It’s About The Relationship

The movie Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, documented how a small, struggling professional baseball team used analytics to compete against larger, better-funded teams. That seems to be happening in business as well. As businesses collect more and more data about their customers and the marketplace, analytics seem to rule, especially in erasing the differences between competitors in size and resources. But could our focus on analytics be leading us astray? Often, analytics drive us to transactional solutions, which may not be the driver of long-term success. Ray Killebrew, of Primerica, speaking at the October 2018 CX Talks conference in Atlanta, urges us to reconsider, saying “It’s not always about analytics, it’s about relationships.”

Killebrew references social media strategist Ted Rubin and his approach to relationships. Rubin uses a metric called Return on RelationshipsTM (#ROR) which is “the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations, and sharing.”

Return on Relationship is not truly a metric because it contains elusive, qualitative aspects. So, this is not to say that the actual measurements marketers use to evaluate relationship health are not valuable. We continue to measure customer engagement, satisfaction, loyalty and newer social and digital metrics (such as number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, retweets, site visits, video views, and positive ratings. However, we should think of them as only part of the story – the leading indicators that something might need attention.

Both Rubin and Killebrew give guidelines to building customer relationships. (Interesting, these steps could also apply if you want strong, supportive relationships with your team or co-workers.)

  1. Figure out what you want to accomplish from these relationships so you can be intentional in how you build them.
  2. Understand your audience. This almost goes without saying, but you certainly can’t build a relationship with customers unless you understand their context, what motivates them, and what they value.
  3. What are your customers saying? What are their pain points? What are their current solutions and what do they like or dislike about them? Listen first so that when you do speak, you get it right.
  4. Understand that strong relationships do not happen overnight. They take consistent effort over time. Be patient!
  5. Communicate (Part One). As you build relationships, celebrate small wins. You must be a good storyteller and educator to enroll others in your vision for the relationship.
  6. Now that you know the right problems, focus. Bring people together to ideate and find solutions for customer pain points. In this way, you build advocates and fans throughout your customer base, as well as throughout your organization.
  7. Communicate (Part Two). Expand your communications to tell others’ stories – your advocates and fans. Build the community and stay social. Celebrate your wins.
  8. Rinse and repeat. You cannot stay still in a relationship as expectations are constantly changing. Once you solve a customer pain point, what’s next? Use the same process constantly to build and strengthen relationships. As Rubin writes, “Building relationships is about starting meaningful dialogue and taking the time to thoughtfully and genuinely engage in ongoing conversation. Relationships focus on getting to know your consumer and giving them reasons to stay engaged — not just getting them to react. This needs to be all the time… not simply campaign or initiative based. That is the biggest mistake being made today by marketers and brands… with consumers, and especially with influencers.”

If we only focus on the numbers, we risk missing the people. You can’t have a relationship based on one-off clicks or transactions. Ray Killebrew said: “Connections are easy; maintaining relationships is hard.” If marketers want the long-term benefits of strong customer relationships, we will have to do the hard work to build them.