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How You Know When You've Met 'the One'

  |  July 8, 2013   |  Comments

The way to build deep, meaningful relationships has never really changed: you have to get to know each other.

We often think of the digital marketing discipline as the science of using digital engines to deliver messages - and we work hard every day to drive innovation in those engines. But digital marketing has to be about so much more. In today's world, great integrated marketing has evolved to a careful mix of art and science. Art that creates distinction and science that drives measurement.

These digital "engines" have increased our ability to measure marketing results. But they have to be leveraged as two-way channels that deliver and enable conversations, create experiences, and capture the reaction to those experiences. This is the best way to get to know our users, customers, and partners. Research can provide great insights. But sometimes it's like asking your friends what another person is like…you may need to interact with her directly to understand what she's all about.

To show you what I mean, let me walk you through a short story:

He knew it the moment he set eyes on her. Walking through the town square on that Sunday afternoon, he had a feeling he'd found exactly what he was looking for. With excitement he thought, "Could this be…the one?!"

By the third visit, she knew his name and what he liked. In fact, there was a personalized gift basket ready and waiting with the items she knew he preferred. That was the day when he finally decided to ask her out - and so the relationship went a step further.

He received a message from her. The message told him where to meet, and once he arrived he immediately felt like they'd known each other for years. The market was the perfect place to connect. He walked in and it was so easy, so comfortable. She shared a few stories that intrigued him and he in turn told her things about himself - his preferences, where he lived, what he liked, and how she could get in touch with him again. She listened to everything as if there was no one else in the world.

They're still together today with a rich, rewarding relationship that will stand the test of time. He has eyes for no one else - why would he? They have trust and common interests, and he always knows what to expect. In his eyes she is the most wonderful person in the world.

Now, let's do something a bit out of the ordinary…let's go through the story again but replace a few words:

 she

 with

 the business

 

 market

 with

 website

 walking

 with

 surfing

 

 walked in

 with

 logged in

 town square

 with

 web

 

 told her

 with

 updated

 items

 with

 products

 

 together

 with

 doing business

 ask her out

 with

 purchase

 

 common interests

 with

 shared values

 her

 with

 the ad

 

 listened to

 with

 captured

 gift basket

 with

 message

 

 person

 with

 brand

Here's what we end up with:

He knew it the moment he set eyes on the ad. Surfing through the web on that Sunday afternoon, he had a feeling he'd found exactly what he was looking for. With excitement he thought, "Could this be…the one?!"

By the third visit, the business knew his name and what he liked. In fact, there was a personalized message ready and waiting with the products the business knew he preferred. That was the day when he finally decided to purchase - and so the relationship went a step further.

He received a message from the business. The message told him where to meet, and once he arrived he immediately felt like they'd known each other for years. The website was the perfect place to connect. He logged in and it was so easy, so comfortable. The business shared a few stories that intrigued him and he in turn updated things about himself - his preferences, where he lived, what he liked, and how the business could get in touch with him again. The business captured everything as if there was no one else in the world.

They're still doing business today with a rich, rewarding relationship that will stand the test of time. He has eyes for no one else - why would he? They have trust and shared values, and he always knows what to expect. In his eyes the business is the most wonderful brand in the world.

For me, this was a fun way to think about and explore how brands make connections. What I wanted to get across with these two stories is:

  • Brands build customer relationships in much the same way that individuals build personal relationships.
  • The way to build deep, meaningful relationships has never really changed: you have to get to know each other.
  • Building strong relationships online and offline has a lot in common.

There are five fundamental things to keep in mind about building relationships:

  1. First, and always, listen more than you talk.
  2. Express a genuine interest in the other party.
  3. Discover shared interests and values.
  4. Engage in meaningful experiences.
  5. Be transparent, trusting, and trustworthy.

These fundamentals work online and offline - but naturally digital provides the most robust and scalable method. Taken together, these five fundamentals enable you to deliver a personalized experience that stands out from the crowd. Research proves how critically important personalization is in the world of marketing today. According to Econsultancy's June 2012 Quarterly Intelligence Briefing, 70 percent of marketers claim personalization has a high impact on ROI and 61 percent say it impacts engagement. How do these marketers measure ROI and engagement? Conversion rates, time on site, feedback, bounce rate, visitors, and other metrics.

From a business perspective, engagement is important to measure in addition to ROI because as this same report notes, "Regardless of the data they use, today's marketer needs to understand the impact of specific data not just on the return on investment but also the impact on customer engagement. Balancing the two is essential, as the latter concept includes some intangible concepts such as trust and confidence in the brand."

From a customer's perspective, personalization is seen as added value to what you have to offer. It shows you understand what they need and want - it shows that you remember them and that you care. This in turn helps you exceed customer expectations, which of course leads, once again, to more engagement, higher customer satisfaction, trust, and more revenue for the business.

Building and nurturing relationships with just two or three of your closest friends is of course easier than building relationships with 300 million customers. My future columns will further explore these five fundamentals of building relationships, starting with "First, and always, listen more than you talk." So, if you have input on this column, I'm listening!

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisa Steele

As Corporate Vice President of Marketing for Skype, a division of Microsoft, Elisa Steele leads integrated marketing for Skype. In this role, Elisa oversees Skype's global brand and marketing functions, as well as local go-to-market activities. She reports to Skype President Tony Bates and is based at Skype's office in Palo Alto. Elisa is tasked with promoting, protecting, and growing one of the best loved brands in the world.

Elisa has extensive experience leading global marketing at technology companies and joined Skype after serving as EVP and chief marketing officer at Yahoo. During her time at Yahoo, she was responsible for the company's global marketing strategy and functions including brand, consumer, business-business, research and insights, communications, policy, privacy, and regional marketing.

Prior to Yahoo, she was senior vice president of corporate marketing at NetApp, where she led a transformational brand strategy for the company and was responsible for the execution of marketing programs, communications, corporate relations, and integrated marketing functions on a global basis. Before NetApp, Elisa led Sun's integrated marketing and merchandising organization, where she was responsible for global go-to-market initiatives, campaign execution, events, online marketing, and installed base marketing. Her experience includes marketing management positions at iPlanet eCommerce Solutions and JavaSoft. She was also a sales leader at AT&T for several years, producing revenue growth nationally and managing diverse sales organizations.

In addition to her role at Skype, Elisa currently serves on the Board of Directors of RMG Networks and the Advisory Boards to the consumer Internet companies CareZone and Eyeona. In 2009, Advertising Age named her a "Women to Watch." Elisa's global marketing teams have been recognized in the industry for excellence in branding, innovation, convergence, and experiences. She is also a strong advocate of Women in Technology programs and is on the Forbes Executive Women advisory board. Elisa is passionate about education and participates in various community and school programs in her local community.

Elisa holds a master of business administration degree from San Francisco State University and a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of New Hampshire.

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