Personal Connection is Coming Full Circle with Customer Relationship Management

By Ted Rubin

Personalization is the new black. The marketing and selling story of today involves knowing and seeing your customer the moment they arrive on your physical or virtual doorstep, and being able to provide differentiated service based on their preferences, history and loyalty. Knowing who they are, listening to what they have to say, and speaking to them via those they trust, not a brand mouthpiece. In other words, customer relationship management is the new norm.

Customer relationship management successful store

The burbs

Customer relationship management isn’t a new idea. Looking back before World War II, most business was done in a personalized way. Stores were small and knew their customers on sight. They knew customers’ preferences and in many cases, could predict exactly what offers and information would entice their customers to buy.  Their business grew via customer satisfaction and word of mouth—relationships.

This customer relationship management pattern changed with the arrival of the mass-market suburb after the war. Communities were no longer necessarily based around a Main Street shopping district and instead, we built shopping centers connected by carefully planned avenues and freeways. Home was no longer known as a particular town or village. Driving further was a way to find discounts and choice, and loyalty to a local retailer or brand was broken. Broken not just because of the availability of discounts, but because smaller local merchants could no longer afford customer relationship management and compete with the discounted race to the bottom.

Media

The same pattern led to the rise of Madison Avenue, featured as the backdrop for the Mad Men television show with its clever tag line, the focus group, and the advertising buy on newsprint, radio and television. The entire industries built around these patterns are today crumbling in the face of changing technology and a changing consumer… and the democratization of content where the Age of Influence had empowered anyone to build an audience and affect change, advocate brands, build relationships and make a difference.

If you believe the past repeats itself, you’re right, as we’re coming full circle in customer relationship management.

Retailers have stark choices to make and those leading the pack are already putting their focus on the technology to follow the new, personalized way of engaging and enlisting the content creation skills of influencers and users to share their stories with those who value what they have to say.

Rediscovering the customer

The new pattern of customer relationship management bears striking resemblance to the grocery of 1900, but in some ways, it is better. The reach of a retailer is global, 24×7, and has a perfect memory for preferences and past transactions, and the ability to create relevant emotionally connected content at scale. The new retailer can manage a virtually unlimited number of conversations in exactly the same moment and offer something completely customized, individualized and relevant, in a voice appreciated and valued by their consumers.

This is the corner grocer’s personal touch with far greater differentiation, choice, flexibility, channels, convenience, content, and ultimately, value. We’ve come full circle in customer relationship management, but to an even better place.

For more from Ted Rubin, visit his blog and follow him on Twitter @tedrubin and @R_onR.

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Blurring of the Marketing/CRM Line

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

There is a significant blurring of the line between marketing and customer relationship management.  This blurring has enormous impact on the way we operate our businesses and engage with our customers.

We need to stop thinking about functions and start thinking about fans.

Traditional silos

Traditionally, marketing has been about defining market segments and delivering offers while CRM was about knowing the fine-grained details of your accounts.

Even though we call it CRM, it has been, for most companies, about the sales funnel more than customer relationships; leads go in, revenue comes out.  Marketing sat above that funnel.

Expanding roles

Marketing is expanding and is less about segmenting the potential customers you don’t know and much more about finding prospects to know and interact with as marketers, before they enter “the funnel”. CRM, meanwhile, is being used to continually interact with customers in new ways of cross selling and upselling that used to look like marketing.  Where does marketing end and CRM begin? It’s very blurry.

Technology/strategy breakthroughs in recent years and changing consumer patterns allow each end of the marketing-to-CRM spectrum to continue to widen even as the difference between them blurs. This, in a nutshell, creates friction between applications, databases, departments, business owners, platforms, and ultimately prevents cohesive management of the spectrum.

Conflict

It manifests as battles over budget, politics over positioning, and conflict over control. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it isn’t for companies that recognize the benefit of seeing this spectrum as turning customers into fans.

Turning customers into fans must be the over-arching goal of any 21st century company that wants to stay relevant, build trust, open lines of communication and find success despite turbulence and a constantly evolving customer. Are you ready?

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Return on Relationship™: The New Measure of Success

By Ted Rubin 

Social media is quickly becoming a way of life… and a way of business as more and more companies are realizing they need to integrate social media into their marketing strategies. We can’t, however, expect to do “business as usual” and succeed in building an eager audience around our brands.

If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™.

–Return on Relationship™…simply put the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing.–

Most measurements and empowerment stats that are used with regard to relationships (i.e. number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, retweets, site visits, video views, positive ratings and vibrant communities) are not financial assets, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. Instead, these are leading indicators that a brand is doing something that is creating value that will be with you for the long term and will drive ROI if developed and used effectively.

So how do you build and strengthen relationships with your audience (as a whole, and as individuals) to increase your ROR?

1. Listen

If you want to be heard above the growing social media “noise,” you need to first listen to your consumers so when you do speak, you get it right. What are they saying, what are they feeling, what are their pain points, what solutions do they need?

2. Make it be about THEM

First think about and first address what matters most to your audience. Give them a platform to show you what they need, want, are interested in, and expect. Whatever matters most to them should become what matters most to you! We marketers like to think that social media is primarily a set of tools for our marketing purposes, but in reality, social media is also a strong set of tools our consumers use to share and influence opinion about our brand. Our consumers now have “the channel of me.” Consumers’ opinions now create the “reality” of the brand — if enough consumers say negative things about your brand, your brand loses its credibility, and (thankfully) vice versa.

3. Ask “How can I serve you?”

Taking the “ME” mentality one step further, when we are advertising instead of building relationships, we are focused on what our consumers can give us instead of how we can best serve them.

Your consumers will recognize in a heartbeat if you are simply trying to get something from them – and they will not stick around. It’s not that you aren’t allowed to want anything from your consumers, it’s that there must be a give to go along with every take. If you truly want to make an impact, aim to always put more energy and attention in your “give” column than in your “take” column. It will pay off.

4. Aim for Ongoing Engagement

Building relationships is about starting meaningful dialogue and taking the time to thoughtfully and genuinely engage in ongoing conversation. Relationships focus on getting to know your consumer and giving them reasons to stay engaged — not just getting them to react. This needs to be all the time… not simply campaign or initiative based. That is the biggest mistake being made today by marketers and brands… with consumers, and especially with influencers.

5. Know the People in Your Audience

Short and simple: if you are only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people. Don’t make that mistake! If you don’t know who your people are, you might as well toss your marketing money down the drain.

Relationships ARE the new currency – honor them, invest in them, and start measuring your ROR!

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The Pillars of Customer Engagement – Where to Influence and How

The classic corporate marketing view of loyalty programs is very long term – acquisition, conversion, retention – and is very different from the customer view.  For consumers, every decision is independent.  Brand loyalty will have influence, but choosing a product or restaurant or hotel or airline tends to happen quickly. Customers have the ability to learn quickly and make a snap decision, and even after that decision has been made, the ability to go back and change if a better offer comes along.

Just a few years ago, the decision-making process was much more predictable.

Customers might do a little research online or elsewhere, then go to the store and make a purchase, maybe with a little influence along the way by a radio or billboard advertisement. Now they might research an item and choose a product while in the store, check reviews and prices online, and end up buying elsewhere after physically examining a store’s inventory – managing the customer engagement is more difficult when it is easy for them to access any and all relevant information. The process is much tougher for retailers given the sheer quantity of potential distractions or better offers.

Winning the initial battle is no longer enough. Brands have to carry their message through beyond the purchase, into support and post-purchase satisfaction.

So if you be realistic and assume customers are just as technically savvy and mobile as you are, then the whole conversation changes. You need to learn how to handle the world of customer engagement in order to succeed.

The need for brands today is to compete effectively in this real-time mobile-dominated world. We’ll touch on more areas around this theme soon.

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