Everything seems to be dying these days: print, TV, banners, destination web, creativity… And Kurt Cobain is already dead.
On the other hand, it seems that Richard Saul Wurman's remark of our living in ‘The Age of Also’ has never been so true. TV is thriving, but not in the living room; radio as well, but on the go; we still buy from websites; we still quote great ad campaigns, not the mathvertising of Facebook.
(Check out Wurman, he is the ‘father’ of many things and expressions we take for granted now, including infographics and the phrase ‘information architect’).
So it is with the good old CRM. It is claimed to be withering away, to be replaced with the inexorable onslaught of social media. sCRM seems to be the new game in town.
I guess it depends on how we define CRM. If the acronym invokes the pictures of the ‘command economy’ of customer targeting, dictated from the brand control centre and with an ever deepening psycho-drilling of individual customer’s behavior and attitudes – providing ever-diminishing ROIs – and talking AT the customer when, where and how the brand alone thinks maybe be appropriate – well, in that case, yes, I’ll give you that: such model of Customer Relationship Management (Marketing?) is dehydrating profusely.
This way of thinking stems from the control-freakery of the old brand management style. It is the brand that needs to engage the customer and take her to a desired commercial destination: cross-sell, up-sell, loyalty, advocacy… The customer is a back-seat passenger. She is just being driven somewhere: by a polite and helpful chauffer (smart brands) or a dodgy mini-cab geezer (stupid brands).
Not anymore. The real change that social media brought to CRM is CMR: Customer-Managed Relationship. Be careful, it is much more than just a shuffling around of two letters. It tells us that customers are now at least back-seat drivers, not mere passengers. Hell, they’re riding shotgun. They even HAVE a shotgun, in the form of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other scary things that keep brand managers awake at night.
That customer is not a ‘new’ customer, suddenly discovering the joys of social contacts. It is the same old customer who now just the means to make a complaint (or praise) for a brand public in seconds, to all their friends and the rest of the blue wide world. Instead of hissy-commenting over a coffee, once in a blue moon, when they find time to actually meet with a friend.
They are increasingly telling us where they want to engage with a brand, how often, in what ways, and how much of it they want to share with us. They give us their opinions and expect us to do something with them; to let them in. To allow them to co-own the brand they respect. And, if needed, they nudge us to change the brand to keep the inspiration going. It is a far cry from the totalitarian concept of branding that we know so well. It is also something that is reshaping CRM as we know it.
But it is not killing it – yet. The two will happily co-exist for some time. Customer insight is still king, but its sources are now more varied. And we can match what customers tell us and what they do even better; social media is the world’s largest, always-on focus group.
CRM has just become more of what it always, falsely, claimed to be: a proper relationship.
- Martial arts