If you want a relationship with me, act like it

“If you want a relationship with me, act like it.” That’s the unspoken mantra of customers today–who by the way, recent research shows prefer to be thought of as customers and not consumers. If your company really wants a relationship (holy grail of business wins) with today’s customers, in many respects, your customers feel like it’s never been easier.

Why? Because they give us so much information. Think about it from their perspective. Every interaction we have with them practically costs them personal information about their lives.

You are mining data from them every second. There are affinity/rewards cards, which track every purchase they make with your company. There are apps that track …. well everything. There’s social media. And, if your customers follow you, it’s so easy (albeit time consuming) to socially listen to better know them. And, there are ways I haven’t even mentioned that we “follow” their lives.

So, why don’t we know them? Maybe marketing departments are overwhelmed? Maybe those who analyze the data aren’t connecting it to those you can make it actionable from a content perspective? Maybe it’s plain messaging/marketing laziness?

With today’s customer who has information overload and a gazillion choices as close as their mobile phone for any product or service you provide, companies need to actually use all of the information customers are providing to tailor email campaigns, phone messages, direct mail, content, social posts, advertising and any other way we communicate.  When companies don’t do that, it’s really apparent, annoys the people we’re trying to sell, and negates any messaging we espouse about being “customer-centric”.

Case in point, last week, I received an automated voicemail message from a primary care practitioner’s office (who I rarely visit) to tell me how much they cared about me as a patient and since they haven’t seen me in a year, it’s time to make my appointment for a wellness visit. In a computer-generated voice. Really.  Let me get this straight? You care about me so much that a human being can’t call me? I’m on a cold, computer generated robo-call list?

Companies can and should do better.

How–with the massive amounts of big data companies collect–can we still make robot calls to say we really care and send emails that boast subject lines like “You’re our most valuable customer” to people who have only made one purchase, or maybe haven’t made any? Yes, it’s a lot more work to use all of the data customers give us to get a better picture of them and design messages to build actual relationships, but it’s worth it.

There are a few “marketing sins” customers really hate in the name of relationship building.  And, while it is a lot more complicated than these simple avoidances, steering clear of the following is a step in the right direction:

  1. Segment email campaigns accurately.  Email campaigns work when the messaging and targeting are dead-on. After all, our email inboxes are on our person 24/7. Don’t send coupons for diapers to a woman with a 15-year old. You might laugh but it happens. And, those with 15-year-olds aren’t forwarding your emails to friends with babies.
  2. Provide the right content to the right customer. That’s self-explanatory. It’s a hard, fast, fundamental rule of marketing. We now know more about our customers, so our content should be more relevant to their lives. I feel this is a little Maya Angelou – when we know better, we can do better.
  3. Make sure your phone messages convey your sentiment through their method of delivery. If you use automated phone calling to reach out to your customers, don’t have a robot say you care. It’s not believable.
  4. Make direct mail meaningful. It’s inexcusable to send direct mail clearly saying we have “urgent information for you” and then address it “current resident”. That’s guaranteeing it hits the trash. Put thought into direct mail pieces. Of course if you buy a mailing list with addresses only, it might be to “current resident” but then don’t make the case for how much you care because the current resident won’t buy it.
  5. Don’t go overboard reaching out to your customers. When you message them by postcard, text message, voicemail and email, they get annoyed and scratch their heads wondering what went wrong in your system that you don’t realize you’re bombarding them in every way possible.

There’s never been a better time in the history of marketing to really know our customers. And, our customers know this, too. So, they expect more. Let’s make sure we give it to them. It might take longer. The campaigns might be a little smaller. But the yields will be greater.

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