Relationship Marketing: Making It Personal – Forbes

One of my youngest employees recently asked me, “How has marketing changed since you graduated from college in 1988?” My initial reaction was to talk about internet marketing, Google and social media, but then it hit me that the most important achievement of these platforms is the development of a more personal relationship with my consumer. Over the last 30 years, I have seen the consumer transform from a segment of the population to an actual individual.
In the old Mad Men days, marketers only had hammers and would develop broad messages that we pushed out to all consumers using mass vehicles like print, radio and TV. Today, we are like surgeons using scalpels as we carefully craft custom messages for individual consumers based on their hyperlocal needs and wants. By using technology, we can send custom ads to consumers based on what they clicked, liked and shared. We have a high degree of certainty that they will favorably respond to our messages.
As a marketer, it is my job to use technology to build a closer relationship with my current and target customers while not becoming too intrusive in my communications. We all have likely experienced searching for something on Google, and then two minutes later, seeing targeted ads for that same product on social media. Or worse yet, we are followed for days by that Google-searched product with digital ads, email messages and sponsored social media posts. All this can cross the line from helpful to “creepy.”
Below are five ways to build a relationship between your brand and your consumer without being overly intrusive. For every new idea or technology, ask yourself, “Does this provide for a better relationship with the consumer, or does it deliver?”
1. More Convenience
Are you helping your consumer save time by providing faster navigation for purchases?
Some examples of how companies are making purchases more convenient include Amazon’s one-click ordering, Walmart’s curbside pickup or Domino’s voice ordering through its mobile app.
A good idea that provides convenience, ultimately saving the consumer time, can help the brand differentiate itself from the competition.
2. Less Anxiety
Are you helping your consumer reduce the stress and anxiety of the purchase process and, in turn, boost their confidence in their purchase?
A couple of examples of how companies are creating stress-free purchasing include the L’Oreal Makeup Genius app that superimposes cosmetics on the user’s face for an online no-mess trial and 3D virtual reality headsets offered by Lowe’s that allow prospective buyers to see the results of home improvement projects before knocking down walls.
Determine how you can provide a tool or benefit to take away your consumers’ stress and reduce the risk of making a purchasing mistake.
3. More Knowledge
Are you providing thought leadership by educating consumers about your product and services, allowing them to explore more options without confusion?
One example of delivering on thought leadership is McCormick & Company, which has an extensive library of recipes online. Users can create profiles for saved recipes and receive recommendations for new recipes. The company goes a step further and integrates with grocery store websites, so the customer can easily buy all the ingredients (or download the shopping list).
In my opinion, McCormick has provided true recipe thought leadership and found a way to improve convenience without invasion. Identify what types of knowledge about your products or services would benefit your consumers, and then develop creative and meaningful ways to provide them.
4. More Perception
Are you guiding consumers to make the right decisions during the ordering process, especially when there are numerous options?
One example of how companies are doing this is Vitamix, which provides a list of possible food options that a consumer may be interested in preparing in their future blender and then recommends the perfect blender based on the answers given.
Today, using the customer’s input to build confidence and provide a personalized product option has the potential to give a brand a great advantage over competitors.
5. More Incentives
Finally, are you rewarding or incentivizing consumers so they feel that they have special offers or reasons to buy based on their unique interests?
A couple of examples include DSW’s rewards program, which includes incentives like birthday gifts and early access promotions. And in The North Face’s VIPeak Rewards program, consumers redeem rewards for participating in special activities in addition to making purchases. These are curated experiences that are authentic to the brand and help build a strong consumer-to-brand connection.
Consider what values are meaningful to your consumers and create an authentic incentive or reward program that bridges your brand’s interests with theirs in order to give consumers more reason to remain your customers.
If a new idea or technology does not deliver on at least one of these five points, you should think seriously about why you are investing in that program.
The five benefits listed above existed long before the internet, but with the rise of digital technology, each idea can be efficiently taken to new levels of personalization. I can now use technology to personally touch consumers, and make them feel special and believe that my company truly understands their needs and wants. Consumers want to feel special and unique, and personalization will help to build stronger, more meaningful relationships.


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