It seems like the 20th century was a bad dream… mass industrialization led to mass markets and mass media to sell us on mass war.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Industrialization provided goods and services to end mass starvation.
We’re in a new era: the digital era, and now we must leave “mass” thinking behind.
To succeed in the market these days, you must offer a genuine experience to each individual customer. In the 20th century, people wanted to be able to drive across Route 66 and stay in a Motel 6 and eat a McDonald’s hamburger because they wanted something familiar, and because there was no information on the random hole-in-the-wall available. Now we have Yelp to let us know if that local place is charmingly quaint or infested with cockroaches.
The new economy is not for people who want to punch a clock and go home at the end of the day. What happens to the people who prefer a structured routine? Can we assume that every person has a passion that can be turned into a skill that can launch a career? Because we all have the world of information at our fingertips, and because we have an abundance of competing material goods, the market advantage belongs to the business that provides the best customer service. The best customer service comes from building relationships. Relationships take time and risk, they’re not immediately quantifiable.
In Chapter 58: UnNetworking: Why Networking Events Are Evil, Stratten and Kramer describe two types of networking interactions that emphasize the necessary shift in thought. In the first example a real estate agent (“Never go full realtor” as Scott Stratten says) arrives at the networking event and forces his business card on people and offers to trade website exposure. In the second example, two people who have had conversations on Twitter recognize each other,
No awkward, “So what do you do?” questions with elevator-speech answers. No card exchange. Just a genuine great feeling of meeting somebody in person who you feel you already know — because you already do.
An economy based on personal relationships cannot be measured in Excel charts and metrics. You have to take the time and make the effort with no guarantee of monetary compensation. But trading business cards and offering to link someone’s website on your blog has no guarantee either.
Not too long ago, there was a lot of angst about social networks creating an illusion of connection. We are craving genuine relationships, in our personal lives and when shopping for goods and services. Take the risk of getting to know someone, and you may have a loyal customer. Or not. But maybe this is how we evolve out of capitalism, maybe this is how we stop measuring our time and worth by the number of dollars we bring in. Welcome to the digital age.