In the last five years, Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family wine retail business from $4 million to $60 million. Now, in addition to running Wine Library, starring in Wine Library TV, and authoring the New York Times-bestseller Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion, Vaynerchuk is consulting with large and small companies, showing them how to brand themselves effectively in the digital age.
His latest book, The Thank You Economy, was published last month. The Intuit Small Business Blog chatted with Vaynerchuk about the release and why businesses should care about customers and how to communicate authentically.
I think that maturity of the internet is upon us. What we’re dealing with now is the social maturity. We’re looking at infrastructure being created whether it’s through a status update or a tweet. Word of mouth has always been some of the strongest currency and now we have word of mouth on steroids. I think that’s creating a scenario where consumers are leaving more micro thoughts. The opportunities for businesses to engage with those micro thoughts are substantial. Consumers are willing to talk to each other publicly and have businesses engage with them. It’s a huge opportunity for businesses to engage and work the room, like at a cocktail party.
What would you say to small business owners who feel they don’t have time for social media?
Not having time to engage with the end user who pays the bills baffles me. I don’t know when the end user wasn’t the single most important part of the equation. I would tell small business owners to stop doing silly things. Audit their day-to-day and put more time in the end user. Small businesses are in a much better spot than corporate America because they’re not living by Wall Street’s rules. Blockbuster didn’t think streaming video was ready and they were wrong.
How does the Thank You Economy allow smaller companies to better compete with multi-million dollar brands?
From my standpoint, this is where it gets interesting. It’s no longer predicated on media budgets. It has a lot more to do with engagement and the ROI of actually caring, which gives small businesses an opportunity. It’s not about spending money for a New York Times ad. It’s much more in the trenches. That means better opportunities to small businesses.
Your book has some case studies that prove the power of freebies. How do you handle customers who don’t act in good faith and just want to complain or get a free lunch?
I think there’s such a thing as firing a customer. The fact of the matter is, be very careful and don’t go there very quickly. It happens. I definitely feel as though it’s all about the customer, but it’s not inconceivable to me that someone may be out for that free lunch. Just be polite. “Hey, Bob, I’m really sorry, I’ve done XYZ, and I’m still not able to make you happy. I can’t do what you’re asking, but I’m here for you in any other way.” You hope that the customer will respect it. In the 20 years I’ve been in retail, that conversation has happened maybe three or four times.
You seem to have a really unique energy and marketing mojo. How do you teach your clients to harness that energy themselves? Or do they need to tap into their own energy?
It’s about being authentic to who you are. My style works for me because it’s unfiltered who I am. It’s about being authentically who you are. Plenty of people win by being extroverts, and plenty of people win by being introverts. It’s about honing who you are and not wavering.
Does that mean businesses shouldn’t outsource social media?
I don’t have a problem with people outsourcing social. The people that are managing the brand better know the voice. Whether it’s internal employees or outside agencies, as long as they’re all in, engaging for the consumer in the voice of the brand, that’s what the end goal should be.
Any tips for people who want to improve their trendspotting abilities?
Don’t draw lines in the sand. Too many people say, “No, I hope it doesn’t go that way.” I’m very good at eliminating “no.” It opens up what could be instead. People that play chess will have a little more intuition. I don’t play chess but I play business. Back in 2006, when I discovered Twitter, I said, “If Twitter takes off, what’s going to happen?”
Any other words of wisdom for small businesses?
Don’t put your head in the sand. Stop complaining or thinking about the way it should be and start executing in the way that is. I’ve been around small business my whole life. They used to say, “People are never going to put credit cards into a computer so they can buy things.” Everybody’s saying things instead of just dealing with the reality of what customers are doing.