One of the sub-texts to last week's CCE2013 was an idea I am dubbing 'aggregated intention discovery' or AID. It's an important though nascent idea. It brings together a number of strands that for many have been floating in the digital breeze and which, when hefted appropriately, make sense for both buyers and sellers in any market.
AID is about pulling together the strands of contact activity so that I can make an intelligent decision or offer to a customer or potential customer at the time when it is right for both of us. In other words, I am taking something I see as a signal of intention, exploring that and then determining how best to make an offer.
Although it doesn't say so explicitly, Nimble thinks it has a good way of approaching this topic such that CRM really does become customer relationship management and not remain as an internal device for managing the sales teams and their pipelines. To that end, I've been using Nimble's latest version over the last week. I've concluded that while it is a great start, it hasn't quite found the 'magic' in CRM although it does some things very well.
OK - so let's contextualize this.
The ideas underpinning the 'attention' economy have been around for a while. First popularized by Steve Gillmor, it works on the basis that 'attention ' is a form of currency you can only earn by building a solid reputation about yourself. According to Gillmor, attention is earned through the 'gestures' we leave (or things we say) in various forms of media. Wikipedia talks about it in these terms:
As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention becomes the limiting factor in the consumption of information. Attention economics applies insights from other areas of economic theory to enable content consumers, producers, and intermediaries to better mediate and manage the flow of information in light of the scarcity of consumer attention.
Thought of in those terms, it is easy to understand why some of us spend an insane amount of time creating content we hope the world and his dog will find compelling. It's also why many think personal brand is so important. It also explains why advertising hasn't (quite) died yet but has become more inventive (sometimes.) Advertisers want attention. It's what the old dot-comers call 'eyeballs.'
Now flip that and think about the 'intention' economy, a term first used by Doc Searls to understand how to approach buyers as a scarce resource. This is how Doc sees it working:
The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don't need advertising to make them.
The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don't need marketing to make Intention Markets.
The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don't have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer's purchase. Simple as that.
So far so good? An example of this in action (albeit not totally perfect) is AirBnB where the service acts as a facilitator between those who need temporary accommodation and those who offer that service. AirBnB is the market, and individuals offering the service compete with others for intention. This is far more personalized than the notion of finding a hotel room and has proven sufficiently successful for AirBnB to spawn a slew of other services like Uber as an alternative to regular taxis. As a side note, some think of AirBnB as representing the sharing economy but that's another story.
Relationship at the center
In some markets this doesn't (yet) work as well as Doc might like because those same markets are founded upon the notion of relationships rather than relationships being an important but separate part fo the mix. This is particularly true in professional services like accounting and legal services although I would argue the 'ties that bind' are getting looser by the day.
In other markets, freely offered service is seen as the precursor to relationship although again, it is a little more nuanced than that. Hence, as Nimble sees it, a need to understand customers and potential customers rather better than we perhaps do today. How does it work?
Nimble takes many of the components of traditional CRM (email, calendar, pipeline) but infuses it with information coming from the various social streams to which your contacts - as seen in the loosest sense - subscribe. It's a novel though obvious idea. What isn't so obvious though is what Nimble has done as the next step and how that benefits the user.
For that explanation - please read on.
Featured image: Flickr user Julio César Cerletti García