The Thank You Economy: A Book Review

Written by straight-talking serial entrepreneur and founder of Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy presents a no-holds-barred approach to how businesses can leverage on the power of social media. Packed with case studies from online retail darling Zappos, burger joint AJ Bombers, burrito selling Boloco, Dr Irena Vaksman (a tweeting dentist!) to the Joie de Vivre Hotels, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller is written in his characteristic heart-on-the-sleeve and conversational manner. 

For an idea of what this means, check out the video featuring Gary below:

Unlike university professors or big-name consultants, Gary doesn't waste time on fancy frameworks or theoretical underpinnings.  Instead, his ideas are honed from the school of hard knocks, peppered with anecdotes from his own experience and a sprinkling of statistics.  Hailing the return of personalised, one-on-one attention, the book proposes that caring for one's customers, overdelivering on their brand experience, and building a rock solid company culture can trigger the Word of Mouth marketing while sustaining customer communities.

A huge fan of social media and networks, particularly Twitter and Facebook where he drew much of his examples from, Gary dedicated an entire chapter to the importance of social media.  While admitting that traditional media still has a place in the marketing mix - Gary himself has advertised on New York billboards to promote his previous book Crush It! - managing one's online communities is paramount in the Thank You Economy. 

My favourite chapter is the one critiquing the Old Spice Man commercials.  Although the campaign created a major spike in sales and brand awareness for the heritage toiletry brand, it did not follow through with its hordes of 120,000 fans on Twitter.  As a result, it was seen more as a "sprinter stuck in a traditional marketing mind-set, not a marathon runner living in the Thank You Economy".

So what are the key ideas in the Thank You Economy?  They're pretty straightforward actually, and include:

1) Caring for one's customers, employees, vendors and brand - with everything that one's got.

2) Erasing any lines in the sand (ie not being afraid of trying anything new or unfamiliar), especially when it comes to deploying social media.

3) Showing up first in a market, early and ahead of the rest.

4) Instilling a culture of caring in one's business by being self-aware, committing to change, walking the talk, investing in one's employees, hiring culturally compatible folks, being authentic and empowering one's team.

5) Remembering that there is a C behind every B2B transaction.

6) Speaking one's customers' language and allowing customers to help shape one's business or brand without losing control of the direction.

7) Building a sense of community around one's brand or business.

8) Deploying both traditional and social media to extend the conversation.  Gary calls this the "Ping-Pong" effect.  Here, brands should try to "earn media"

9) Directing one's marketing initiatives towards the emotional centre and the creative extremes.  In other words, connecting to the hearts of your customers while being boldly creative.

10) Embracing good intent, aiming for quality engagements rather than quantity.  Inauthentic intents can often be easily sniffed out in a transparent social media mediated world.

11) Use shock and awe to blow your customers' minds and get them talking.  Here, Gary is talking about overdelivering on the customer experience such that they have nothing but great things to say about you.

12) Use "pull" tactics (engagement, conversation, service) that remind consumers why they should care about your brand.

13) Play it big if you're small, and play it small if you're big.

14) Don't be afraid to crawl before you run.

The final chapter of The Thank You Economy contained little thoughts, ideas, and snippets in a style which echoed Seth Godin's own approach.  Paying homage to Zappos and its legendary founder Tony Hsieh, it reproduced Hsieh's email to all Zappos employees following its sale via a share swap to Amazon.  Gary cited this as an example of how one should communicate to one's employees in a company obsessed with a customer centric culture.

Before I end, let me offer a word of caution.  While the book does have many useful ideas for entrepreneurs or intrepreneurs, one should also be mindful about running oneself ragged.  Work related burnout is a very real issue in this day and age, and trying to be all things to your customer may derail your own health and peace of mind if it borders on obsession-compulsion.  For sure, you should keep the tweets coming and to respond to them, but do remember that you're human too.

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