Doing Business in the Thank-You Economy

 
 
By Gary Vaynerchuk  |  Posted 2011-10-04
 
 
 

Social media requires business leaders to think like small-town shop owners. That means they have to take the long view; allow the personalities and hearts of all employees to show; and shape the word-of-mouth information that circulates about the business by treating each customer as though he or she were the most important customer in the world.

In short, business leaders will have to relearn and employ the ethics and skills that our great-grandparents’ generation took for granted—and that many of them put into building their own businesses. We’re living in what I call the “thank-you economy,” because only the companies that mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way—and do it authentically—will have a prayer of competing successfully.

I am wired like a CEO and care a great deal about the bottom line, but I care even more about my customers. I approach business the same way I approach every talk I present: Regardless of whether I have an audience of 10 or 10,000, everyone gets the best I have to give. And I demand that everyone I hire or work with have as much of that caring in their DNA as I do.

How else do you think I manage to outsell Costco locally and Wine.com nationally? I always say that the real success of Wine Library wasn’t due to the videos I posted, but to the hours I spent talking to people online afterward, making connections and building relationships. But if I or any of the people who represent Wine Library had come off as phonies or schmoozers, the company wouldn’t be what it is today.

Don’t underestimate the sharpness of people’s baloney radar: They can spot a soulless, bureaucratic tactic miles away. That’s a big reason why so many companies have failed miserably at using social media.

At Wine Library, we don’t just pull out the charm when a big spender walks in, or when someone is unhappy—and we don’t reply to inquiries with carefully worded legalese. We try not to calculate that one customer is worth more than another, and therefore worth more time and effort. And how can you know who is potentially a big customer, anyway?

Maybe you’ve got a customer who spends only a few hundred dollars a year with you, but that the customer may be spending thousands elsewhere. What if you were able to build a relationship with that person and capture 30, 60 or even 100 percent of what he or she spends? Your small customer would become a lot bigger. That’s why you have to take every customer seriously.

When we talk to a customer, we make it clear that we want to help in whatever way we can, and that his or her business matters to us. And we mean it.

You may be skeptical that a large business—or even a strictly online business—can form the same kind of friendly, loyal relationship with customers that a local retailer can. But it’s true because I’ve lived it: I built my online company the same way I built the brick-and-mortar store.

But this approach works only if everybody at the company gets on board. You must operate like a local mom-and-pop shop, where every employee is comfortable engaging in customer service—and does it authentically. Every engagement has to be heartfelt, or it won’t work.

Gary Vaynerchuk is co-founder of Vaynermedia, a social media consultancy, and the author of The Thank You Economy (HarperCollins).