The CRM industry is built upon the premise that businesses have ongoing relationships with their customers. But do the people on the other end really want to have a relationship with that business? Does a website visit, contest entry or even purchase mean the customer wants a long-term relationship? Do they want a lifetime of newsletters, e-mails, calls and text messages from that business just because they had a first date?
Yes. But only a few of those people. And only some of the time.
Most People are Consumers
The majority of people who have bought a product from your business do not consider themselves in a relationship with you. Many people just want a pleasant transaction, and then to go anonymously on their way. Think about all of the different products you use during the day. Just writing this blog post I am “consuming” a Macbook Air, HP monitor, WordPress software, Safari browser, Pandora audio, Sony headphones, an Ikea desk & chair, Gap shirt, Banana Republic sweater, Lee jeans, Sanita clogs, Dove deodorant, Davines shampoo, Paul Newman coffee in a Weirdgirl creations cup. Of these many brands, the only one I consider myself to have a personal connection with is Weirdgirl, not because they send me the most coupons or use my first name in their newsletter, but because it is the local pottery store where my kids and I spend some crafty afternoons. I’ve come to know the owner and her daughter and have a cupboard full of memories her business has provided.
Small Businesses are Better at Relationships
As small businesses we are in a unique position to have real relationships with our customers. The close, personal relationships that make our businesses unique are why we succeed. We know many, if not all, of our customers by name. We know their interests, history, hopes and aspirations. We don’t need to automate personal attention. We don’t need to fake familiarity. We have the real thing. It’s why we have such a passion for what we do.
The trick is staying focused and connected as you build your business. Even when you know someone well, delight in talking to them, learn from their input and value their feedback, it is hard to find the time to continually reach out or even respond as often as you’d like. But the tools that the Big Guys invented (CRM included) to communicate with their masses just don’t fit the bill with small business customers. Weirdgirl does not need to guesstimate the probability of my going from a prospect to a warm lead next month based on my household income and the car I drive. She just needs to remember to send me the summer camp schedule and a nice note at my kids’ birthdays. Yes, it is good to send a regular newsletter to anyone interested in your product, but should you keep sending it to people who are not interested? And if someone seems REALLY, REALLY interested – shouldn’t they get a little something more? Small business relationships deserve a much more personal approach. A customer friendly approach.
That Special Connection
Some consumers want the deeper relationship. For various reasons they feel a special connection with you. Perhaps they had a great customer service experience with your company or were particularly successful using your product. Perhaps they enjoy your blog, or tweets, or Facebook contests. Maybe they live down the street from you, or went to the same college as you or cheer for the same Red Sox as you. Whatever the reason, some people like you and may even come to love you.
It is not hard to find your biggest enthusiasts. We live in a relationship driven world, where people are happy to show you their enthusiasm with a like, +1, share or good old fashioned comment. Just take a look in your customer support queue, Twitter stream, Facebook and Google shares and likes. Check the reviews in local search pages. Monitor mobile check-ins. The list goes on and on in the ways people are telling you that they are interested in taking the relationship to the next level. These are the people you should spend your energy learning more about, reaching out to and sending an e-mail to (and use their first name because you remember it, not because the software does). These are the people you have a relationship with. These are the people you should be sending brownies to.