“The relationship era” has become the label for our time, integral to the digital marketer’s new identity. As digital marketing has evolved alongside technology, marketers have long seen ourselves as customer-centric, but the relationship era pushes us to move even further, from our focus on individual marketing campaigns to a bigger-picture look at how our content adds value to customers’ lives.
Email remains an excellent channel for engagement in the relationship era. While we might send a message to a million people, the inbox still feels like a personal space to a consumer. Today’s customers carry their inboxes in their pockets and have increasing control over how they’re marketed to in the inbox and elsewhere.
For example, take this new Mailbox app that offers only triaging functions: to keep or delete messages. Developments like this call attention to our subscribers’ desire to keep their digital lives uncluttered, reserving their attention for content with true importance. It’s not just about relevance -- that’s so 2012. Customers have to see the value in continuing to hear from your brand, or why would they flag your messages as “keepers”?
Customers are willing to pay more attention to and money for services and products from brands who understand their goals and lead them toward solutions.They want brands to lead them. When customers see your messages as offering fresh perspectives, they’ll tolerate being sold to in their personal space.
These days, we have so much more historical data about our customers that we can do so much more with. We know how long our customers have been buying from us, where they live, what articles they’ve read on our sites, what products they’ve clicked and whether they’ve viewed our emails from desktops or mobile devices. To our customers, we’re just one brand, no matter how many places they interact with us. They don’t know or care that the email team reports to the marketing team and not to the e-commerce team; they expect our brand to have one identity and to approach them with one-on-one attention.
We need to align our approach to marketing with our customers’ expectations. I’ve seen marketing teams earn 42x the ROI by taking a relationship-marketing approach rather than an acquisition marketing approach. Through our content, we need to demonstrate that we know our customers across all digital channels, that we can match our messages to the appropriate channels, and that we can lead them by offering services and products that anticipate their needs. They want marketers to show understanding of who they are and to provide them with what they want -- whether they knew they wanted it or not.
Customers and marketers will be better off if marketers stop viewing customer engagement as a series of discrete interactions and instead think about engagement the way customers believe it should be: as a set of related interactions that, added together, provide content to improve their lives.