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The New Sales and Marketing ROI: Return on Relationship

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by: Todd McCormick (@TMcCormick2011)
30 November 2012

There’s a fascinating intersection between automation and personalization when you think about technology. And how you use it can make all the difference between accelerating business and bringing sales to a dead standstill.

In a recent Silverpop blog, I shared how my career has walked this line between technology and communications. At their cores, both support the concept of having relationships. For example, I use video technology so my son can see our family on the West Coast. I also receive email offers for kids’ toys late at night — because savvy retailers use technology to know that’s when and what I buy. In both cases, “impersonal” tools give me the opportunity to forge personal relationships.

We all know what personal relationships feel like, but those feelings are often missing in business interactions, even though trust functions as that secret something that coaxes repeat purchases — even when buyers have unlimited choices. Business may be business, but business must also be personal.

That’s why today’s winning companies perform two critical tasks. First, they create trust with buyers. Second, they foster lasting relationships. In this blog, I’m going to discuss three steps for creating winning customer relationships by understanding the fabric of your best personal relationships and applying these lessons to business.

1) Build trust in business
It’s well documented that consumer expectations are rising. According to a 2011 IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, “From Stretched to Strengthened,” factors such as social media, the proliferation of channels and devices, the explosion of data, and shifting consumer demographics have increased buyer demand for personalization. The good news is that the digital revolution also provides a wealth of opportunities to engage with customers and earn their trust.

Here’s what we know:

  • Successful enterprises focus on relationships, not transactions
  • Businesses must understand what customers value and how they behave
  • Customers want to do business with companies that are trustworthy and act accordingly

2) Get from trust to loyalty
Trust creates loyalty, and loyalty translates into longevity (i.e., repeat revenue and referrals). When companies truly commit to developing lasting relationships, they earn the privilege to be a regular part of a buyer’s purchase cycle.

That’s why, according to the IBM study, companies can cultivate long-term interaction with buyers if they:

  • Connect in ways customers perceive as valuable
  • Demonstrate corporate character
  • Provide support that’s always in the ready

3) Automate the personal relationship
In personal relationships, friends know what you want or need, how to get it, and how best to deliver it — and walk with you every step along the way. The exchange is valuable expressly because it’s a highly individualized experience geared toward your specific needs.

To create that same high-value relationship, businesses must invest in new technologies and advanced analytics to grasp how customers behave — so they can then deliver customized experiences around the clock that simulate personal interactions. With the right technology, you can automate the cultivation of customer intimacy.

The New ROI
In today’s marketing world, the new ROI is the relationship. Gone are the days of relying exclusively on mass broadcast emails just because they allow us to reach large numbers through the push of a few buttons. Now, new technology enables us to get back to essentials and reach buyers in a highly personal, targeted way through the power of automation.

As a result, business relationships can again be based on trust and longevity, which in turn lead to profitability. And no one will disagree with me here — that’s ROI. I’ll share more specific, actionable strategies in the coming weeks to help you implement these principles.

Let’s get started. Tweet me @TMcCormick2011.

Related Resources:
1) White Paper: "The Year Is Half Over, What's Your Relationship Status?"
2) Blog: "Taking Stock of Your Customer Relationships"
3) Tip Sheet: "7 Tips for Creating an Effective Modern-Day Loyalty Program"

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