"We live in a world of cultured messages. You often only get one chance to do it right and be successful."
And so reads the opening quote to a testimonial for The Marketing Playbook by a PR agency person. Perhaps we lived in a world of cultured messages but this is precisely what's in flux.
Once, in our not-so-distant agragrian past, entire families lived their whole lives on one plot of land. The trip into town was an event; the trip to a distant city a rarity...
Today the typical American family is scattered across the country. And the consequence of this radical disruption of human ties is this: What people miss most today in their lives is connection.
No focus group or survey will tell you this. No one will tell you they would like to feel more connected with you; the desire is too personal, the request too strange. Yet survey people about a wealth management service. Ask them to rank the firm's return on investment among their criteria for choosing a service. You will find that investment performance ranks about sixth - three places below "the firm's representative apparent desire to develop a long-term relationship with me as a client."
Survey clients of a law firm. Ask them to rank all the reasons they continue to work with the firm. "Fees" typically ranks several notches below "promptly returns my phone calls." The lawyer who returns the phone calls communicates that the client matters - that the relationship is important. To the client, that connection matters more than the fees - as controversial as law firm fees are. - The Invisible Touch, by Harry Beckwith
Spend a day reading nothing but press releases and you will want to puke. Or perhaps in the stunned silence you will want to cry.
This week my friend Elizabeth Albrycht discussess one-to-one marketing as a false trail. And I recently was flipping through Harry Beckwith's The Invisible Touch. Beckwith discusses faux relationships and the fact that most so-called "personalization" is rather depersonalized:
Like too much marketing at its worst, this very term ["relationship marketing"] defrauds the public. The only "relationship" this letter suggests is a bad one. The author knows nothing of the person with whom he is "developing this relationship," any more than I understand and like someone who I happen to know [via a database] reads Time magazine, enjoys Sandra Bullock films, and avoids red meat.
The wordsmith behind "relationship marketing" have corrupted the word relationship. It is genuine relationships that we must develop with customers and clients.
A feigned relationship is worse than no relationship at all.
Go slowly. Relationships take time.
The compartmentalization of business and "the rest of life" is breaking down. How we treat acquaintenances, family, friends, and colleagues can't be night-and-day different from how we'd treat prospective or current customers. Yes, this seems entirely obvious. But the entire business world has been to date about compartmentalization. I understand what Margaret Heffernan meant when I heard her say that when Bernie Ebers (formerly of WorldCom) breaks down in church and appears contrite, she believes him because the Bernie Ebers that goes into church and the Bernie Ebers that goes into work are different persons.
The authors of The Marketing Playbook (which is about strategic marketing and go-to-market tactics and not marketing communicataions per se) are taken to task on the Thinking by Peter Davidson blog. In my personal view - yeah, I jumped on the bandwagon too - if we are trying to have personal communications and develop authentic relationships and engaging in two-way dialogue, this exchange would probably been better handled one-to-one between Peter and the authors - at least the first time through. I'm still in the mindset that there is great deal of pain-staking education needed as 'cultured messages' marketing has a very long history that has been ingrained in many minds. I guess I think we should educate first before we go off to tar and feather marketers. There seems to be another depersonalization element in play by assuming that the people - be they salespeople or marketers or businesspeople - on the other side of the table aren't as human as you and I (putting on my customer hat). It takes two to tango and it takes two to create and sustain a relationship. Either side can start first. Since this incident, I've had an intensely meaningful exchange with one of The Marketing Playbook authors, John Zagula.
This woman is trying to separate business from the rest of life. Like most of us, she assumes that business responds to a different set of rules. - The Invisible Touch, by Harry Beckwith
Yeah, business is personal. And it should be simple, really.
If only business operated like math or organic chemistry, we could figure it out sooner.
We know acid will turn blue litmus paper into red. We know that lengthening one side of a right triangle will have a predictable effect on the length of a hypoteneuse. Business, on the other hand, is based on people - something about which we know very little... - The Invisible Touch, by Harry Beckwith
So you read this and say how nice for the customer that they want to feel like a real person that exists and all and of course they would and this 'relationship' thing is about getting them to feel mushy and feeling good and... the real deal is that this new world of "relationships" and "conversations" and "authenticity" is one where all the benefits accrue to the customer and we're left to fend for ourselves while they assault us. Hello! Do you really understand the concept of relationship?
If you ever had a true relationship with someone, they don't bail on you on the sign of the first mistake. And you don't only get one chance. I'm sure you can cite at least one personal relationship that was made stronger and deeper and richer as a result of a 'mistake' or 'misunderstanding'. I've had a few totally transform after incidents orders of magnitude above mere 'misunderstanding.' I believe it was Kevin Roberts whom said in Lovemarks that Apple's loyal customers (they were in a relationship) stuck by Apple even during their "beige phase."
Wholeness - and not perfection - is a human trait. Forgiveness is another capacity of humans. People learn through missteps. I know I have. In a true relationship, you won't be abandoned for a mistake. Elizabeth Albrycht recounts an example where Loic Le Meur commits what might have been a fatal business move in his handling of his company's acquisition news but ultimately emerges with a stronger brand. A stronger bond quite often develops through the process of being open and willing to see and understand and work through an issue from both sides and grow as a result.
A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying... that he is wiser today than yesterday. - Jonathan Swift