As I write this Thanksgiving post, I’m thinking about two things: Giving thanks for the past year, and something faithful readers of my blog can probably guess — football. But I’d also like to take this opportunity to talk about a topic I’m keen on: the importance of relationships in business, and how a recent marketing trend relates to two concepts I closely associate with the holiday: personal connection and community.
My dad was in sales, and when I was a kid he often talked about how much he enjoyed taking customers to lunch and a game of golf. His clients loved him, and I grew to understand that it was because he knew a lot about them. He never failed to remember a client’s wedding anniversary or kids’ birthdays, and he always knew his customers’ favorite drinks.
In other words, my dad was a community-oriented guy. He genuinely appreciated his customers, and they expressed their gratitude by continuing to do business with him.
By watching my dad, I learned something that’s fueled much of my career: Organizations thrive to the degree that they personally connect with their prospects and customers. From the first interactions throughout entire customer relationships, genuine connections breed referrals, help customer communities thrive, and, perhaps most important, create brand advocates.
For a while, marketing technology risked getting in the way of this core business principle. Automation made all sorts of great promises — lower costs, increased productivity and more efficiency — but it also threatened to prevent the most important part of the business process: connecting person to person. Mass marketing de-personalized the company-customer relationship, and customer loyalty started to wane. All of a sudden, price began to trump brand preference, and organizations had good reason to fear losing their customer base.
While online shopping makes buyers’ lives easier, the mass marketing approach didn’t make sense because it didn’t mimic real life. For example, say you walked into your favorite sporting goods store today, and the same salesperson who’d helped you with all your skiing equipment each holiday season showed you golf clubs. You’d be confused. Yet that’s the experience technology delivered for a long time.
Today, we know better. Technology has matured and winning enterprises can, and do, communicate a lot differently. Now, regardless of the number of customers a company has, innovative tools allow communication with customers individually and based on unique preferences. Companies capture and record information based on cross-channel buying behaviors. So, if you look at footballs online this afternoon, you’re going to quickly receive an email or a text about a special offer for a football or related products, not golf clubs.
Having the ability to communicate in a personal way at a moment’s notice has never been more important to marketers, because communication is the way that we form communities.
That said, here’s what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving:
- Technology that helps organizations communicate with customers as people. Because today’s online buyers are active on so many platforms with so many devices, there’s simply no other way to communicate with them but by responding to their real-time behaviors — on the Web, on mobile devices, across email, and via social media.
- My awesome sales team. We had a fantastic year — every one of my reps rocked it!
- Silverpop’s extended network of incredible partners. I know I speak for my entire team when I say we are grateful year-round for our partners’ expertise.
- New family members. Last week my wife (Liz), son (Chase) and I welcomed the newest addition to our family, Ava.
Lastly, I’m grateful to you for being part of my online community.
1) White Paper: “20 Ways to Personalize Content and Enhance the Customer Experience”
2) Blog: “First and Goal: 7 Marketing Lessons from College Football”
3) White Paper: “7 Key Marketing Trends for 2014 – and Tips for Thriving in the New Year”