I attended an NMK seminar on vendor relationship management (VRM) last night (thanks to Ian Delaney for organising a great event).  This is an area I have been getting excited about recently, and I posted some early thoughts here (the comments are also worth a read).

Unfortunately I had to leave the seminar early so I’m not sure how the debate finished, but for me the striking thing about the first part of the discussion was the motivations of the key proponents of VRM.  Their agenda was mostly about consumers taking control of their data – i.e. taking it back for themselves away from the silo CRM systems of their suppliers.

I have been thinking of VRM slightly differently – as a more efficient way of managing the information flow between suppliers and (potential) customers.  For me the beauty of VRM is that it eliminates the waste on both sides of the advertising equation – most adverts that suppliers pay for hit people outside their target market, and as consumers most of the ads we watch are not interesting to us.  With VRM suppliers get to focus their communications 100% on people who are interested in their message (a key enabler of conversations).  Similarly as a consumer I can be more engaged with vendors messages as I know they will be relevant for me (admittedly this part feels further out).

In the vision of Adriana Lukas at least the promise of VRM lies more in having our personal data in a single place and being able to mine it ourselves.

That sounds great as well, but from an investment perspective it doesn’t feel like the same scale of opportunity as the VRM vision I described above.  In a related point there are strong ties between the open source and VRM movements which lends a further non-commercial air.

Nothing wrong with that of course, it just means that VRM might fall outside of what I’m paid to focus on.

It is early days, but it feels to me like there is a lot of potential in this concept, but big new companies are only going to come out of the VRM movement in the next three to five years if the agenda is more avowedly commercial than I heard last night.

The interesting question for me is whether that is on the agenda.

Speakers at the event last night were:
Adriana Lukas, Alan Patrick and Jeremy Ruston.