The Searls Group works with companies that want to make The Intention Economy happen. It is led by Doc and Joyce Searls.

In his book, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge (2012: Harvard Business Review Press), Doc explains,

Over the coming years, customers will be emancipated from systems built to control them. They will become free and independent actors in the marketplace, equipped to tell vendors what they want, how they want it, where, and when—even how much they'd like to pay—outside of any vendor's system of customer control. Customers will be able to form and break relationships with vendors, on customers' own terms, and not just on the take-it-or-leave-it terms that have been pro forma since industry won the industrial revolution.

Customer power will be personal, not just collective. Each customer will come to market equipped with his or her own means for collecting and storing personal data, expressing demand, making choices, setting prefereences, proffering terms of engagement, offering payments, and participating in relationships—whether those relationships are shallow or deep, and whether they last for moments or years. Those means will be standardized. No vendor will control them.

Demand will no longer be expressed only in the forms of cash, collective appetites, or the inferences of crunched data over which the individual has little or no control. Demand will be personal. This means customers will be in charge of personal information they share with all parties, including vendors.

Customers will have their own means for storing and sharing their own data and their own tools for engaging with vendors and other parties. With these tools, customers will run their own loyalty programs—ones in which vendors will be the members. Customers will no longer need to carry around vendor-issued loyalty cards and key tags. This means vendors' loyalty programs will be based on genuine loyalty by customers and will benefit from a far greater range of information than tracking customer behavior alone can provide.

Thus, relationship management will go both ways. Just as vendors today are able to manage relationships with customers and third parties, customers tomorrow will be able to manage relationships with vendors and fourth parties, which are companies that serve as agents of customer demand, from the customer's side of the marketplace.

Relationships between customers and vendors will be voluntary and genuine, with loyalty anchored in mutual respect and concern, rather than coercion. So, rather than "targeting," "capturing," "acquiring," "managing," "locking in," and "owning" customers, as if they were slaves or cattle, vendors will earn the respect of customers who are now free to bring far more to the market's table than the old vendor-based systems ever contemplated, much less allowed.

Likewise, rather than guessing what might get the attention of consumers—or what might "drive" them like cattle—vendors will respond to actual intentions of customers. Once customers' expressions of intent become abundant and clear, the range of economic interplay between supply and demand will widen, and its sum will increase. The result we will call the intention economy.

Since 2006 Doc has led at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management. While the name suggests the customer-side counterpart of Customer Relationship Management, the larger goal of Doc's VRM work is toward proving that free customers are more valuable than captive ones — a goal that was also implicit in The Cluetrain Manifesto, a business bestseller Doc co-authored in 2000. To become free, customers need tools that make them both independent and better able to engage. Doc is also a lifelong journalist who held several leading positions at Hodskins Simone & Searls, a leading Silicon Valley advertising, PR and marketing agency, and understands the challenges and opportunities companies face as their customers become more liberated and capable.

Joyce Searls has broad experience in building and running businesses. She is best known for her work in the fashion business, co-founding and running Adele Joyce, a leading label in women's sweaters. Over her years in that business, millions of Adele Joyce sweaters were sold through major department stores and womens clothing stores. (And are still widely re-sold on the vintage clothing market.) Before that she worked in various capacities at The Broadway, now part of Macy's. Today she is President of Soffa Electric, a manufacturer of industrial controls, while also presiding over the strategy and operations sides of The Searls Group.

Doc and Joyce are also founders and board members of Customer Commons, which has as its mission "creating a world of liberated, powerful and respected customers."

Rates and terms for engagement are available by request. Email: doc at searls dot com or joyce at

©2013 Searls, Inc.