Connecting With the Reader

I’m writing for this column for the first time, so I thought I would take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the kinds of articles you can expect from me in the future.

I expect this column to become truly interactive. In this industry, walking the walk has got to be the prime directive. I’ll touch on this point a little later. So for this column to become truly interactive, I’d like to challenge readers to make contact with me as frequently as you wish. Ask me questions. Suggest topics to cover. Respond to my hypotheses, arguments, and points of view. Compliments are always appreciated, but I’d prefer to hear from you when (as opposed to if) you disagree with me. I like nothing more than a difference of opinion. The industry will grow only if there are several trains of thought, all pushing the boundaries and raising the bar in the process.

So why the column name change? It turns out that both Blake and I thought CRM Strategies wasn’t quite right. Connecting With the Consumer, on the other hand, makes sense, because we certainly won’t be evaluating CRM (customer relationship management) software applications or ranking various solution providers. To be honest, I don’t care at all for the term. In fact, “CRM” sits pretty close to the bottom of my list, along with the other buzzwords, such as “UI,” “UsEx,” “opt-in,” and “stickiness.” Why don’t we just call it what it is: customer relationship marketing? Or is it consumer relationship marketing? (I’ll cover the difference in the coming weeks). And then there’s relationship marketing itself and for the most part failed promise of one-to-one marketing, intertwined with the delivery of mass customization.

My goal is to attempt to demystify the term by bringing it back to what it really is: the process of identifying unmet needs among potential, existing, and lapsed consumers; finding ways to reach out and make some kind of meaningful and relevant connection with them using a combination of touch points or moments of truth; building, strengthening, and solidifying these bonds through consistently delivering on these promises; and finally, continually listening, eliciting feedback, and maintaining a mutually beneficial dialogue with them.

The term “consumer” is broader than “customer.” It is more human than “user.” And it helps us make apples-to-apples comparisons with our offline counterparts.

The “connecting” part takes a little more explaining. Making a connection is not easy. In fact, it’s downright close to impossible in an intensely cluttered marketplace. Like the phrase implies, it is about finding and establishing a tie that is able to form a bond between you and the people who ultimately ensure that your brand’s vital statistics are all in perfect working order.

Multiple connections are better than single ones. Consistent connections are almost always positive signs. Unexpected and special connections are exponentially valuable.

The converse is also true. Disconnections are inconsistent and incoherent detractors from the brand. They harm and even destroy the bonds and the relationships. They eradicate trust and transform dialogues into monologues. In other words, square one.

I’ll expand on all of these points in due course.

Walking the walk is about delivering on the promises that seemed so rosy 18 months ago. It’s about clearing the slate and, in effect, starting all over again. Relationship marketing is so very far from the renting of lists of so-called targeted consumers. It’s about establishing (acquisition), building (conversion), solidifying (retention), and protecting (attrition) the bond or connection between marketer and consumer.

I’m going to attempt to connect with all of you by speaking to and addressing your unmet needs surrounding technology and even its necessary absence in the process of relationship marketing.

I’ll be heralding the best-practice cast studies and expanding on what makes them so special. I’m also going to be as unforgiving as I can possibly be in exposing and opposing the disconnected or worst practices out there.

Send me your golden gloves as well as pet peeves. I’ll report on the most popular ones.

Finally, a sneak peek at some upcoming articles:

  • Customer versus consumer
  • Crime and punishment
  • Size does matter (said the mouse to the elephant)
  • I’d rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission
  • User experience is very much overrated

Hope you’re intrigued and as excited as I am to get this relationship going. See you in two weeks’ time.

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