CRM is making a comeback, perhaps driven by companies realising that customers are more than numbers on a business or marketing plan, but really rather demanding and unpredictable characters. Until recently many businesses and marketers could blithely ignore this, confident that cheap credit and good times meant that even without a defined proposition, differentiation nor customer understanding, businesses could grow. No longer.
So there is some rather rapid catching up to do.
Behavioural economics has already shown us how people do not behave like rational ‘econs’ in a given situation, and given us some useful levers and ways to avoid classic mistakes of misunderstanding psychology.
But is there a broader lesson here? One that should guide our overall approach to managing customer relationships?
For me, the question itself demands challenging. The concept of “Managing a relationship” intrinsically feels doomed to fail. Imagine, if you will, arriving home one evening to your husband suggesting he would like to manage your relationship more. This would not be a good sign.
While we are just asking customers to buy our stuff, not swear “till death do us part”, nevertheless we should not underestimate the emotional connection that great brands -b2b and b2c – should be aiming to forge with their buyers and prospects. If you just aim for a rational commodity transaction, that’s where you’ll end up.
There is a need to think in four dimensions, not just considering campaigns in a moment in time, but over time, how do we remain consistent yet surprise and delight to keep relationships alive? Add to this the already complex concept of multi-channel engagements, technologies that can create instant offers and promotions based on implicit and explicit data, and you have a layer cake of complexity.
But before we throw up our hands in despair, it’s important to realise the answer is not itself complex. In fact it is simple, and goes back to long before Lincoln ever invented Facebook. It is about telling powerful stories, ones with depth and authentic characters you can believe in, who develop, are multi-faceted, compelling and distinct.
If this sounds like brand speak, it is meant to.
There has been a swing from the ‘what’ to the ‘how’. What is the brand’s promise? What will make the consumer care? The emphasis on channels has come at the detriment of the story itself. The medium eclipsing the message, and sadly obscuring its lack. The rush to social media is still a case in point.
So, we see CRM as an idea that should be more than the sum of its parts.
It’s not just the technology, the segmentation potential, the multiplicity of channels, and the wealth of data; it is the intangible brilliance of being able to use all those things, but see beyond them into the heart of the customer need, and the stories that will inspire.
It is said of managers that some are just managers, and some leaders.
It is worth looking at all your relationships through that lens. Here, we weave stories that move, motivate and excite people to action.