tollbooth for you to make money. Think about it as an ongoing dialog with your customers, and allow your paywall to stretch, and go to where your customers really want to go.

(Disclosure: last year I gave a speech at a Zuora event in London.) I want the Globe and the Times to have 2.0-generation paywalls: ones that stretch to embrace my loyalty and my good intentions. I would also like that embrace to appreciate independent signaling from my side of the relationship, not just what it picks up from CRM radar pointed at social media. (And let’s face it: If I have to go on Twitter to get some action out of a company, there’s a failure in direct communication. Here’s one example.)

We also need the VRM tools that match up with 2.0 generation ones on the media sellers’ side. For example, let’s say I budget $2 per day toward all the media I use. (A lexical digression: I don’t “consume” media any more than I consume a hammer. That’s why I say “use” instead of “consume.”) And let’s say  I have the capacity to track what I use, in a QS (quantified self) kind of way. Then let’s say that I’m ready to divide that $2 up and parse it out, using an EmanciPay system. This would put money on the market’s table.

Then maybe, once the money is on the table, we can shake hands over it and actually do business.

Bonus link: House of news

 

 

When consumers become media for themselves

I was talking recently with Edi Immonen of Glome about the idea behind it: turning users into publishers. He used the word “media,” but I’m going with “publishers” for now, because that’s the word used in this graphic (one of many like it — all amazing and excellent) from LUMA partners:

That’s the marketer’s view. But how about yours, as the consumer over there on the right. In fact it’s actually more like this:

Because all you do is consume. You have no direct influence on all that intermediary stuff; so it just presses down on you.

But what if you become the publisher — a form of producer, and not just of consumer? Then the system, simplified, would look like this:

This is in alignment with what Tim Berners-Lee designed the Web to look like in the first place, but in in a commercial setting. (Remember that Sir Tim was then working in high energy physics at CERN, looking for ways to share and edit documents across the Internet as it existed at the turn of the ’90s.) It is also what blogging, as originally conceived, also did. If this blog were commercial (which it is not, on purpose), that would be me (or us) on the right.

Now, if we, as publishers, look at our data, or of our personal space — our state as a medium — as a platform for selling and buying stuff, including services, a whole new horizon opens up.

What Edi and his colleagues at Glome envision is a way for you, as a medium, to sell your space (however you chose to define that word) to:

  1. brands with which you already have a relationship;
  2. brands in which you have an interest; or
  3. brands in which you might have an interest.

From the traditional marketing perspective, #3 makes you “qualified lead,” for which the brand should be willing to pay. But that’s a far too reduced view of what you really are, or might be, to that brand.

Think of this marketplace frame from a CRM+VRM perspective. Between those two rectangles, inside the black two-pointed arrow, are cycles of buying and owning, of use and re-use, of live interactions and of long periods of idle time where neither is paying much attention to the other. Lots of stuff can go on within the boundaries of that two-way arrow.

What Glome proposes here is not zero-basing the marketplace, but instead to re-start our thinking, and our work, atop three well-understood existing roles: brand, publisher (or medium) and marketplace. The main re-characterization is of the individual, who is now a publisher or a medium, and not just a consumer.

Obviously much can get disintermediated here, including all the stuff between the marketer and the publisher in the graphic up top.

But much new intermediation is now possible, especially if the individual has a personal cloud through which one (or one’s fourth party) can program interactions, for the individual, among API-based services (in the manner of IFTTT, or using KRL) and the “Internet of things”. (For developers, I believe Singly fits in here too.)

So we are looking here at a whole new market for information and relationships, within the larger marketplace of everything else. This isn’t complicated, really. It’s actually what markets looked like in the first place:

This is the context we meant by “Markets are conversations” in The Cluetrain Manifesto.

LUMAscapes (such as the top one above) brilliantly depict the ecosystems of marketing as they have evolved so far, down different branches of discipline. The tree from which they branch, however, is the old advertising and direct marketing one, now operating inside the Internet . (“Big data” and analytics in marketing are hardly new. They were what direct mail was all about long before it evolved into direct marketing and then spread into online advertising.)

So this is a shout-to —

— as well as all the VRM developers in the world (and it seems there are more every day).

The last graphic above is our new frame. It helps that it’s also the oldest frame.

I also look forward to the day when Terence Kawaja and his colleagues at LUMA partners draw up VRM+CRM and other new ecosystems that are bound to evolve, once enough of us get our heads out of the old marketing frame and into the oldest marketplace one. So this is a shout-out to them too. :-)

Linklings

Here’s an overdue compilation of stuff I’ve been saving up to share. Many items have slipped through the cracks, but I want to get at least these up.

The plural of personal is social, by JP Rangaswami. The punchlines (read through — there are many):

Business is personal. It’s about relationships. It has always been so. Until we tried to forget it and concentrated on making money, not shoes. [As Peter Drucker said, people make shoes, not money]. Then, for a short while, business became not-personal.

As the Cluetrain guys signalled way back in 1999, the web was changing all that. Business was becoming personal again.

It comes as no surprise to me that salesforce.com was born during those heady times, as business started becoming personal again. It comes as no surprise to me that Marc Benioff understood that the plural of personal is social, and that it’s in the DNA of the company that he and Parker Harris founded. That’s why I went to work for them.

“Social” is not a layer. “Social” is not a feature. “Social” isn’t a product.

Social is about bringing being human back into business. About how we conduct business. About why we conduct business.

Social is something in people’s hearts, in people’s beings, in their DNA.

Man is born social.

Many companies were not.

And the companies that weren’t, they can’t just become social by buying layers or features or even products. Porcine unguents, nothing more.

You need to be reborn social.

You need to start thinking of the customer as someone to have a relationship with, to get to know, to invest in, to trust, to respect.

And you need to get everyone in the company to think that way, to act that way, in everything they do.

And you need to do this everywhere, not just with your customers. Not just with your supply web or your trading partners. Not just with your staff and your consultants.

Everyone. Everywhere.

The plural of personal is social.

Proof That Loyalty Is For Suckers: Best Customers Get Penalized With Higher Bills, by Brad Tuttle in Time. It begins,

We appreciate your business. And as thanks for being a loyal customer all these years, we’re going to overcharge you.

Auto insurers and other service providers don’t say this explicitly, of course. But that’s the message sent via the rates they charge different customers.

The curious, but obviously profitable business model, in which new customers get wooed with discounts and special deals, while the oldest, most loyal, best customers are “thanked” with bills that escalate over time, is standard practice among pay TV and wireless providers. The companies play up the idea that their products and services come with special introductory rates for new customers, rather than noting that there are penalties for customers who stick with the business for the long haul and don’t complain. But no matter which way the rate changes are spun, the results are the same.

Some VRooM-ish tools and services:

  • YaCy: “Web search by the people, for the people.” Some copy:  “YaCy is a free search engine that anyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet or to help search the public internet. When contributing to the world-wide peer network, the scale of YaCy is limited only by the number of users in the world and can index billions of web pages. It is fully decentralized, all users of the search engine network are equal, the network does not store user search requests and it is not possible for anyone to censor the content of the shared index. We want to achieve freedom of information through a free, distributed web search which is powered by the world’s users.”
  • Tails: “The amnesiac incognito live system.” Copy: “It helps you to use the Internet anonymously almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leave no trace using unless you ask it explicitly.”
  • Silent Circle: “Private encrypted communications tools.” Email, mobile phone, VoIP, text. Scroll down to founders & leadership. One is Phil Zimmerman, father of PGP.
  • Request Policy is “an extension for Mozilla browsers that increases your browsing privacysecurity, and speed by giving you control over cross-site requests.”

Market Research (MR to its denizens) gets an earful about VRM and The Intention Economy in
The 21st Century Battle for the Future of MR has begun: Empowered Consumers Versus “Darth Data”, by Kevin Lonnie in The Greenbook Blog.

I see some hope for getting more digital books out of silos in An RDF for Books, by Brian O’Leary.

For the privacy corner of VRM, dig Privacy, Masks and Religion, by Omer Tene in Concurring Opinions. It begins, “One of the most significant developments for privacy law over the past few years has been the rapid erosion of privacy in public.”

Klint Finley in TechCrunch makes some right-on observations about The Cloud, though he says “there being a few examples of … “vendor relationship management” idea in the wild, it still feels like vaporware to me.” Obviously I think he’s wrong, but we report the negative stuff here too. On the positive side, Scott Merrill wrote Doc Searls Would Like You to Join Him in the The Intention Economy, also in TechCrunch, back in May.

From Selling You: Not Just on Facebook, by Haydn Shaughnessy writes this in Forbes:

The reality is we need a different way of thinking about data, and in an age marked by innovation we shouldn’t find a reframe too difficult. We shouldn’t but we do. Generations of marketers have been brought up on an adversarial view of the customer, the target, the win…

In all the discussions we’ve had here in Forbes about social business we have yet to stray into the use and purpose of social data, as if we too largely accept that the adversarial view is the only one.

A couple of days back I tried to reflect an alternative view in for, example, how we might use LinkedIn data – it’s not only my view of course and I don’t want to claim any originality in it. For five years or more, maybe as far back as The ClueTrain Manifesto, people like Doc Searls have been arguing that the web makes a better commerce engine if we recognize all the power symmetries it brings. And there is an increasing number of projects that are taking up that logic.

CRM type data is old school – Tesco in the UK had signed up more than 15 million people to its ClubCard by 2009, that is over a third of the adult population of the country. It’s what companies did before the web. But it seems to be continuing even now that we have new possibilities.

There is no need to collect inference data on people and their possible choices. There is no adversary called customer. We have scaled up human interaction online where we can get closer to asking people, suggesting to them, and interacting with them.

So the future actually belongs to companies that take a symmetrical view of power…

From Another Bubble; Not Housing, by Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Blog in Business Insider:

Guys, we ARE in a bubble. I don’t care what you say. As an outsider, I can see it…

Like Facebook, Pinterest and Instgram have valuations that are guesses about the future of advertising.Will they be the next great places to advertise as we shift to mobile?

Pinterest may be worth more “nothing” than Instgram, however, because as Scoble pointed out, women have buying power, which is why brands cozy up to mommy bloggers. But they haven’t bought BlogHer, the platform on which those women express opinions, have they? Lisa, Jory and Elisa were pioneers in bringing women’s voices to the marketplace, and no one has offered them a billion. That’s because BlogHer is not a tool. But it should expose also the fact that simply being favored by women doesn’t confer $7b in value on a company.

More worrisome is the supposition that these apps will someday be good carriers of mobile advertising, even though as yet the advertising industry hasn’t solved the online ad effectiveness problem and even Facebook reported diminished revenues this quarter.

The advertising industry is in upheaval, over the value of online advertising per se, before it even tackles mobile. Publishers are going under right and left because customers don’t want to see ads online, and truly hate them on mobile . Here, especially, the user will control the conversation.

So the valuations of Pinterest and Instgram/FB are merely expensive guesses about the future of advertising, about whether the ad tech industry will figure out mobile in a non-invasive way. Yes, the open graph will be part of it, and the advertising will be targeted. But I am guessing that Doc Searls will be quoted here gain and again: markets are conversations, and customers will control them.

In Vendor Relationship Management: Making the Customer King, Stephen F. DeAngelis visits both The Intention Economy and The Customer As a God (my Wall Street Journal essay from July)

 

Let’s turn Do Not Track into a dialog

Do Not Track (DNT), by resembling Do Not Call in name, sounds like a form of prophylaxis.  It isn’t. Instead it’s a request by an individual with a browser not to be tracked by a website or its third parties. As a request, DNT also presents an interesting opportunity for dialogue between user and site, shopper and retailer, or anybody and anything. I laid out one possibility recently in my Inkwell conversation at The Well. Here’s a link to the page, and here’s the text of the post:

The future I expect is one in which buyers have many more tools than they have now, that the tools will be theirs, and that these will enable buyers to work with many different sellers in the same way.

One primitive tool now coming together is “Do Not Track” (or DNT): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_Not_Track It’s an HTTP header in a user’s browser that signals intention to a website. Browser add-ons or extensions for blocking tracking, and blocking ads, are also tools, but neither constitute a social protocol, because they are user-side only. The website in most cases doesn’t know ad or tracking blocking being used, or why. On the other hand, DNT is a social gesture. It also isn’t hostile. It just expresses a reasonable intention (defaulted to “on” in the physical world) not to be followed around.

But DNT opens the door to much more. Think of it as the opening to dialog:

User: Don’t track me.
Site: Okay, what would you like us to do?
User: Share the data I shed here back to me in a standard form, specified here (names a source).
Site: Okay. Anything else?
User: Here are my other preferences and policies, and means for matching them up with yours to see where we can agree.
Site: Good. Here are ours.
User: Good. Here is where they match up and we can move forward.
Site: Here are the interfaces to our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, so your VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) system can interact with it.
User: Good. From now on my browser will tell me we have a working relationship when I’m at your site, and I can look at what’s happening on both sides of it.

None of this can be contemplated in relationships defined entirely by the sellers, all of which are silo’d and different from each other, which is what we’ve had on the commercial Web since 1995. But it can be contemplated in the brick & mortar world, which we’ve had since Ur. What we’re proposing with VRM is nothing more than bringing conversation-based relationships that are well understood in the brick-and-mortar world into the commercial Web world, and weaving better marketplaces in the process.

A bit more about how the above might work:
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/vrm/2012/02/23/how-about-using-the-no-track-button-we-already-have/

And a bit more about what’s wrong with the commercial Web (so far, and it’s not hard to fix) here:
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/vrm/2012/02/21/stop-making-cows-stop-being-calves /

So, to move forward, consider this post a shout-out to VRM developers, to the Tracking Protection Working Group at the W3C, to browser developers, to colleagues at Berkman (where Chris Soghoian was a fellow, about at the time he helped think up DNT) — and to everybody with the will and the ways to move forward on this thing.

And hey: it’s also our good luck that the next IIW is coming up at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, from October 23rd to 25th. IIW is the perfect place to meet and start hashing out DNT-D (I just made that up: DNT-Dialog) directions. IIW is an unconference: no keynotes, panelists or vendor booths. Participants vet and choose their own topics and break out into meeting rooms and tables. It’s an ideal venue for getting stuff done, which always happens, and why this is the 15th of them.

Meanwhile, let’s get in touch with each other and start making it happen.

Can we each be our own Amazon?

The most far-out chapter in  is one set in a future when free customers are known to be more valuable than captive ones. It’s called “The Promised Market,” and describes the imagined activities of a family traveling to a wedding in San Diego. Among the graces their lives enjoy are these (in the order the chapter presents them):

  1. Customer freedom and intentions are not restrained by one-sided “agreements” provided only by sellers and service providers.
  2. — service organizations working as agents for the customer — are a major breed among user driven services.
  3. The competencies of nearly all companies are exposed through interactive that customers and others can engage in real time. These will be fundamental to what calls .
  4. s (now also called intentcasts), will be common and widespread means for demand finding and driving supply in the marketplace.
  5. Augmented reality views of the marketplace will be normative, as will mobile payments through virtual wallets on mobile devices.
  6. Loyalty will be defined by customers as well as sellers, in ways that do far more for both than today’s one-sided and coercive loyalty programs.
  7. Relationships between customers and vendors will be genuine, two-way, and defined cooperatively by both sides, which will each possess the technical means to carry appropriate relationship burdens. In other words, VRM and CRM will work together, at many touch-points.
  8. Customers will be able to proffer prices on their own, independently of intermediaries (though those, as fourth parties, can be involved). Something like EmanciPay will facilitate the process.
  9. Supply chains will become “empathic” as well as mechanical. That is, supply chains will be sensitive to the demand chain: signals of demand, in the context of genuine relationships, from customers and fourth parties.
  10. The advertising bubble of today has burst, because the economic benefits of knowing actual customer intention — and relating to customers as independent and powerful economic actors, worthy of genuine relationships rather than coercive — bob will have became obvious and operative. Advertising will continue to do what it does best, but not more.
  11. Search has evolved to become far more user-driven and interactive, involving agents other than search engines.
  12. ‘s will be taken for granted. There will still be businesses that provide connections, but nobody will be trapped into any one provider’s “plan” that excludes connection through other providers. This will open vast new opportunities for economic activity in the marketplace.

In , Sheila Bounford provides the first in-depth volley on that chapter, focusing on #4: personal RFPs. I’ll try to condense her case:

I’ve written recently of a certain frustration with the seemingly endless futurology discussions going on in the publishing world, and it’s probably for this reason that I had to fight my way through the hypothesis in this chapter. However on subsequent reflection I’ve found that thinking about the way in which Amazon currently behaves as a customer through its Advantage programme sheds light on Searls’ suggestions and projections…

What Searls describes as the future for individual consumers is in fact very close to the empowered relationship that Amazon currently enjoys with its many suppliers via Amazon Advantage…  Amazon is the customer – and a highly empowered one at that.

Any supplier trading with Amazon via Advantage (and that includes most UK publishing houses and a significant portion of American publishers) has to meet all of the criteria specified by Amazon in order to be accepted into Advantage and must communicate online through formats and channels entirely prescribed and controlled by Amazon…

Alone, an individual customer is never going to be able to exert the same kind of leverage over vendors in the market place as a giant like Amazon. However individual customers online are greater than the sum of their parts: making up a crucial market for retailers and service providers. Online, customers have a much louder voice, and a much greater ability to collect, organise and mobilise than offline. Searls posits that as online customers become more attuned to their lack of privacy and control – in particular of data that they consider personal – in current normative contracts of adhesion, they will require and elect to participate in VRM programmes that empower them as individual customers and not leave them as faceless, impotent consumers.

So? So Amazon provides us with a neat example of what it might look like if we, as individuals, could control our suppliers and set our terms of engagement. That’s going to be a very different online world to the one we trade in now.  Although I confess to frustration with the hot air generated by publishing futurology, it seems to me that the potential for the emergence VRM and online customer empowerment is one aspect of the future we’d all do well to work towards and plan for.

From the start of ProjectVRM, Iain Henderson (now of The Customer’s Voice) has been pointing to B2B as the future model for B2C. Not only are B2B relationships rich, complex and rewarding in ways that B2C are not today (with their simplifications through customer captivity and disempowerment), he says, but they also provide helpful modeling for B2C as customers obtain more freedom and empowerment, outside the systems built to capture and milk them.

Amazon Advantage indeed does provide an helpful example of where we should be headed as VRM-enabled customers. Since writing the book (which, except for a few late tweaks, was finished last December) I have become more aware than ever of Amazon’s near-monopoly power in the book marketplace, and possibly in other categories as well. I have heard many retailers complain about “scan and scram” customers who treat brick-and-mortar stores as showrooms for Amazon. But perhaps the modeling isn’t bad in the sense that we ought to have monopoly power over our selves. Today the norm in B2C is to disregard that need by customers. In the future I expect that need to be respected, simply because it produces more for everybody in the marketplace.

It is highly astute of Sheila to look toward Amazon as a model for individual customers. I love it when others think of stuff I haven’t, and add to shared understanding — especially of a subject as protean as this one. So I look forward to the follow-up posts this week on her blog.

VRM/CX + CRM/CX

I’ve been in conversations lately about VRM+CRM. Will they help each other out or crash into each other? It’s an open question. But I think we can find an answer in a current CRM vector: toward what the CRM folks have been calling CX, for Customer eXperience. I first read about it in this column by Mitch Lieberman in October 2010. That was when he met with RightNow, which was later acquired by Oracle. You can see and read the results in this list, which is roughly in chronological order:

Experience is a personal thing. When two parties are engaging with each other, it’s something both create. That’s the challenge here.

How can we make the most of both serial and parallel activities and virtues in customer-vendor relationships? I invite our friends from the CRM/CX world to weigh in here.

And come to this:

It’s on 7-8 August in Minneapolis. I’ll be there. So will a bunch of VRM companies and projects, plus other parties interested in that subtitle there: new directions for personal data.

[This was the second half of Scaling business in parallel, but I decided to break it in two and move the second part here.]

Scaling business in parallel

Companies and customers need to be able to deal with each other in two ways: as individuals and as groups.

As of today companies can deal with customers both ways. They can get personal with customers, and they can deal with customers en masse. Without the latter capability, mass marketing would not be possible.

Customers, on the other hand, can only deal with companies as individuals, one at a time. Dealing with companies as groups is still a challenge. Consider the way you engage companies in the marketplace, both online and off. Your dealings with companies, on the whole, are separate and sequential. Nothing wrong with that, but it lacks scale. Hence: opportunity.

We can arrive at that opportunity space by looking at company and personal dealings, each with two kinds of engagement circuits: serial and parallel.

Start with a small company, say a store with customers who line up at the counter. That store  deals with customers in a serial way:

business, serial

The customers come to the counter, one after another, in a series. Energy in the form of goods goes out, and money comes back.

As companies scale up in size, however, they’d rather deal with many customers in parallel rather than in series. A parallel circuit looks like this:

business, parallel

Here customers are dealt with as a group: many at once, and in the same way. This, in an extremely simplified form, is a diagram of mass marketing. While it is still possible for a company to deal with customers individually, the idea is to deal with as many customers as possible at once and in the same ways.

I use electronic symbols in those circuits because resistance (the zig-zag symbol) adds up in series, while it goes down in parallel. This too is a virtue of mass marketing. Thus one-to-many works very well, and has proven so ever since Industry won the Industrial Revolution.

Over on the customers’ side, the marketplace on the whole looks like this:

customer, serial

The customer goes from one company to the next. This is not a problem on the vendors’ side, except to the degree that vendors would rather customers not shop elsewhere. This is why vendors come up with loyalty programs and other schemes to increase “switching costs” and to otherwise extract as much money and commitment as possible out of the customer.

But, from the customer’s side, it would also be cool if they could enjoy scale in parallel across many companies, like this:

In the physical world this is all but unthinkable. But the Internet makes it very thinkable, because the Net reduces nearly to zero the functional distance between any two entities, and presents an open space across which many connections can be made, at once if necessary, with few limits on the number or scope of possibilities. There is also no limit to the new forms of interaction that can happen here.

For example, a customer could scale in parallel by expressing demand to multiple vendors at the same time, or could change her contact information at once with many companies. In fact this is basically what VRM projects are about: scaling in parallel across many other entites. (Not just vendors, but also elected officials, government agencies, churches, clubs, and so on.)

It is easy to see how companies can feel threatened by this. For a century and a half we in business have made a virtue of “targeting,” “acquiring,” “capturing,” “managing,” “locking in” and “owning” customers. But think about the free market for a minute. Shouldn’t free customers be more valuable than captive ones? Wouldn’t it be better if customers and prospects could send many more, and better, signals to the marketplace, and to vendors as well, if they were capable of having their own native ways of dealing, consistently, across multiple vendors?

We have that now with email and other forms of messaging. But why stop there?

Naturally, it’s easy to ask, Could social media such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter provide some of what we need here? Maybe, but the problem is that they are not ours, and they don’t work for us — in the sense that they are accountable to us. They work for advertisers. Email, IM and browsing aren’t owned by anybody. They are also substitutable. For example, you can move your mail from Gmail to your own server or elsewhere if you like. Google doesn’t own email’s protocols. No browser company owns HTTP, HTML or any of the Web’s protocols.

The other problem with social solutions is that they’re not personal. And that’s the scale we’re talking about here: adding parallel capabilities to individuals. Sure, aggregation is possible, and a good thing. (And a number of VRM projects are of the aggregating-demand sort.) But the fallow ground is under our own feet. That’s where the biggest market opportunity is located. Also where, still, it is most ignored. Except, of course, here.

[Continued in VRM/CX + CRM/CX.]

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