DMB Speaker: Build Trust to Build Business

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ORLANDO, FL -- It's a matter of trust.

Or, to be more precise, a lack of trust, keynote speaker Donald Neal said during Friday's keynote address at the Direct Marketing to Business conference here.

The chief marketing officer at Marsh & McLennan Companies gave plenty of sobering statistics for his audience, including:

· More than 79 percent of Americans don't see a clear benefit to being loyal to any company, "in spite of the $7 billion spent on CRM technology last year."

· Complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau more than doubled from 1.3 million in 1995 to 2.7 million in 1998, and reached 4 million last year. "That's the tip of the iceberg. For every one person who complains [there are] probably between five and 15 who have a problem or are frustrated."

· Only 18 percent of consumers are extremely confident that American business makes decisions in the consumer's best interest.

· According to the American Marketing Association, two-thirds of all customers defect due to neglect, an attitude of indifference.

"We want this loyalty from our customers, and they want the loyalty from their customers, and yet there is this underlying notion that there is no real tangible benefit," he said.

The discussion turned to the three levels of bonding with each customer.

"There's a financial bond that [is the] commercial underpinning of the relationship," he said. "It is the most fragile and the least sustainable.

"A more sustainable bond is an emotional bond. It's the human interaction that you have with your customers. It's a stickier bond. It's also very fleeting. If you're in the insurance business, you know that if a sales agent has a bond with a customer, and that agent leaves your company, guess what happens to that relationship. It goes along with him or her."

He said the strongest bond is a structural bond.

"What are the structural bonds we've established with our customers, and are there ideas or techniques that we can [use to] help our customers build structural bonds with their consumers?" he asked. "Building your entire brand relationship on a financial or emotional bond can be very, very fleeting."

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