Some years ago, there was a lot of discussion about Customer Intimacy—–no, not that kind! (Get your minds out of the gutter!)
Customer intimacy is about really knowing our customers–both the organizations and individuals. What are they trying to achieve? What are their dreams? What are the opportunities they have to grow and improve? It’s also about knowing how they work, what drives them, what problems they have, how they are perceived, what competition they face, what is happening with their customers and markets, where they may be vulnerable, and how they get things done.
Finally, customer intimacy is about establishing deep and trusted relationships. It’s genuine interest in their success.
Somehow, a lot of the discussion around customer intimacy is being crowded out with focus on automation and efficiency. The focus on efficiency is understandable, we all want to be efficient. We’re time poor, so we want to use our time as effectively as possible, leveraging tools and automation to help us do so.
We have marketing automation tools that “score” our communications and manage our “nurturing,” creating hundreds of “conversations” with our customers. We leverage social selling tools to extend our networks and amplify our visibility. We conduct account marketing and other campaigns in our territories, not needing to worry about responding, because we’ve set up autoresponders to manage a lot of the conversations. Recently, I asked for an eBook from a friend. Rather then getting a note, “Dave, how the hell are you? Why are you asking for something like this, I wouldn’t have thought you would have been interested…..” I got a “Dear occupant” note—except it did say “Dear Dave.” It didn’t acknowledge that we had a close relationship.
Or worse, those programs that feign customer intimacy, when there is no relationship, knowledge, or understanding at all. Just this moment, I got that Outlook “tone,” saying I had a new email. It was from a sales person with a Fortune 50 company addressed to a former employee of our company (he hasn’t been with us for at least 5 years, isn’t on our web site, etc.). It congratulated him on our company’s outstanding performance as a “Not For Profit,” (we make a very healthy profit–thank you!). It went on to discuss our contributions to the community and how he wanted to help us expand our visibility and services by offering us promotions on the products we helped him sell. Hmmm, I wonder what they paid the marketing geniuses to come up with that?
It’s not just bad marketing and sales, it tells me that very large organization doesn’t value customers at all. We are just a transaction, a path to money! (More on this in a future post).
Balancing customer intimacy with our desire to be efficient and leverage automation is tough. We all leverage tools to help us. We leverage standard templates, mass marketing/communications, networking tools, marketing automation and content management tools. These are important to us. They do help us reach more people, more efficiently–though sometimes not more effectively.
I think the real issue is that we have to leverage these tools smartly and thoughtfully. Sometimes efficiency isn’t the answer. We can’t forget about relationships. Automation is not a surrogate for building deep relationships and customer intimacy. We have to leverage tools and automation as much as possible, but they aren’t a substitute for knowing our customers and establishing deep relationships with them. Done correctly, they can help improve our ability to really know our customers.