This semester, as I'm working towards my Master's Certificate in Religion, I took a class on Buddhism and Compassion. What I liked most about this class, was that the professor made us write a paper about where we struggle with compassion the most—basically where we harbor our deepest judgments of ourselves and others. This assignment was right up my alley as I consider myself to be an extremely judgmental person. And in an era where we're constantly motivated to project perfection, I found it refreshing to be encouraged by scholars like Jack Kornfield and Paul Gilbert to explore my judgments instead of denying them. (Fun fact - Jack Kornfield and friends also recently launched a VC Firm.)

So when this story, about the resurrection of the founders of SoulCycle, came across my screen, I took it as an opportunity to indulge all of my judgment and I eye-rolled hard. Apparently, there is a new space in the world called Peoplehood which will sell you "connection" to "other people" for "a fee" and they will "scale human experience".
🧐 In 2022, there is apparently a need to pay someone to teach you how to connect with other people. 🤔 Peoplehood. 🙄


But here's the thing. They're not totally wrong. Many people nowadays do experience a lack of genuine connection with others and it shows up in a unique way in entrepreneurship. The promise of Direct to Consumer has created a generation of entrepreneurs who have unknowingly Depersonalized The Customer. Instead of the intimate connections we might have made with customers within our community offline, we risk seeing people as followers to be gained, ROAS to be increased, and subscribers to be converted.

Instead of a genuine curiosity about a customer's life and a desire to engage in relationships of reciprocity, we've believed we could automate our intimacy.


The reason most businesses don't grow is because of a lack of genuine connection to their consumer community. With ad spends not being what they used to, iOS changes making acquisitions harder, and newsletters flooding everyone's inbox, a lot of entrepreneurs in the DTC space are waking up to just how challenging this form of commerce might be, and just how little they actually know about who desires their product. And with word of mouth still being one of the most common reasons people buy a product, it's an unfortunate disconnect that we don't truly know why people buy our product in the first place and the life that's lived with that product once it's in their possession. 


The first thing you can do is ask yourself, is it true? Have you also depersonalized your customer by getting caught up in the "modern" way of building a business? When you speak about your customers, do you speak in demographics (like digital marketing trains you to) or do you know personal details about even a small subset of people who engage with your business? How frequently have you initiated a 1:1 connection with people who have purchased from you or those who might potentially purchase from you? How often do you reciprocate the relationship with a note of gratitude or is it all seen as transactional? Have you relied heavily on social media analytics to tell you who's purchasing from you or have you actually taken the time to get to know people? On a scale from 1-10, how much do you genuinely care?

We're in interesting times. With tech stocks plunging, and DTC brands who fancied themselves tech companies also flailing, it's not long before the entire DTC business model sees a vibe shift coming. Peoplehood might just be onto something after all


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