Can you tell when someone just wants to extract a benefit from you and then move on? Well, so can your customers. Individuals who are interested in connecting are more focused on interests, and tend to stick around.
Companies and businesses that have a relationship-based approach tend to be in it for the long haul. They look at conversation very differently than just running a campaign or a program.
In fact, they see the whole conversation as an aggregate of lifestreams - the connection of the many entry points that the organization has throughout its online (and off line) presence. Customers can take advantage of the many touch points that exist to plug and play with the content and engage in a marketing conversation, if they so choose.
Last year, in a comprehensive post on lifestreaming, David Armano talked about the concept as fulfilling a basic human desire: that of wanting to make sense of our lives. We have a need to figure out the purpose of what we do and to drive home its meaning.
Companies have been monitoring the social media for an entryway, a space to come in and possibly be invited in our lives again. Mind you, some companies have made their products and services so compelling and meaningful in and of themselves that we have gone out of our way to have a relationship with them. We meet those businesses in the places where they are.
Where do the other businesses fit? Is their lifestream equivalent to the new business life cycle, a ticket to longevity?
In recent conversations with individuals who work on the corporate or client side like me, I learned that participation for the businesses they represent is not so much about the desire to control the conversation, as much the need to know what interests customers and what keeps them coming back. There is also a new need, that of finding where customers are hanging out - chances are it's not the usual channels.
Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, writes about integration innovation in Dealing with Darwin. In my experience, there is more innovation in fragmentation - the way we communicate on different channels, as an example, changes. That change brings new insight to the fore. Different individuals respond to different types of relational efforts, too. Niche players have the opportunity to go much deeper in an area, as another example.
Your time and that of your customers is also fragmented and it develops over a curve - creation, connection, consumption, collection, criticism and new creation. It's a cycle, if you can take yet another "c". The new sales cycle needs to map to this timing. From a social graph standpoint, there is also how these distinct phases in a customer's behavior map and transfer over to their connections.
In a discussion about engaging bloggers, John Pope of Dell replied to the question: "how do you know who matters, who you should answer?" with "everyone matters." They do because of the social graph, which is an elegant way to display and talk about what our network looks like - the graphical representation of the relationships between individuals (and things) in our lives.
Interests Feed Relationships
When we talk about multiple touch points in traditional marketing, we are talking about different expressions of one conversation - one that is hopefully regarded as useful by our customers. What would happen if we could have multiple conversations depending on how your customer sees the world? This would be the Holy Grail of personalization. Having a communication channel that is just yours and that of your customer's.
If you think it impractical, it has been up until now. First off, many of your customers are not online, yet. There are many other objections, not enough time, budgets, staff, and information. How about attention?
What if the lifestream we are talking about is that of your business? Put you and your business as the starting point from which all of the activities and channels sprout. In that light, what are the junctures at which you have the opportunity to make a connection with individuals? (I want to know what you think here.) Tomorrow we will talk about practical applications.
Given that interests feed relationships, and presence determines top of mind, how interested are you in making connections with your customers? They are not just lists in a data base - they are distinct individuals and the clusters that they influence.
The idea is to connect with your customers repeatedly over time, on their terms. The aggregated result for them is an experience of your business value proposition. For you it is a shift from passive observer to active participant.
[image courtesy of Visual Complexity]