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The Thank You Economy, Ch. 1 - Gary Vee takes us back in time...

Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV
Last summer, I read Gary Vaynerchuk's (aka, Gary Vee's) book, Crush It, and, as much as I tried to relate to it, it didn't speak to me on a real visceral level.

I was much more excited watching and hearing him speak at Big Omaha where his passion was truly contagious. For some reason, the book didn't affect me in the same way, although, for some people, I'm sure it did.

However, after getting a sneak peak at his new book, The Thank You Economy, I'm excited to read it. I can tell from reading just part of the first chapter that it's important and relevant to me as a small business owner and entrepreneur.

In The Thank You Economy, due for release March 8, 2011, Gary Vee reminds us of the importance of connections. Connections with family, friends, and customers and their connections with the community.

He begins by describing life as it likely was for our grandparents or great-grandparents when, prior to the mid-1900s, people communicated directly, face-to-face, in their local communities. Most towns had a handful of stores that offered the basic necessities of life and the shopkeepers knew their customers well.

Then came cars.....and highways.....and strip malls...and, consequently, distance between friends, family, and the businesses to which we had been so loyal before. What filled this gap was big business. These new monsters gobbled up the mom-and-pop shops that had so lovingly served us when local was everything.

The sea change that occurred was staggering. Big business had different concerns than the local, independent shops that came before them. No longer were people and customers the driving force behind how business was done. Big business was concerned with one thing—profits.

As big business thrived in the latter part of the 20th century, a customer's ability to communicate with humans inside those businesses became a thing of the past. Customers' primary contact with businesses was now via computer. Calling a customer service number resulted in a seemingly endless series of pressing buttons in the hope that an actual person would eventually pick up. Those without the patience for that spent their time on the company's website searching for information or filling out a form and hoping for a response.

Then, in 2003, a new way of communicating was media. This amazing development created the potential for an unprecedented personalization and breadth of communication even our grandparents couldn't have experienced.

With this new platform, the power shifted back to the consumer. Whereas the local shop keeper in bygone eras was concerned with a disgruntled customer sharing her story with the PTA or her bridge club, businesses now are dealing with an almost incomprehensible level of connection.

Piss off a customer now and their story is blasted across the globe in a matter of seconds. On the upside for businesses, however, is the reality that customers are now, often without even knowing they're doing it, marketing products for them. A seemingly innocuous post on Facebook about Snickers can trigger a craving thousands of miles away.

Gary Vee's point is that it's all about word of mouth in the new age of social media. It's about creating and maintaining relationships, and not just among friends and acquaintances nearby. Most importantly, though, it's about businesses having a soul.

Thanks to social media, the scope of our connections has grown exponentially to include thousands of people. These days, marketing happens in real-time via the communication between these far-flung connections. This point may seem obvious to those paying attention, but Gary Vee points out that many businesses still aren't attuned to this wave of change. Businesses need to realize that, while it may have made sense at one time to ignore customers on a human level, times have changed—in a big way. Smart business people will use this power of the consumer via social media to build and shape their brand.

In what Gary Vee dubs "The Thank You Economy," successful businesses will hearken back to a time when the local shopkeeper knew everyone who walked into his store and knew how to give them what they wanted. I think he's on to something. And he doesn't just give it lip service. He consistently crushes it using social media in new and exciting ways and, by doing so, he proves it works and shows us how to do it, too.

As a small business owner, I'm paying attention. And you should be, too.