What dating can teach us about engagement marketing

9th Nov 2015

Would you expect to marry someone after a first date?

Even if you believe in love at first sight, it’s a stretch to expect to meet someone, fall in love and tie the knot all in one evening. Why, therefore, would marketers expect customers to be ready to commit after just one meeting at a trade show, one view of an ad, one click in an email or one whitepaper download? All too often, the first time a marketer meets a potential customer, the question is, “Hey, wanna buy?”

We believe that if you know the fundamentals of building personal relationships with friends, family and partners, then you already know the fundamentals of engagement marketing. In fact, by treating customer relationships in much the same way as you would a personal relationship, marketers can strengthen relationships and increase revenue.

With finding their customer “soulmate” in mind, what parallels can marketers pull from personal relationships to help them drive engagement and what are the ‘no go’ areas to avoid?

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen

It’s said that good listeners do well in the relationship stakes, taking time to listen to prospective partners rather than focusing the conversation on themselves. The same goes for companies; brands need to take heed of this, as listening to prospects and customers will result in better prospect qualification.

Where did you meet them? Which web pages did they visit on your site? Which emails did they open? Which ones didn’t they open? Customers are actually telling us a lot - we just have to listen. No one likes a company (or partner) that just churns out irrelevant, self-serving content and expects you to lap up every message! Trust me – I can tell you from painful personal experience – both as an early suitor and as an early marketer.

The devil is in the detail

Would you expect to bag yourself a second date if you failed to remember any of the details the two of you discussed on your first date? Not only do you have to listen, but you have to be able to connect the dots in a conversation over time.

If you invite someone to go for ice cream when they already previously told you that they were lactose intolerant, chances are you’ll be on your own. Similarly for marketers, when talking to prospects as individuals, pay attention! Learn from their behaviours and the information they are telling you about themselves and use that knowledge to drive the next thing that you “say’. This will drive engagement and eventually a deeper relationship that results in sales.

Time is money, but in a good way

Good, long lasting relationships develop over time. Without time, it’s difficult to build trust and intimacy. This is especially important for marketers. Take the time to earn trust, and develop valuable relationships with your customers as individuals. By communicating with them on a personal level by reaching out to them in a way that connects but doesn’t interrupt or irritate will ensure you reap the benefits on the bottom line. And there’s no excuse – marketers today have the power of technology to cultivate these long term relationships at scale.

But it’s not just about personalising the message, marketers need to communicate on an entirely individual basis. If you wouldn’t phone a friend when you knew they prefer chatting via text message, then don’t do it to a customer! Marketers need to take this personalisation one step further and communicate:

  • When it is convenient or best for each customer.
  • With the frequency that the customer wants.
  • And through the channels that each customer prefers.

Imagine a world where every single marketer is – on a personal, individual arc – taking time to learn more about our customers on a personal, individual level and engaging with them over will ensure a lifelong relationship, opening up multiple opportunities. That shift is transformative for a business as well as transformative to how a customer thinks about a brand.

Remember that there are multiple steps in building a great relationship, both commercially and privately. This includes listening, investing in the relationship over time and using what’s been learnt to drive your communications. Marketers must treat each communication as a human-to-human interaction, regardless of industry or sector, B2B or B2C. Thanks to technology, the marketing team has the eyes, the ears and the tools to listen to and understand customers and act in way that ensures many happy years are spent together as the relationship grows.

Sanjay Dholakia is CMO at Marketo.

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