Vendor Relationship Marketing.
It's always good to listen to people from other disciplines and a few days ago I caught up with Doc Searls, Adriana and various other programmers and marketers who share an interest in VRM (vendor relationship management). Some interesting themes emerged.
1) The internet has improved the supply side of the economy, but has done less for the demand side. The purpose of VRM is to provide the customer with ways of bearing some of the relationship burden which has in the past been borne entirely by the vendor. In so doing, VRM intends to improve markets by equipping customers to lead as well as to follow
2) For all the investment in data collection, the current purchase model destroys a lot of data - a business knows a purchase has been made and probably by whom, but all the thinking that prefaces that (the decision process, the preferences met and the interaction) is lost.
3) If individuals owned and controlled their own data, you'd facilitate real customer centricity unlike the faux customer centricity of CRM. Truly putting the customer at the centre would allow deeper relationships to develop in which richer, permission-based data is shared and the expensive guesswork of marketing departments can be eliminated.
So, what do I think are the implications for marketing?
a) Outward-looking marketing will increasingly be centred on the provision of genuine information and interaction so that the pro-active customer will more likely seek to buy something you provide.
b) Inward-looking marketing will involve encouraging product development to move towards the provision of modular, flexible, customisable products and services.
c) In order to foster repeat purchases and loyalty, marketing's primary task will be to ensure that the customer experience is always great.
d) It's not about selling stuff. It's all about helping people buy stuff.
But I think I've said that all before.