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Tribal Marketing, Beyond the E-CRM — A Latin American View

SAO PAULO, Brazil — The evolution of technology should make us wonder how much is enough. We commonly hear that technology is changing our lives and each new invention will be followed by a new revolution.

What is and always will be important, however, is relationship.

Some marketers already have learned, and some are about to learn, that technology does not sell a thing and computers just give us answers. In the new economy, the new tools are not changing the rules. People still are motivated by the same things.

As Claude Hopkins said: “In most aspects, human nature is the same today as in the time of Caesar.” The bad news, though, is that a new customer relationship management program, a new online shop and a rewards program may not bring the expected results.

First, it is essential to make sure that loyalty is not just discounted and free stuff. And we should never forget that relationship has nothing to do with loyalty. A satisfied customer is not necessarily a loyal customer.

A loyal customer cannot be subdued. He should come to you, and he will remain only if you deserve him.

CRM requires a clear understanding of what actions are needed to effect the desired buying behavior. And electronic customer relationship management goes beyond; it needs action in real time.

So, more than ever, success will come from those who understand people better.

And to better understand a person, it is not enough to look at him as an individual. It is necessary to understand the social group to which he belongs or intends to belong. You need to understand the type of community your company and brands can serve best. Once you have segmented your market by different customer groups with unique values, the relationship should begin with the value concepts of the communities.

A recent book by Cliff Galo, “Hosting Web Communities,” is a reminder that it is not possible to take full control of a community. A group's styles and needs are not static.

This is one reason why database marketing is limited. It is no longer enough to have information about purchasing habits and a profile to change buying behavior. It is more important to know how the community is formed and influenced by people's interactions so we can anticipate their needs.

Each community contains several tribes — small members of its most active and most influential members. After identifying the communities your industry could serve better, you have to divide it into tribes and study the different groups that form this tribe's pyramid.

Your communication and marketing strength will have to be directed to the dialog at the top of the pyramid, the opinion leaders. Once identified, these people should be invited not only to establish a relationship with your brand, but also to incorporate your brand.

They will grow and develop with it. It is important that this group never be appraised by the old outlook of lifetime value.

Working out relationships not only on a one-to-one level but also in communities and tribes is called tribal marketing.

So the relationship in the digital economy does not require new rules; it requires new business models where we don't see a customer only through the old eyes of recency, frequency and monetary value. We need to focus on people, not numbers, and start the relationship much earlier, even with people we know won't buy from us. However, they may visit, explore and relate in a way that permits us to make a real profit.

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