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3 Ways to Make Relationship Marketing Count

On the Internet, your prospects and customers are telling you all about themselves, and they're expecting you to pay attention.
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There’s a famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993 with two dogs, one sitting at a computer telling the other, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

The thing is, that’s no longer the case. It’s no longer 1993. Not only does the Internet know you’re a dog, they know you’re a French Bulldog named Manny, and that’s because you have your own Instagram account. The same is true for people. We tell Twitter about our favorite sports teams, Yelp about what restaurants are worth checking out, and Facebook about what brands we like. Hulu even has a button that lets you tell it if the ad being shown to you is relevant.

We tell the Internet where we are and what we do, and successful marketers listen. Targeted marketing has become so prevalent that it’s outright funny when poorly targeted ads reach our screens. I’m a married father of two, and I get a good laugh in every time JDate wants to help me find love. It’s easy to laugh about that example, but what if your business was on the line? What if you have a big miss with a message sent to a CFO? Then it’s not so funny. On the Internet, your prospects and customers are telling you all about themselves, and they’re expecting you to pay attention and use that information to be more interesting, more engaging, more relevant.

Take for example what Cate Vanasse, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Success at Egencia, is doing. Egencia is the business travel division of the world’s largest online travel company, Expedia, Inc. and Cate’s program is at the cutting edge of relationship marketing:

Pay attention to C-Level traffic. Cate uses marketing automation software to ask website visitors to tell Egencia about themselves -- their title, their location, their company, etc. This way, she knows when someone at the C-Level is browsing her page (not a common occurrence). The bulk of Egencia’s traffic comes from corporate travel managers, so when a CFO drops by, Egencia’s team pays attention. If the executive is a customer, s/he may be looking to price alternatives. If not a customer, it could be a good idea to send the executive a whitepaper about how to make the most out of business travel. Either way your company needs to be prepared for what could come next.

It’s not all about you. What you’re really doing with customers and prospects is having a conversation. Just like a personal conversation, the easiest way to end it is to talk exclusively about you. In fact, some of the best communication is educational or entertaining to the person on the other end of the conversation. For example, earlier this year, when sequestration threatened to cause massive travel delays, Egencia gathered information and sent their travel manager customers a travel update about how to prepare. That’s a valuable email that helps build a relationship. 

Sometimes the best conversation isn’t over email. What ever happened to a phone call? Technology today lets us automate marketing communications really well, but sometimes the best way to connect to your customer is to give them a call. Egencia’s senior leaders frequently call customers to ask them about the service, what could be better, and what’s working well. Sending a customer survey is a good way to get a big picture, but talking to customers is a great way to get the details that matter. It can’t be all about email. Listen to what’s being said on social networks and join the conversation. Talk to customers on the phone. Make sure the resources on your website are informative and entertaining, not just promotional. And then coordinate it all together into a seamless conversation. 

How are you using consumer intelligence to be more relevant and engaging with your customers?

 

IMAGE: melstampz/Flickr
Last updated: Jun 21, 2013

JON MILLER | Columnist

Jon Miller leads strategy and execution for Marketo. Before co-founding Marketo, Miller was vice president of product marketing at Epiphany and held positions at Exchange Partners and Gemini Consulting. Miller holds a bachelor?s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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