ACCORDING to Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford, humans cannot maintain more than 150 friendships, and five close friendships, at any given time. The problem lies with the hardwired limitations of brain size, attention span, and the amount of time needed to nurture close relationships (particularly in the middle of a pandemic).
Using phone data from 35 million users and 6 billion calls, Dunbar determined that there was “strong evidence for the existence of a layered structure” between call frequency and how strong the relationship was. In other words, the frequency of communication diminishes the more relationships or connections a person has. After all, there is only so much of you to go around.
In a crowded and competitive marketplace, customers are not inclined to develop personal and loyal relationships with brands; instead they’ll opt for a quick search to get the highest-quality product at the lowest price, delivered as quickly as possible.
This transactional mind-set is a challenge for today’s sales and marketing departments, as they know they have to make the interaction personal. The trick will be how best to do it, and do it at scale in an authentic way.
Here are simple strategies to improve your customer relationships.
- Quit spamming and start asking. Evaluate your company’s customer communications over the past year. Suppose most of your outreach messages are about new products or services, an upcoming sale, a special offer, or news you have to share. In that case, you are adding to the daily bombardment of messages to your customers. Because of the lack of personalisation, your customers will be tuning out and unsubscribing sooner or later (probably sooner). A painful truth for your marketing department is that 65 percent of your customers want to receive less promotional content from you, and 50 percent want fewer emails altogether. The bottom line is, if you’re sending customers irrelevant, mass-produced messages that don’t resonate with them, then you’re likely to end up in the spam bucket.
- Create two-way engagement. As you probably know from your own relationships, when a relationship is one-sided, it won’t last long. A successful relationship requires give-and-take in the engagement process. Your CRM and marketing platform should allow you to capture and engage your customers by asking for their opinions and feedback. This makes your customers feel valued and appreciated and is an essential attribute of a healthy relationship. (My beautiful partner reminds me of this when necessary.)
- Keep your customers in a feedback loop. Just as in your relationships, when your advice is disregarded or ignored altogether, the advice and feedback will eventually stop. (My kids are still hoping for this.) Keeping your customers in the feedback loop and sharing with them just how their feedback was reviewed, and what changes or impact your company made because of their efforts, will help cement a strong relationship with them. People love to know that their feedback was listened to and that it made a difference ?
- Build respect and trust. This is the foundation of any healthy relationship, personally or professionally. When you communicate with your customers, make sure you communicate in ways that demonstrate you value your customers’ time, energy, and money. Rather than bombarding your customers with notification emails of low value or boring surveys that end up unread, try personalising your messages based on information already captured in your CRM platform. Hint: variable messaging.
- Personalize your interactions. Your customers likely receive 4,000 to 10,000 marketing messages per day (and growing). Next time you are ready to hit the send button and blast your customer list with your latest marketing email, ask yourself: What makes this email worth reading? What will get customers’ attention? What in this email is going to cause customers to take the desired action? Is this email about me or my customers? When you personalise your interactions using relevant data already collected, you supercharge the content, and it will more likely be viewed and acted upon.
There’s no question that building and maintaining authentic and personal relationships with customers isn’t easy; that’s why your CRM and marketing tools need to help you build loyalty through personalisation. But that extra effort will help you outpace the competition.
Michael Vickers is the executive director of Rainmakerdigitalsolutions.com. You can reach him at Michael@rmdigitalsolutions.com.