A few days back I got an SMS from a leading airlines’ training academy in India congratulating me on them shortlisting me for a career in airlines and hotels. I found it rather funny as after a decade in IT, neither do I have any interest in changing my profession nor I have applied for any such training. What was baffling to me was that I use the airlines quite often for my domestic travels and must have left my email address, phone and professional details with them a few times. So it was quite amusing that airlines don’t know what profession I am in and sent an SMS which made no sense at all.
When you think about it, it is not unusual and this is how most companies run their marketing campaigns. Collector outsources customer or prospects data like phone numbers, emails and sends some promotional material en -mass. Another word for it is marketing spam. And we know how bad and irritating spam could be. But companies sill keep doing it. This is a typical way of marketing; “throw some mud at the wall and hope some of it sticks.” Question is how effective is this kind of marketing technique! How much mud sticks to the wall? And doesn’t’ it does more harm than good! After all, nobody enjoys being woken up by a senseless marketing SMS on a weekend or having to wade through a pile of promotional spam emails while trying to get some personal work done.
When you think about the reasons for this, a couple of things come to mind, and, in my opinion, social CRM can be of help to companies in fixing these:
- Companies don’t make any effort to know about their customers or prospects.
- They don’t identify a point of need when a marketing message would make more sense.
I often get calls or emails from different departments of a bank that I have been using for a decade, asking me for information which they should already have but perhaps don’t have because either these calls are made by outsourced vendors or data is not shared across department silos. I know, you must be asking ” but what about CRM? “. And yes, what about CRM! Isn’t CRM supposed to make companies know about their customers! So why don’t they? Perhaps, because CRM is not backed by any customer-focused strategy and is used merely for operation automation. There is another aspect to this, which I believe is that such companies don’t really care. They don’t think that spam causes inconvenience to customers and damages their brand in the long term. Such companies have a very “inside-out” view and they think of customers as some kind of dehumanized targets and numbers in marketing or sales excel sheets. Social CRM provides a way where companies can learn more about their customers or prospects. Social CRM can only be a success when it is driven by an ‘outside-in’ thinking and strategy and I can argue that social CRM adoption program can act as a catalyst in changing how a company looks at its existing CRM practices. If companies genuinely listen and learn, they can find out the customers and communities who will be more receptive of the marketing message. E.g. airlines teaching academy will do good to identify a particular student base or online community and then engage them. A customer-focused CRM, and it is ironical that I have to emphasize on it, will enable companies ‘know’ about their customers regardless of which department is interfacing.
Coming to the second point of identifying the point of need. It is quite logical that a marketing message would be more effective when it is delivered near the point of need. E.g. I would not mind a hotel or travel company sending me messages when I am planning for the trip or I am on a trip. With more and more people coming on the social web including channels like Twitter, companies have a chance to tap into conversations and identify the point of needs. But an important thing will be how they do this. If they still try to blast users with on- your- face marketing lingo, it will backfire and there are many examples of it already. Social CRM tools can help companies in reaching prospective customers near the point of need but again these tools will not help much if the emphasis is on a standardized marketing response and not genuinely on the customer and his needs.
The fact is that companies need to promote and market their wares. Social Web provides a better way of doing this. But for this to be effective, companies need to change their traditional way of marketing thinking. They need to become centered about customers, prospective customers, and their experiences. In a world where customers are becoming smarter and more knowledgeable and can sometimes switch products or services by the click of a mouse, old ways of in-your-face, spam everyone, marketing will not work.
Remember, if you throw mud at the wall, some of it might stick, but you will end up dirtying yourself too.