You probably don't know who I am, but I am one of your customers (and a marketer as well, but that's beside the point, I'm a customer first). I am writing you in regards to the fact that you are missing every opportunity possible to snag my business and, instead, seem to be working really hard at annoying me. Let me explain.

I recently purchased a video camera. This was done after a looooong and arduous search. I think I may have been looking around for good suggestions for the exact camera to buy for over a year now. Many times, I've been *this* close to hitting purchase, but unable to because of what Barry Schwartz calls The Paradox of Choice. I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine from Canada where she remarked that we seem to have endless choice in the U.S. and isn't that wonderful...I had to disagree with her. Yes, choice is good, but when the distinction between options is so very miniscule that I feel like it isn't choice at all, it is mind boggling. Disempowering even.

But that's beside the point.

Anyway, I bought this a video camera and I'm pretty happy with my decision. I made it under pressure and on a whim and it appears that the recommendation of the nice sales staff at B&H made was a good one. Post-purchase I went and found many happy reviews from many happy owners all over the web.

But, being a first time video camera purchaser, I had no idea that there were so many other things that I would need! And, beyond some idiotic 'package' that B&H offered up (that didn't happen to include anything I actually needed, there was no information waiting for me to give me a list of further accessories I would need to buy.

Like a firewire to go to my computer so I could take the video and edit it. Or how about the Mini SD card? The tapes, tripod, mic, etc.? C'mon!

At every step of the way, I have to lament the fact that I was missing yet ANOTHER item to complete my experience...yet...when I turned around to seek out those items, NOBODY WAS THERE. Nada. Nope. Y'all were too busy running around the interwebs sending unsolicited emails, gaming Google search results, planting awful banner ads where nobody wants them and setting up MySpace and Facebook pages that everyone mocks.

You see where I'm getting with this?

Now, my buddy Doc Searls and a group of really smart folks have been working on this thing called VRM (stands for Vendor Relationship Management), which gets at solving the issue that I'm talking about. In basic terms, it puts the customer in charge of when the vendor can deliver messages.

Now, I know what you are thinking: "Customers in charge? What about ME? I'm trained to get the word out there! Haven't you ever heard of branding?" Yep. I've heard of it and I also see it declining in relevance. Truly long lasting brands are those who build RELATIONSHIPS with their customers, who then go off and recommend them to others they have RELATIONSHIPS with. Those pop up ads? Billboards? Television commercials? They are just interrupting people, which ends up annoying them. Do you stay in a RELATIONSHIP with someone you are annoyed with? Nope.

Believe me, this VRM stuff is not only good for customers, but it is good for YOU as well. It puts you firmly in the position of being exactly where you need to be (available) when the customer has money in hand, poised to purchase. It puts you in the role of helpful sidekick. It makes you indispensably useful. And since I'm in the checkout line with my video camera, wouldn't I like to see a selection of those cables that I will need, since you know I own a Mac and will probably want to transfer that precious footage onto my hard drive...oh! And speaking of hard drive, if I'm going to be shooting alot of video, it's wise to pick up an external hard drive (with a fire wire to make transfer go MUCH faster).

Pretty soon, you'll have me eating out of your palm!

I mean, Amazon has been doing such things for years with a great deal of success. In fact, the buggers have gotten about 75% of my purchasing and they are far below the standards of being a great personal shopper or concierge service. If you really wanted to knock my socks off, start working towards me being able to take my shopping and search (for shopping) history with me wherever I go so that I can truly leverage my own history to drive my future decisions ("Is this laptop bag going to fit my Mac? I dunno, let's see...yep!" or "What was the model number of that darned printer again and which ink does it take?"). Not only that, how about letting me pull data from my friends experiences (and maybe even friends of friends) so that my personal trusted network can share their experience of the products I'm considering.

Man, that would be awesome, although, really, it may be better that you have your heads up your arses because if you did all of that amazing stuff, I would probably end up buying more than I already do (and I tend to buy a great deal as it is). I mean, obviously, you don't REALLY want my money because, well, you aren't trying very hard. In fact, it seems like you would rather aim for the lazy route and get fewer sales than go for the difficult route and get more sales. So, maybe I'll just take my helpful suggestions elsewhere.

So, dear marketers if any of you DID listen and want to know more, there are alot of really smart people (aka blogosphere) who would be more than happy to help explain it to you further. If not, have a nice day.

Sincerely,

Tara E Hunt

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