A Must-Read: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Had the opportunity to plow through a bunch of books over the last week (Under the Black Flag, Hiaasen’s Nature Girl, the Baker Report, and am currently working on The Omnivore’s Dilemma – more on that one soon). Of all of them, however, the head-and-shoulders best was Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. As my friend Philip would say, fannnnn-great.

Take the discovery and translation of The Secret History of the Mongols, which was hidden from civilization for almost 800 years, lay over the top of it fantastic research and storytelling by author and scholar Jack Weatherford, who traveled thousands of miles on horseback to do his research first-hand, sprinkle it with the opening up and exploration of the Mongolian territory that was the Area 51 of the Soviet Empire…ah, great stuff.

From the cultural shifts, to the storytelling, to the strategy that allowed Genghis Khan to fairly rule an entire continent with only a handful of trusted advisors and warriors, a great read, end-to-end. Highly recommended.

Flying Over The Holidays – O, Joy!

I’ve just come back from a long weekend, which was lovely. I didn’t get away anywhere. Instead, I opted to have some time at home to relax and recuperate. I caught up on some TV and watched a couple of movies I’ve been meaning to watch for a while (fortunately, they were available to watch but, had they been blocked for whatever reason, I know I could have gone here and worked around it with a proxy. Whilst I enjoyed it, I think I’ll be making a trip somewhere next time a long weekend comes along. You see, a friend sent me an article that lists things to do in Houston if you’re visiting and I couldn’t help but regret my decision to stay at home. Whether it’s Houston or somewhere else, I’ll definitely be having a few days away next time.

Anyway, after my long weekend I returned to an email box chock-full of stories of travel mayhem, interspersed with brief moments of airlines doing the right thing. I’ll share a few here — both good and bad. Share your stories in the comments.

From Randy Moss, “American Airlines has Bad, Horrible. Terrible, Horrific Customer Service“:

“We sprinted off of the airplane and rode the train to gate C-8 at 5:15 pm Christmas eve when we encountered one of the nastiest, rudest airline employees I have ever met in my many years as a frequent flyer. His name was Lokesh and he declared that our boarding passes were no good since we did not have a ticket. After trying to reason with him he had his assistant Denise slam the boarding door in my wifes face and told us to leave and go talk to someone who cared out in the ticketing area.At that point we met Carolyn who was sweet but not very helpful, and her supervisor whose name tag was as backwards as his ability to be helpful. After hearing that we came in from Colorado he let us know we should be thanking him that we are not in the Denver Airport. It’s attitudes like this that make me wish we could fly on a charter jet. Not only are they quicker, more luxurious but I’m almost certain that their crew is more helpful as well.

At this point I was working up an exit strategy – I to was on the phone with Continental and was getting us re-booked on Delta. Landon was a real help on the phone and got us on the 7:10 pm flight into ATL. There were only 15 or so passengers on the plane and we all got bumped up to 1st class. I can not remember the Delta ticket agents name but she stayed 15 minutes past her shift Christmas eve to help us and really embodies why I fly Delta!”

From Robert Scoble, “Travel Disaster“:

“The lines at Oakland are up to four hours long. I missed my flight and am not yet to the gate. Unbelievable.”

And this one from the news wires, “Frustrated travelers storm airport runway in Brazil“:

“Brazilian travelers responded to chronic delays at one of Sao Paulo’s airports yesterday by storming the runway and blocking a plane from taking off.”

How were your trips?

Let’s Say This Again, One More Time, With Feeling: Robo-selling Does Not Create A Relationship With The Customer

~rant on~
RobotIn a post earlier today, the usually-on-the-money Jim Berkowitz at the CRM Mastery blog had a post entitled “Turning Sales Into Science” that spotlighted a number of emerging technologies that are (according to Berkowtiz Inc.’s Alex Salkever) going to “launch your sales force into the future” and “turn a sales operation into a gleaming high-tech machine.”


First off…sales should be about the customer, not the technology.
Secondly…actually, there is no “secondly.” Sales should be about the customer, period.

Now, Salkever’s list has a number of points that require comment.

AS: “If you’ve already won a client’s trust, it ought to be relatively easy to sell him or her more stuff.”

Yes, indeed. If you can fake sincerity, you are golden. And that’s right…it’s not about helping the customer solve a problem, it’s about the stuff!

AS: “Now, for the first time, smaller businesses can afford to send automated phone messages to targeted clients. With these products , a salesperson or business owner calls a toll-free number and records a brief message with a sales pitch. The message is uploaded to the Internet and broadcast using a voice over Internet protocol system to anywhere from a dozen to thousands of customers.”

Greeeeeaaaat. I, for one, would like to welcome our robot overlords.

AS: “Make the buyers come to you.”

Yes, because I certainly know that I love it when vendors make me do things. I really do!

Gah, blech, ick, etcetera, etcetera. The rest of the post is all about the shiny tools that sales folks can use to automate tasks and further dehumanize the customer-vendor interaction. And so forth.
~rant off~

I need my moment of Zen. Ah, here’s one. And here’s another. And one more.

Update: As pointed out in the comments, apologies to Jim Berkowitz, who was excerpting this article by Alex Salkever in the above. The post above has been updated to reflect the correct attribution where necessary.

VRM – Vendor Relationship Management

(Update: Some follow up thoughts here and some scenario thinking here.)

Over the past couple of months, a groundswell has begun around the concept of VRM*.

This needs to be on your radar.

Although the idea has been around in various incarnations for many, many years (e.g. I was aware of a project called “TEKRAM” — yes, that’s cutely “market” spelled backwards — back in 1999; some thoughts from that epoch are here and here), the infrastructure required and, more importantly, the cultural readiness may finally be here.

What is VRM?: At it’s simplest, it’s turning the idea of selling and marketing TO customers on its head. With VRM, the customer is in charge of the relationship. Not the vendor.

Who coined the phrase “VRM?”: Mike Vizard, during a podcast on the subject. It was then pounced on in the way a pitbull pounces on a ribeye by Doc Searls (see the comment section below).

What’s needed for VRM to work?: There are a number of technical things that are needed: a robust way for customers to manage their own online identities without getting trapped in any vendor’s silo, a way for customers to only share the aspects of identity that they want to share with a particular vendor (perhaps anonymously), and a robust way for vendors to interact with those customers. But more importantly than the technical aspects, the cultural shift of actually putting the customer in charge may end up being the largest challenge.

Hasn’t this been done with things like Priceline and LendingTree
: Sort of. More on the differences in a future post.

Who else is thinking about this?: Doc has called a number of people who will be involved, including (but not limited to) Mary Rundle, John Clippinger, Dave Winer, Jeremie Miller, Joe Andrieu, Steve Gillmor, Deborah Schultz and myself.

Where can I find out more about VRM?: At the ProjectVRM page

* – No, not CRM (Customer Relationship Management), but its converse, Vendor Relationship Management.

I’ve Been Tagged!

“We’ve got multiple signals… uh, front and behind… reading’s off the chart!” – Hudson

Over the weekend I was tagged by both Deb and Jake in a wave of blogtag that’s been going around the web. Fun stuff! Write down five things about yourself that others probably don’t know, and pass it on. So, without further ado…

For Deborah Schultz, who tagged me first:

  • I once crashed a car because I was listening to the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and literally did “a jump to the left” while driving at about 30mph. This had the unfortunate side effect of moving my right foot from the brake to the clutch. Hilarity ensued.
  • In 2004-2005, I learned how to spin fire.
  • I’ve never lost a game of Whack-a-Mole at Great America.
  • Lisa and I and a host of friends built a teardrop trailer this year from scratch. We were pleased with the results.
  • I howled with laughter when I read Lamb, by Christopher Moore. The people in my row on the airplane on which I was traveling at the time looked at me, askance.

And for Jake McKee, who tagged me next:

  • Hamachi Kama Shioyaki. Yum.
  • I was whitewater rafting in Costa Rica and came across a trail of leafcutter ants in the rainforest. The line of ants went out of sight down the trail and into the forest. I learned that putting a thin line of Carmex across their path messes up their whole pheromone thing, big time. They dam up, not unlike a blocked stream, unsure of where to go, until one of their scouts finds a way around the scent-dam and rediscovers their original pheromone path.
  • I think El Vez is a genius. Ditto Richard Cheese. And Martin Denny.
  • Once in a club in Helsinki, I was told in broken English that I dance “just like Jamiroquai.” I’m still unsure if it was a compliment or not.
  • I have fed the tarpon at Robbie’s. The tarpon were large. They frightened me. I had a Rumrunner at the Tiki Bar. I felt better.

Tag! You are it!

Rachel Lyra Hospodar
Paul Greenberg
Liz Henry
David Wallace
Georgia Patrick

A Little To The Left…

Carolyn Manning: “As important as concrete goals and fluid plans, strong community relationships are indispensable to every business. Those relationships are the cornerstones and building blocks to a complete social network. The builders won’t simply survive, they’ll thrive.”