The Thank You Economy

By: Gary Vaynerchuk



If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times. Everything has changed. People are posting updates to Twitter, liking pictures Facebook and creating videos on Youtube. Finally, technology is connecting everyone, and everything. A lot has been made about the fact that media is now democratised. Every company on the planet is on an equal playing field when it came to creating and spreading media. So, all that is left for companies and organisations to do is to create a Twitter account, put up a Facebook page and shoot a few Youtube videos. Right?


The smartest people among us - like Gary Vaynerchuk - are realising that while these tools give us the ability to reach more people than we ever thought possible, that very thing is causing a rewriting of the rules of business. However, this isn’t some futuristic new world we are heading for. We are heading for the Thank You Economy, which has its roots way back in small town America.

The Way It Was

Running a business was different 50 years ago. While there was still a lot of work to do, the pace was slower. To succeed, you needed to put relationships ahead of transactions. If you owned a bakery during that time, it was very likely that you lived in the same neighbourhood as your customers. You probably knew the names of their children and exactly what they were going to order even before they walked in the door. This was the Thank You Economy. If you were the baker, you thanked your customers with a Baker’s Dozen by throwing an extra croissant in the bag without making a big deal of it.

Creating real relationships and giving incredible service to your customers was the game. One bad experience and the entire town might hear about it. Giving customers a great experience was the only way to build a business. Your business would rise or sink based on what your customers shared with the rest of the neighbourhood.

However, sometime during the suburban sprawl that happened after the Second World War, we lost our way. As more and more people drove cars to work and to buy their goods, we no longer had strong ties to our customers. Larger stores started opening which made it even harder to build personal relationships with all of your customers. How do we know that we lost our way? Today, we put companies who create a great customer experience on a pedestal and write books about them. The service that the Four Season’s or Zappos have become famous for were table stakes in the old Thank You Economy.

Over the next 3-5 years, they are about to become table stakes again. In the meantime, the companies and organisations who can grasp this will be ones who will win hearts, minds, and wallet share. We are going to skip the arguments about whether or not social media is actually going to change the business world in this way. It is. Get on board or get left behind.

The Blueprint For Being Left Behind

Like it or not, social media has created the Thank You Economy. There is no separating the two. Unfortunately, many business owners look around and find as many reasons as they possibly can to resist moving their organisation forward. If you want to stick your head in the sand and hope that this revolution won’t have an impact on your business, here are the statements you can make.

There is no ROI. This one has been debated to death. It’s true that many organisations are having a tough time defending the ROI of social media over short-term intervals, like months or quarters. Investors and the stock market want their returns now. However, the real return in this medium happens over time and comes when you create advocates for your brand.One study has shown that customers are willing to pay 5% - 25% more for a superior customer service. Hundreds of other studies show that the most profitable form of advertising is word-of-mouth. Social media is the perfect tool for building both of these situations.

The metrics aren’t reliable. There is a lot of humming and hawing about the validity of metrics with social media. However, we also know that statistics on television viewers suffer from the same sort of bias, and have always been a less than optimal way to measure customer engagement. Don’t fall into this trap.

Social media is too young. Yes, however, there is one difference between the Thank You Economy of old and the current Thank You Economy: first mover advantage today is huge. Because social media is a global phenomenon, waiting until the field matures is a certain death sentence. Ask Blockbuster and Borders how that went while they waited for the Internet to mature.

Social media is another trend that will pass. Wrong. Just turn on the news and see how governments around the world are falling like dominos. In large part, you have social media to thank for that. If it can topple dictators, it can certainly topple your position in your industry.

We need to control our message. You have never truly been in control of the message, it just seemed that way. Now that your customers and the marketplace have the ability to “talk back”, we are starting to realise that our elevator pitches and the untold hours we’ve spent creating them were a fairly poor use of our time. Ironically, as I sit here creating this content, I am overhearing two executives wonder what they are going to do with “that blogger and tweeter”.

We don’t have the time to respond to everybody. Unfortunately for you, you can’t afford not to. The companies who are building the brands that MBA students will learn from in the next 10-15 years are realising that great customer service is now their best marketing. Take some budget from some underperforming bucket somewhere else in your company and give it to the customer service team to engage in social media.

There are plenty of other reasons you might have for not participating in social media, but the answers all lead to the same place. This shift is much bigger than the tools and social networks you hear about in the news. This is a transformation in the way you do business.

The Way To Win #1: Instilling the Right Culture

Although Vaynerchuk built his company and personal brand on the back of entertaining and educational online video, he would be the first to tell you that this isn’t the magic sauce in the Thank You Economy. The path to victory is through caring more than the competition. However, this isn’t something you can decree in an email or a company address, and sit back and magically watch it all come together. There are 6 building blocks you need to implement if you want your organisation to be a lean mean, fight-for-the-customer machine.

Begin with yourself. If you don’t feel the need to fight for your customers, then how do you expect your team to? Succeeding in the Thank You Economy is hard work. If you don’t feel the love for your customers flowing through your veins, it’s unlikely you are going to inspire others to do the same.

Commit whole hog. This doesn’t mean you have to go and steal an insane amount of money from somebody else’s budget in order to create a brand new social media department at your company. But as Gary points out, the mental commitment to the movement can be made in a millisecond. Make the commitment like you are burning the ships and there is no turning back.

Set the tone. As you’ve heard before, as a leader you are on a stage every day. Your employees watch and believe your actions more than your words. Make a point of doing something that makes your organisation stand up and take notice. If you need inspiration for this, look no further than John Pepper, the CEO of the Boston-based burrito chain, Boloco. Pepper makes it a habit to respond to customer emails personally. More importantly, he does it without corporate speak, and does it from the heart. When was the last time you responded directly to your customers’ emails?

Invest in your employees. There’s a saying that you need to love yourself before you can love others. The same goes for your team. You can’t expect them to create amazing customer experiences if they aren’t happy themselves. The great news is that most people are seeking recognition and great work rather than more money, which are for the most part free to the organisation. Reward the people who share your passion for the customer, and take it on themselves to step up and innovate in the customer experience process.

Trust your people. This one is simple. Most organisations create process after process to ensure that untrustworthy employees don’t make mistakes that end up costing the company money or reputation. Netflix has a interesting take on the process it has created: the rules they create for the company are intended to allow talented employees get more done. Zappos takes this same principle to its logical conclusion by allowing their call centre employees to stay on the phone for as long as it takes to make the customer happy. Do you have rules that stand in the way of your employees using their best judgment to do the right thing for the customer? If so, get rid of them. If you are fearful of doing that, you probably have the wrong people.

Be authentic. This word has become a cliche in the past few years, but at its heart is an incredibly important distinction. If your heart isn’t in it, your customers and employees will pick up on the BS immediately.

Create these building blocks in your company, and you will be ready for the Thank You Economy.

The Way To Win #2: Using social and traditional media together

Vaynerchuk is one of the few people in the social media space that will admit that social media and traditional media just may in fact work well together. It’s not that traditional media is a terrible investment, it’s that traditional media is a terrible investment if it is too expensive. That, Gary says, is the problem. So, if you can find the right pricing, traditional media can still give you a great boost.

In fact, Vaynerchuk used traditional media in some instances to advertise his last book, Crush It, in New York City. The key to doing this well is to use the offline media to spark and continue a discussion online. One of the brands who did a great job of creating engagement in social media that was originally sparked by traditional media was Old Spice and the “Man your man could smell like” campaign.

For a short time, Old Spice and its agency connected with fans and followers in social media by creating a large amount of custom videos. However, after this original push, they did not continue the conversation online, and hadn’t posted a reply to their Twitter account in months.

If you are going to use traditional media to its fullest potential, you need to create a never ending game of ping pong. It would probably help to start to think in terms of movements instead of campaigns. Campaigns have a start and an end date. Movements do not.


If you want to get ready for the upcoming business revolution, you need to look beyond the social media tools at your disposal, and get ready for a shift in the way you conduct your business. Get your company ready for the Thank You Economy, or you might just find yourself on the wrong side of history.