Companies spend millions of dollars executing CRM plans against databases of millions of consumers. I do not understand the appeal of CRM or Consumer Relationship Management. Why would consumers engage with brands that want to manage their relationship? Who wants their relationship managed? Try this. Go home and tell your spouse or significant other that you want to manage the relationship. What do you think their reaction would be? It would probably not be very positive.
Managing relationships yields underwhelming results. Tiny percentages of consumers are responding to a brand’s marketing efforts. The average large brand only has a 1% “like” rate of their Facebook page posts. Open or view rates are in the single digits for many brands owned sites.
Managing relationships connotes cold maintenance. Relationships should never be managed. They should be developed; they should be nurtured; they should be deepened. This may sound like semantics to some but if you think about it, there is a very big difference between developing a relationship with consumers rather than managing them.
What would you do differently if your brand wanted to develop relationships? How can we move from CRM to CRD (Consumer Relationship Development)? Think about the efforts required to develop or deepen a relationship vs. simply managing a relationship. Relationships can be defined by the frequency, depth and breadth of interactions; as well as listening and responding.
Look at your current relationships you have with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family members. The intensity of relationships is directly attributable to the frequency by which you engage with a person; the breadth of topics you engage on; and the depth within a topic you engage. These three factors (frequency, breadth, depth) help to define the level of familiarity, comfort and then trust you have a person. Intuitively it makes sense. The more you interact with someone, the more you will be familiar with them. The more topics you chat about with a person, the more you will get to know them. Lastly, the greater the depth of conversation you have with someone on any given topic; the more deeply you know them. Knowledge drives familiarity. Greater familiarity makes you feel more comfortable. Increased comfort with a person increases your trust in the person. It is only through developing familiarity, comfort and trust that you can develop a strong relationship. Think about the intensity of relationship you have with a sibling (who you’ve known your whole life) and a co-worker. Those relationships are very different.
Listening and responding is incredibly important in developing relationships. It is only through proper response that others know we are listening. Let’s go back to your spouse or significant other. Let’s pretend you are watching a really cool show on television. Your significant other asks you a question and you do not respond. They ask you the question again, and you still do not respond. How do they feel? Why is it unfair to think that consumers wouldn’t feel the same way? Everyone wants to feel that they are being heard. It is only through responding that someone feels heard. It is part of feeling valued in a relationship. If a brand does not respond to consumer comments, are they truly making the consumer feel valued?
CRM is very expensive and does not build significant relationships. CRD does. Developing deep relationships with consumers takes a significant amount of time and effort. This time and effort is an investment that leads to creating Brand Advocates. Brand Advocates are loyal consumers and will generate word of mouth. Word of mouth recommendations will generate new users. New users will build incremental volume. Incremental volume will improve your relationship with your boss.
The bottom line is that developing relationships will yield incremental volume and profit; managing relationships will not. Which is your brand doing?