In the 2005 romantic comedy “Hitch,” Alex Hitchens (played by Will Smith) recounts how he began his path to becoming a love doctor. It all started with a college romance that saw him coming on far too strongly, followed by her sudden absence from his everyday life. Hitchens eventually found his girlfriend — in the backseat of a car, making out with another guy.
His girlfriend “ghosted” him. And that is basically the story of most marketing departments.
“Did we do something wrong?” “What happened?” “Can we get them back?” These are the questions we’re left with after having been “ghosted.” They’re often the same questions that we’re probably never going to have answered because we’re not paying close enough attention.
We marketers tend to see an interested client, and either go 100 percent for them — throwing everything we’ve got at them, or play it casual, hoping not to bombard them. But these actions may likely distance us. And in the process, we will be missing out on the fact that the person of interest is unique, and has unique needs. This is not someone with generic needs, who’s in the relationship just to please us. We don’t know our customers well enough.
So, I was thinking, if we used what we know about the dating world, could we learn a lesson or two about how to be better marketers?
The get-to-know-you phase
Something happened to confirm interest, because there is mutual benefit between marketer and customer — i.e. you asked for their info and they opted in. At this point, the phase of excitement to get to know one another is in high gear. But truly knowing a partner isn’t static — it’s continuous, with your understanding of them growing and shifting over time. What does this mean for you as a marketer? Always seek to learn more relevant information about who your customer is as an individual. This is key to cross-channel marketing. Doing this shows them that you’re committed, strengthening the connection between the individual and your brand, and it allows you to also show…
Once you know about your customers, you can analyze what you’ve learned to choose the best ways to interact with them — through what modes (email, text, Instagram), with what type of frequency (every 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months), even with which tone you should speak to them (buddy-buddy, salesy, to the point).
Every customer—like every dating partner—is different. Some need more space. Some need you to hold their hand. The task, then, is to be aware of what you know, and respond accordingly.
This is also about knowing who you are. If a customer wants all your attention, and you’re someone who needs a bit more space, you may not be able to best satisfy their needs. Know your audience, but also know your brand.
If you haven’t been attentive, you won’t be able to know when things aren’t going well. It’s one thing to prefer some space, but it’s another thing to take prolonged breaks from interacting because of…
When things are rocky, and engagement is low, you need to look back at who your customer is — their past behavior and activities — to find out what you should do. Then, compare that with similar personas in your marketing programs. Learn about them again, so you can know how to re-engage in a way that honors their expectations, and is more likely to be effective. For example, if you work for an airline, and notice that one of your frequent fliers has not flown with you for a while, you can compare this behavior alongside current business trends, and make assessments about what to do.
Maybe you did something wrong — your product didn’t measure up, you sent too many emails, you picked the wrong time to engage — or maybe you didn’t. But when things aren’t going great, it’s even more important that you understand why things aren’t working. When you go back and study again, you’ll gain new insight. Then, when you do engage, you’ll be closer to knowing the right things to say, which will increase the likelihood that they’ll stay in the relationship.
What does it look like, then, when you have something that’s really special?
Well, you must realize that — like in dating — real customer relationships are about commitment. No relationship will be all good all the time. There will be times in which you won’t talk, you might have fights, or you may even lose touch for a time. It’s important to have realistic expectations. Expecting your customers to buy from you every week is unrealistic, but you can still stay in touch. Stay focused, continuing a healthy conversation. This is the key way to provide an experience that reminds your customer who you are, which will help them make wise decisions over time — hopefully choosing you, over and over again.
This will give you a long, healthy, happy relationship that will see you care for one another so much that your customer — out of their loyalty to you — will become a brand advocate.
You should do your best to always pay attention to them, so you may provide relevant experiences throughout the customer journey. That’s your goal — not to sell, but to continue the conversation in a relevant way.
What are relevant experiences? That’s for you to learn, based on who you both are. But ultimately, you are hoping to — by your actions — encourage them, increase their loyalty, and pave the way for their future success, and future purchases. If you do all this, you’ll greatly increase the affinity your customers have for you. After all, you can’t make someone love you or even like you. All you can do is show that you’re interested, speak to them in the respectful way they desire, and if they respond, you’ll have a relationship. Then, as you get more information, you can continue to grow and deepen that relationship, that will hopefully becomes something special for both of you.
And, as a by-product, this will naturally decrease the odds of you finding your customer in the backseat, making out with one of your competitors.