A client once told me an interesting story. It was a boy meets girl story that said a lot about relationship marketing.
Imagine you are in a bar with the intent of meeting interesting people. In this situation there are norms of language and dress that are acceptable. You are dressed to show off your best assets. You put your best foot forward. Stories are told. Laughter ensues. All goes well.
Now imagine the same couple after six months of dating. Do you think the language and presentation is the same as when they first met? Of course it’s not, but marketers seem to think it is.
As a result of this conversation I sat down with the Creative Director responsible for the account. We talked about this idea and came up with an approach we thought would work. The CD considered the skills and inclination of the various copy writers who touched the business and put some into a group that would focus on acquisition, and the others were assigned to customer communication.
The relationship marketing team had the biggest adjustment. They needed to soften up their approach and carefully consider the implications of being in a “relationship.” How should the brand speak to customers under this perspective? This was a significant change and took some time.
There was resistance among the writers and with the clients, this isn’t how it’s always been done, but we stuck to our plan. But we stopped talking to customers like we had just met in a bar and spoke with them as if we had a relationship. It wasn’t easy. I continued to work closely with the Creative Director and the writers and my client ran interference with her colleagues.
We kept at it and started getting better and better results from relationship marketing and sales efforts. Was it a fluke? We don’t think so. We tested the new soft sell approach and compared the results to efforts using the traditional hard sell. The soft sell won every time.
- Talk to customers like there is a relationship, like you have been dating for six months, not like you just met in a bar.
- Deliver value beyond functional benefits to build relationship equity.
- Understand the relationship stage, new, recent, old, and manage frequency and message to suit the customer’s interest level.