Independence, to a degree, is an amazing thing. It has allowed countries to be built from nothing. It has allowed groups of people to develop their own ideas about who, what, when, and where. Ultimately, it lays the foundation for human beings to become unique, fully capable, and productive versions of themselves.
Hooray for independence.
From a purely economic standpoint, independence is the necessary antecedent for a transactional business paradigm, one in which “competition and self-interest are the key drivers of value creation.” But for those in the marketing world, this idea of independence (one could even say “existing in a vacuum”) doesn’t really resonate with the customer of today. In fact, in my humble opinion, businesses that continue to operate from this transactional model will certainly come to their end…likely sooner than later.
While it may be difficult to comprehend a less transactional approach to business—with as much information, supply, and choices forced on consumers on any given day—those who step back from rapid-fire marketing that overwhelms their target segment, and focus on collaboration and relationship building will be the winners over the next decade.
Direct marketing, for its part, can adopt an appreciation for “direct relationship marketing” to enhance current programs: be it online or offline. With an emphasis on relationship exchange and partnership (i.e. interdependence) as opposed to what can I get from this to satisfy my own needs (i.e. independence), today’s customer will be more inclined to emotionally bond with a seller, creating an interaction that “transcends economic exchange.”
Ranjith Kumaran, founder and CEO of PunchTab, applies this idea of interdependence to the products the customer engagement firm creates, as well as to its approach to marketing: “Direct marketing is about more than just automated email blasts,” he says. “We truly believe that there’s power in bringing together a group of smart, influential people from different disciplines of marketing and advertising technology. This allows us to talk face-to-face about what’s happening in the market, which pain points we’re all facing, how we’re approaching emerging technologies, and how [together] we can build better products that meet the most pressing needs of brands and agencies.”
Over the past year PunchTab’s marketing team has hosted a series of roundtables in cities across the U.S. where they invite prospects (CMOs, VPs of marketing), media, and industry experts to collaborate and discuss how to best create products that serve today’s customer. According to Kumaran, these events have produced high returns, both from a sales and relationship building standpoint. “Forget about the need to over-orchestrate a marketing program. The real magic happens through live, interactive, slightly moderated, but mostly off-the-cuff conversations in a group small enough to foster participation,” he says. “In this format everybody learns, connections are made, ideas are cultivated, and the foundation of an ongoing relationship is laid.”
Through this direct relationship marketing approach, PunchTab has been able to infuse products with insights the staff has gained from its CMO roundtables, nurture relationships with high-value customers, connect with strategic partners, and build rapport with journalists who have covered the company since inception.
It’s this transcendence from an independent paradigm to interdependent paradigm that builds long-term customer loyalty. This method positions any company for sustainable growth over time, while treating customers as dynamic players in the business development process.
So, as we celebrate the positive aspects of independence this week—namely, we live in a country where companies like PunchTab can find success in a free market that rewards human ingenuity and risk taking—as marketers, we should also celebrate the opportunities provided by interdependence.
We may be best served by approaching our customers through direct relationship marketing, whereby a simple transaction is usurped by a more truthful interaction, and our interest is in providing a satisfying exchange.
Rebekah Iliff is chief strategy officer of AirPR