It’s About Times for VRM

Great VRM article in the Financial Times by Alan Mitchell.  An excerpt.

"When the UK market research company CCB FastMap asked consumers
which method they most wanted companies to use when communicating with
them – e-mail, phone, letter and so on – 63 per cent ticked the box
that said “Not at all”.

Even where consumers have an existing
relationship with a company, 23 per cent prefer not to have marketing
communications from it. The rate rises above 50 per cent for some large
utilities and banks.

Consumers are also increasingly unwilling to
divulge data. The same research found that 86 per cent of consumers
routinely tick the third party opt-out box when providing personal
information. “People have become less happy about revealing information
and especially allowing third parties to share it,” says David Cole,
managing director of CCB FastMap.

This was not what customer
relationship management was supposed to deliver when it was first
touted in the early 1990s. The more data companies could gather about
their customers, it was argued, the deeper the insights they would
generate. This would lead to longer, more profitable relationships.

many companies have found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard
place. On the one hand, most organisations’ transactions with their
customers are too limited for them to get an accurate picture of their
motivations and any data they gather quickly goes out of date. On the
other hand, subsequent attempts to fill these holes by gathering more
data simply intensify concerns over intrusion.

A research
project in vendor relationship management at Harvard University Law
School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society has suggested a way
through the impasse. The core idea of vendor relationship management
(VRM) is simple: the more empowered individuals are when it comes to
managing and using personal data – including the ability to manage
their relationships with vendors – the greater the benefits to both

The whole article is here.

On “Free” and Business Models

(Background: "Free: Why $0.00 is the Future of Business" and "Steal This Slide:The Six Kinds of Free")

Maddie Grant has been thinking about what "free" means to associations, which have historically relied on membership dues to provide a sizable proportion of an organization’s annual revenue.  However, over the past thirty years, membership dues have continued to shrink in this regard.


(source: ASAE)

Membership dues have served multiple purposes, such as enabling discounts on other products that are offered by the organization, or enabling access to "members-only" information or services.  These dues help to fund the "mission" of the organization, whatever it may be. 

These dues also are a way to "value" the opportunity to join the community of like-minded individuals who are members of the organization.

In this context, Grant looks for analogs for each of the six kinds of free, and how they apply to her industry.  Grant asks:

Can these [six kinds of free] be translated to member services?

  • Freemium – Free entry to online communities, charge for "premium" areas/functionality?
  • Advertising – On websites, online communities, e-newletters, sponsorships?Cross subsidies – free initial access to articles, charge for distribution?
  • Zero marginal cost – Webinars, podcasts, other e-learning modules?
  • Labor exchange – Wikis?
  • Gift economy – Any social object that promotes the association / donated labor or barter system?

(N.B. The more this comes up, the more it feels like the discussions that were heralded by Doc Searls circa 2004-2005 regarding blogs, and the different "monetization" models that were being applied to them.  The net of the ‘net: you will likely make money because of something you’re doing, rather than with it.  More on this here.  And a the seeds of the "because effect" were sown here.)

Back to the point above, the one about membership dues being a way to "value" the opportunity to join a community of like-minded individuals who are aligned around a particular mission or affinity.  Does that model still work?  With ambient "community" showing up, well, in practically every system or business plan that is being created, is there value in tithing when an individual can simply find others with similar interests via blogs, or even on Facebook or LinkedIn?  (I don’t have an answer to this quandary and am hoping others with opinions will weigh in via the comments.)

So what about your business?  If your "traditional" revenue stream began to tend to free, how would you make money?

Hurricane Gustav Mobile Resources


On Saturday, we created a mobile resource guide for those affected by Gustav, as many in the path of the storm would not have internet access.  As people begin returning home and begin the process of rebuilding after nearly $8billion in damage, we hope this mobile resource guide will aid the Hurricane Gustav relief efforts. 

There are three versions of the Gustav Mobile Resource Guide available:

The guide offers quick access to…

News – Minute-by-minute updates from government agencies and citizen journalists.

Info – Quick references for how to help.

People and Shelters – Searchable self-reported listings of shelters, resources, aid providers, and evacuees.

Raise awareness about the relief efforts by adding this guide to your blog sidebar. Stay connected to the latest info by bookmarking it in your iPhone or other mobile device.

Mobile version



Widget version