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I started thinking about the idea of creating customer intimacy after reading Kevin Roberts book, Lovemarks six years ago, when it was first published. Roberts described the characteristics of intimacy as commitment, empathy, and passion.
Those are great to have when dealing with people. Companies can demonstrate those qualities by hiring and training people willing to go to the mat for customers, and able to communicate so in real time.
Despite the widespread popularity of using social media for businesses to humanize the purchasing and service experience, Frank Eliason from Comcast continues to be the most widely cited example. That's because he engages at a personal level, demonstrating commitment, empathy and passion.
Not every business can afford a person dedicated to responding and engaging. What do you do then?How do you affect that KPI?
Customer conversations are still not tracked as closely in a business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or key part of its measurable objectives. If your objective is to: "Increase average revenue per customer from abc to xyz by date", "average revenue per customer" is the KPI.
Conversation can help you when there is a potential support issue. It can also support customer activation with content.
Mitch Joel has some good ideas about the new marketing conversation. Publishing is pervasive now, and marketing has traditionally been associated with the promotional end of things, which you could consider a type of publishing. Modern marketing is rediscovering the integrated nature of marketing.
Where do marketers go from there? About the last thing most marketers need is putting more hours towards the creation of what amounts to a new product. I wonder, does the post mix tactics with strategy?Define your strategy
As Shannon Paul wrote recently, strategy is what is behind all tactics.
When I met her as President of IKEA North America, Pernille Lopez said it best -- you can copy what others are doing, without knowing what's behind it, you may not succeed. How can copying give you customer intimacy and engagement, since you're not being yourself?
This is the main reason why while benchmarks, best practices, and case studies are helpful as a framework for thinking, they will never tell you what you should do. You're not them. You don't employ the same people, you don't have the same customers, partners, brand perception, and so on.Social media is a whisper
Putting in place content automation tools is a great thing for scale and tracking. To achieve customer intimacy, especially if you're not enjoying it at the moment, you may need a bit more activation to engage people.
The Frank Eliason way is one way. He didn't just put out periodical tweets with links to helpful posts on your cable service or to the self service forum. He got out there and responded to messages from customers -- not tomorrow, not when the next service rep was available. He did that in real time, at the moment of need.
What is louder than a shout? You may consider what he did personally, one on one, a mere whisper, given the scale of the company's customer base. Yet, all those actions added up to the company's second shot at reputation in the marketplace. Which made deposits in the engagement and thus KPI department.Content is your friend
Content is another, viable way. Think of content as a social object. As we've been discussing in our series on writing content for the buyer's decision journey, connections do happen through information, research, ideas, news, and more. There is no market for your message means stop talking about your product.
Instead, start talking about what problems you help solve for customers. Make them the heroes, help them be smarter, better informed, more effective in their work. You may have been working on your blog for a month or two and wondering: what works to attract readers?
From my experience, it's about writing content that addresses their issues, setting and keeping to expectations, and sharing your best tips. Buyers have become more sophisticated thanks to marketers -- you spot promotion over substance in a heartbeat.
Customer intimacy is achievable with content in any medium. However, don't forget its companion -- timely communication. Without it, you may be losing sight of your ultimate strategy, which I'm sure is your flavor of winning in the marketplace.3 things you can do today
If your customer service is broken, or your product is broken, you need to fix that first. However, many of you are probably just a bit worried that this blogging and social media thing will be a big time suck. The tools are your friend.
1. Determine the kind of problems you help your customers solve
2. Find out what online destinations your customers prefer
3. Make sure your content is relevant to your customers 100% of the time
There are ways to make your content sticky. You can still be all business and achieve customer intimacy with content. Be on target, insist on quality information, and be consistent. And, I almost forgot, you don't need to have dozens of comments to each post for your content to create intimacy.
I was overwhelmed by the kindness of people I had not heard from ever in the comments here while at SxSWi. Your content is top notch, they told me, it helps me think through what to do next. Social media makes me approachable. The main reason why I was approached was the content I offer.
Even with Twitter chats, if you ask them, people will tell you they don't really want engagement, it's an outcome, a nice additional benefit, not their main goal. What they want is content they can use to do smarter stuff, better.
Do you think it's participation that creates intimacy? What about engagement? Weigh in!
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.