Thanksgiving Thoughts On The Cluetrain

Nov 26, 2008 Michael Wurzer

Doc Searls, one of the Cluetrain authors, wrote recently that:

[H]ere’s the challenge: make the Net personal. Make relationships personal. Equip individuals with tools of independence and engagement.

About the same time, Hugh McLeod wrote a post that caught my attention, especially this:

[A]s we all know, human beings don’t scale. Michael Dell can’t have a friendly game of golf with EVERY PERSON who wants to buy a $450 laptop. Maybe if your company is buying 25,000 servers off him globally next year, he’ll free some time up in his diary, but…

Doc Searls brilliantly quipped in the Cluetrain, “Markets are Conversations”. But markets are also about getting stuff done. Often by lots of people at the same time. In the real world. Harder than it looks.

. . .

The good news is . . . that “Marketingspeak” doesn’t work very well on the internet. That acting like a drone doesn’t work very well, either. That human beings respond far better to other human beings on the internet, than they do to faceless, corporate spokesmen. And as more and more of large businesses’ communication moves to direct, two-way online conversations with their their end-users, companies will have no choice BUT to act increasingly human.

. . .

Sure, corporate conversation may never scale to the level of intimacy some of my crazier blogger friends hope to live to see. That being said, today there’s still a tremendously large opportunity for the people who can lead the way, who can, like the cartoon above implies, keep pushing the edges

What do these ideas have to do with Thanksgiving?  Being thankful isn’t just a thought but should be brought to life through our conduct.  As Hugh says above, “markets are also about getting stuff done.”

I’m very thankful for all of our customers and want to engage with each and every one at the highest possible level.  I know that’s true for all of our employees.   We also want to grow our business and serve more customers.

That’s why the “good news” in the quote above is intriguing.  Is it possible that the web is creating opportunities for us to remain human while engaging openly and honestly with more people?  The web creates an opportunity to share more information, more easily, and what customers want is to know where they stand, what to expect from you.

This same struggle exists in the real estate space.  Kris Berg recently wrote about her and her husband’s decisions to go independent from their big brokerage, quoting Seth Godin:

I’d replace the expensive sponsorships and buildings with something more valuable, quicker to market and far more efficient: people. Real people, trustworthy people, honest people… people who take their time, look you in the eye, answer the phone and keep their promises.

With all of the above as a backdrop, over the last several days we at FBS have been discussing whether or not to use a site like UserVoice to engage with our customers about what they would like to see added to flexmls Web.  On the one hand, we want to exchange ideas with customers and believe such a system could be a good way to do that.  On the other hand, we don’t want to create false expectations that the suggestions entered into such a system are going to be implemented any time soon.

The reality is that we’re always in the process of developing new features and, in many ways, we need fewer ideas, not more.  On the other hand, the wisdom of crowds has a great deal of appeal and just the process of creating a list of ideas and sharing it could communicate the reality that there are a lot of ideas and only the best ones can be implemented.

The main question is how do we best engage with our many customers on a human level?  How do we balance between working with our customers to implement the best ideas without drowning in too many good but not great ideas?  I’m very desirous to answer these questions correctly, because I’m truly thankful for our customers and my co-owners here at FBS and want to put that thankfulness into action.

In the meantime, I wish all of our customers and employees a joyous Thanksgiving holiday!