The advent of group discount sites, search engines, auction sites and product review sites have eroded brand loyalty and made it more difficult for marketers to maintain strong customer relationships.
It’s an accepted tenet that managing customer relationships today requires a different strategy and different tools than it did in the 1990s and early 2000s, but there are plenty of successful strategies from those days and earlier that can be applied to today’s online marketing environment.
I’m referring to a return to the kind of marketing that took place when marketers knew their customers, their likes and dislikes, the places they frequented, the time of day they were likely to go shopping, their family and friends and all the intricate webs that make up a community. Marketers knew these things because the world was still round and marketing was still local. It is entirely viable to make these old strategies more effective than ever by coupling them with modern tools. Marketers can use these tools to identify and become vital parts of consumer communities in order to tighten relationships and consistently improve customer lifetime value.
Relationships are the most important part of CRM. It all starts when marketers embrace and assume responsibility for customers that have opted in to receive information from them. Marketers must do everything they can to understand each customer’s unique needs, respect the customer’s privacy and keep every promise made to the customer. Only then can marketers become part of the established customers’ purchasing decisions early in the buying process.
Customer relationships are grounded in the trust that marketers will not sell, rent or spam customer addresses. Personal customer information should only be used to make the buying experience more convenient and more relevant. Marketers should only communicate with customers at intervals that are acceptable to each respective customer.
Marketing success ultimately rests on this trust. Once trust is established, customers see that the marketer has his best interests at heart, and in turn he will trust the marketer’s recommendations, campaigns and other outreach. This is what some people have called relationship marketing, and it’s one of the ways we can put the “R” back into CRM.
By becoming part of the very fabric of a customer’s online experiences, we develop relationships with him, relationships that permit us to make appropriate, targeted, and relevant offers. When we respond consistently, professionally and with relevant content to the information we gather online, and to the people talking about us online, we develop market-changing dialogue with our most important customers: the influencers and ambassadors.
The technology is here. The consumers are here. All we have to do is remember the fundamental connection between the marketer and the customer.
Neil Rosen is the founder and CEO of eWayDirect, a provider of online marketing solutions and services.