We live in a world obsessed with commoditizing the power of relationships. Resolve to kick this obsession and really build customer relationships.
Maybe it's the time of year or the constant barrage of Christmas music that fills my house nearly every waking hour these days. I've been thinking a lot about relationships and the speed at which marketers are traveling these days to close more sales, make the numbers, achieve greater profits, and so on. At that speed, we're missing out on the basics.
We live in a world obsessed with Google, YouTube, and MySpace. In other words, with commoditizing the power of relationships. Transactions come through search engines and keywords. Sites are optimized for better customer navigation. Personalization is a nice idea, but few do it well. Most lazily believe all this doesn't matter. Get me more eyeballs, more transactions, more keywords. Sell my inventory, resell my ad space.
As marketers, are we risking the relationships we can build with customers for a wiser, shrewder piece of technology? Remember the days when everyone thought spending millions of dollars on CRM (define) technology would magically transform companies with poor customer service and sales force integration into superstar companies whose customers would automatically love them and refer them to others? That never happened.
Building quality relationships takes time, focus, energy, and that dirty four-letter word: work. Yet we've given up. We've decided there must be an easier way to success than mining data and trying to understand our customers on a person-by-person basis. How many of us have sat in conference rooms and truly studied our products, how customers buy them, what works, and how we can do a better job of matching all of that great information to our customers on a one-by-one basis?
We mustn't buy into the pundits who peddle the idea that personalization and providing customers with relevant information aren't worth the effort. These are the ravings of fools.
Each year, I do all my Christmas shopping online. The DiGuido family and friends are a great brood of folks, so it's a major undertaking. Couple this effort with the growing work I do with my charity, Al's Angels, and I spend a great deal of time on toy, gift, and food sites. I try to spend my money and the dollars donated to our charity with vendors that build solid relationships via e-mail. One would think, after all these years with all these online transactions, my vendor partners would reach out and send me reminders, suggestions, thank-yous, helpful hints, EZ Pass lanes into their specials.
One major food supplier missed out on nearly $60,000 worth of Al's Angels orders because, despite the fact I purchased with this company last year, no one sent a thank-you e-mail or even e-mailed me to ask whether I'd be shopping like this again this year. Incredible.
I just finished purchasing over $45,000 worth of toys from a major toy retailer for the children we help in the tri-state area. One would think such a transaction isn't the norm and would have elicited a thank-you or contact from a senior person at this organization. Again, nothing.
There's no excuse but laziness and lack of attention when organizations aren't focused on building quality relationships with customers. The technology is available to conduct meaningful, informed dialogues with customers -- but only if you actually leverage the technology. I've given you my e-mail address; you have my transactional log. Use common sense and a little proactive thinking.
Here's a clue: While everyone's passing the eggnog, starting thinking about the next holiday season. You have people like me who've made significant purchases this year. We'll probably be shopping again next year. Make a New Year's resolution to start building a quality relationship with me right now that ensures that next year I'll once again purchase from you. Maybe due to this special attention, I'll refer you to my friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
If you're waiting for YouTube, Google, and MySpace to solve your relationship-building problems, you'll be waiting a long time. Not to be Scrooge-ish about this, but get to work!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
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Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.
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