Relationship Marketing and Utility

I write and think a lot about the new marketing landscape. The proliferation of smart devices and the Internet are changing the way consumers and brands interact. Creating a differentiating customer experience has always been an aspiration of most marketers; however now it’s becoming a critical success factor.

You are probably familiar with marketing terms like relationship marketing or acronyms like CRM. All imply the ultimate goal of a relationship between the business or brand and the consumer.

If you are in marketing you are always searching for a way to reach your customer. We want to build a relationship with them.

But what if our customers don’t want a “relationship” with us?

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Personally I have often struggled with the tension between wanting to develop a relationship with consumers and yet realizing that many are just not that interested in a relationship.

Then I read Great Marketing is Utilitarian by Mitch Joel. What an epiphany!

Utilitarian marketing requires a laser focus on the consumer. It’s about creating what consumers need, not what they want.

It’s not an easy task. It requires listening, observing, adapting and asking lots of questions.

I believe Utilitarian Marketing is a subset of Relationship Marketing…so these two aren’t mutually exclusive, but instead, a good Marketer will identify utility and build relationships based on actual customer needs, building a relationship on solid ground.

Effective Creative Marketing Offers Utility

It’s easy to associate creative marketing with sleek, hip, cool etc you get the idea. But going beneath the surface, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, effective marketing will also offer consumers a solution.

Many consumer challenges are found in the mundane or routine. Look for simple practical improvements that will make life easier, more convenient for consumers.

There are four types of Utility Marketing. These can be a helpful place to begin; however I am suggesting we add an additional concept to each of these types… the customer’s path to purchase journey.

Creative Marketing Ideas that are Effective

Innovative marketing ideas require a different set of questions. The central focus of the questions should be on the needs of the consumer. Customer Personas will be helpful in crafting the right questions for your target, and the questions should address consumer needs, both known and unknown.

Finding out about those needs that are below the surface requires more thought. Begin by offering solutions that might be helpful to the consumer – e.g. save time, money, convenience. Then proceed to ask questions like: What are the barriers? Challenges? What would make this experience more helpful?

New Marketing Ideas

It is a rare occurrence that a new marketing idea just pops up in thin air! New marketing ideas require curiosity, experimentation and drive. They also require a passion for really knowing your target, which will call for a good deal of listening, observation and conversation. Don’t just assume your customer is static…as new technology and advancement enter on the scene, your customer needs will change, offering new opportunity to meet customer needs. New marketing ideas are always possible, as we humans are ever-evolving and our interests and needs constantly changing.

Unique Marketing Ideas

Unique marketing ideas are often born out of a series of seemingly small adjustments. And quite often they are practical in nature; ever had a “Why didn’t I think of that?” moment?

Marketing ideas will continue to evolve with our changing environment; be aware that triggers for new ideas may come out of simple, everyday insight gleaned, for example, from consumer or vendor feedback. Unique marketing ideas are measurable—through testing, ideas can be adjusted in order to demonstrate value to consumer and profit to company.

In summary, marketers should have a customer focus and be charged with observing, listening and helping, leaning more toward helping a customer with what they need, rather than what they want. The importance of empowering colleagues can’t be overlooked; listening to feedback from front line staff may be the trigger for a unique marketing idea that will “scratch an itch.”

What are some ways you can help your customer?

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