After reading this comment by Jonathan MacDonald, I followed the linktrail from here to here, where dwells one of the most remarkable testimonials I’ve ever seen. One short clip:

Competitors had absolutely no idea what the secret sauce was because they were not able to see the hundreds of thousands of micro-interactions and conversations happening between staff, customers and suppliers.

Other retailers wrote vitriolic letters to the trade magazines claiming that the ‘internet’ was ‘the enemy’ and hundreds of them got into debate about ‘how to stop this online threat’.

I was centrally placed as one of these ‘new media rebels’ and even fuelled the fire by extolling the virtues of online in all trade publications whenever possible. Right in their faces.


We were able to be completely disruptive and for a while we pretty much had the online market to ourselves.

After I had won the ‘Best UK Salesperson’ award in 2002 I was voted to be the Chairman of the entire UK Retail Industry Committee.

I wrote a short book called ‘Survival Guide for the 21st Century Retailer’.

And this:

By applying the principles found within the copy of the Cluetrain, especially the 95 theses (quoted from time to time in this volume), I was able to establish an almost un-beatable business. It was a business of the people. They guided the progress and determined the way they wanted it to be.

To compete, one had to not just take on our brilliant team of paid experts but the 100k+ customers who were constantly advocating our services. To hundreds and thousands of others.

We were on a path toward some form of Communication Ideal that allowed business to self-perpetuate by itself.

Our ‘marketing’ was the environment customers co-created and our ‘advertising’ was conversation.

Other retailers took out full-page adverts. We fired up a coffee machine, created forum boards and sparked up discussion.

Other retailers invested heavily to fight the trend of computers. We let customers create their own websites on our servers.

Purchases happened when purchasers wanted them to. We didn’t ask for it – people didn’t ask for it – we mutually agreed to transactions.

Clue 57 from Cluetrain states: “Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner”.

From the way people walked through the shop (on or offline) to the way they wanted to order goods – we were not solely in control. We shared control with the customers and the customers allowed us to share control with them.

And that was just in the first chapter. The story goes on, with downs (following the above) and ups.

Hope Jonathan can make it to the VRM Hub event on 3 November in London. I’ll be there, along with many others still riding the Cluetrain.

Bonus link. Another. Another.



  1. Kevin Magee’s avatar

    Doc, really interesting testimonial from Jonathan re Cluetrain. I’ve been following a lot of the Cluetrain thesis myself over the years in various projects I’ve been involved with. I have to say, in pretty much every case where we kept the communication open and honest the projects were very successful. They weren’t necessarily easy and there were times when we got severely criticized from less enlightened higher-ups for “telling the clients too much”.

    Earlier this year I was involved with a number of projects which had hit a wall and didn’t look like they would ever get done. We changed to a very open and collaborative communication style to guide our clients over the line. It worked. The projects were successfully delivered.

    One interesting aspect was where we ran up against the culture of our clients which in some cases was very closed. The joint project team (supplier + client) was trying to keep huge levels of open communication going and was gaining from it – and everybody knew it. However, management on the client side did the usual interaction with a vendor where they wanted us to be really open but everything was a secret from their perspective – or so they thought. The open project level communication flow basically meant we knew what was going on despite attempts at controlling the information.

    Cluetrain is totally correct. Trying to shut down information doesn’t work. Old style command and control is counterproductive. I believe embracing this open and honest Cluetrain communication approach is the only way to achieve success for projects or companies.

    My blog:

  2. jMac’s avatar

    Doc – truly honored you liked this…

    Yesterday I gave a keynote in Berlin – all based on CT – tomorrow I address the IAB in Amsterdam and again, as ever, the CT theses play a leading role.

    I have registered for VRM so will see you there – very happy you are coming to the UK 🙂

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