Melissa Berger, SVP connections strategy, NA CRM lead at Digitas, on the importance of relationships in both life and business
A year ago, I wrote an article on The Relationship Evolution - this was a month into lockdown and most of us were working in new ways and brands were having to quickly evolve in the way they engage with customers. We originally thought we would be home for two weeks, then up to four weeks, and then surely we would be back in the office by summer. But like many of you I have been working from home for almost 400 days. I was used to the quick trips, new business pitches, client meetings, all in service of building relationships - and all face-to-face. Our ways of building relationships continue to evolve: now we have themed zoom backgrounds, virtual comedians & trivia, and our personal bubbles of who we see and touch.
The evolution I wrote about a year ago was all about brands taking cues from our human relationships and ensuring they are being empathetic, saying something meaningful and supporting in any way they can. All of that still rings very true. Brands have had to shift the way they do business over the last 13 months - whether it’s B2B, B2C, B2B2C… it all ends in some sort of business to human relationship building. Pretty cliche, right?
But as I think about the work we have engaged in over the last 12 months, relationships are still at the core, and have changed dramatically across the board:
- Relationships between colleagues
- Relationships between friends
- Relationships with a new friend or a significant other
- Relationships with your family (including furry friends)
- Relationships with a loved brand
- Relationships with a new brand
- The list goes on
Let’s think about how we build our own relationships (personal or business):
Two people meet, they get to know each other and determine fairly quickly if there is a connection and if they like each other. The first big milestone is making that determination in our minds that we LIKE that other person and we want to continue building the relationship. You talk, work together, have coffee or drinks and then eventually you either fall in love, have a new best friend, a favorite client or a new mentor. What comes after that? We tell everyone about our awesome new relationship. We post on instagram, we post on LinkedIn, we organically talk about it and acknowledge the positive impact it is having on our lives.
Now, think about a brand you engaged with previously that you liked and how your relationship has evolved - a perfect example is your favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Because you trusted the brand, you shifted the nature of your engagement to support them through the pandemic.
Then there are brands that were new to us during the last year. Maybe we were introduced in new ways, but the process of determining if you like the brand and what they have to offer is the same! If we think of this aligned to how we build our own relationships we get the following:
This is a great reminder that relationships have the same foundation no matter if it’s with a person, a group, a product, a service or an entire brand. My colleague Michelle Thomas reminded me that The Platinum Rule (evolution of the Golden Rule) applies here: treat others the way that they would like to be treated. Instead of making assumptions about what others like based on what you want as a human or a brand, create a two-way communication stream with a continuous feedback loop.
Key tips for brands based on how we build our interpersonal relationships:
- Provide reasons for consumers to engage with the brand based on what you know about them (i.e. leverage your first party data to feature relevant content and products across your marketing channels)
- Demonstrate the value exchange for any personal information or opting-in/following you (i.e. ensure benefits and expectations are clearly articulated when asking customers to provide their personal information to you)
- Respect the ghosting - if someone doesn't respond, open or engage after a certain period of time, stop messaging them (flashbacks to dating anyone?) (i.e. consistently cleanse your list and implement a lapsed customer engagement program -- if they don’t respond, stop messaging them)
- Continue the practice of being empathetic - everyone’s situation is different and showing understanding goes a long way (i.e. don’t just say you are supporting causes, show it)
- Earn their trust and their love (i.e. when someone loves your brand, they talk about it, ensure you openly communicate about the good and the bad around the engagement)
Melissa Berger is SVP connections strategy, NA CRM lead at Digitas