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What Pride and Prejudice (and other classics) can teach marketers about social CRM

Posted by Michelle Keefe on October 15, 2015

There are books that serve as guides for every life decision. Some people turn to Dickens for fortitude, to Wilde for a good laugh, to Poe for a scare. Marketers, too, can learn a great deal from the life stories of certain characters in fiction. Here are four lessons I’ve picked up from some of my favorite novels and how they can improve your social CRM.


Image Courtesy: BBC America

Pride and Prejudice: Initial connections often face obstacles

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, you’ve probably seen one of the many hundred movie versions that exist. (Best version, hands down, is the five-hour BBC miniseries with Colin Firth.) Most people are familiar with the story: Elizabeth doesn’t immediately warm to her potential suitor, Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy could have benefited from a little social CRM during their initial connection, but Victorian society prohibited it. We’re talking about a time when it was considered rude to introduce yourself at a party. (From Routledge’s Manual of Etiquette: “To introduce persons who are mutually unknown is to undertake a serious responsibility… Never undertake this responsibility…without ascertaining whether it will be acceptable to both parties.” Yikes!)

Marketers can ease the process of introductions with personalized communications that acknowledge a customer’s history with your brand. Never begin an email or letter with “Dear customer.” When you communicate with new and existing customers, take the time to include any identifying information in the message, such as their name, purchase history, account details (especially any alphanumeric codes associated with their profile) and even their home or work address. This kind of personalization reinforces your relationship with the customer, which can ease the getting-to-know-you phase.

The Fountainhead: Don’t expect your target to change for you

Image Courtesy: Ink Ribbon Press.

Bookworms love a good story about a protagonist who doesn’t change his values in the face of adversity. Ellsworth Toohey is the most evil antagonist I have ever encountered in literature. He’s worse than all the princess-hoarding villains, Medusas and Cyclopes combined. But the protagonist, architect Howard Roark, brings a level of heroism to the novel that is no match for Toohey’s machinations, because Roark never abandons what he knows to be true.

In marketing, customers tend to follow this logic. They know who they are and what they want better than marketers, and they’re not likely to act unless they’re given sufficient reason to. Luckily, marketers don’t have to follow Toohey’s conduct to get through to customers.

Content is king, but so is relevance. If you want your customers to budge, provide them with information that is new, relevant and applicable. This social CRM tactic demonstrates a solid interest in your base, and shows that you understand your audience enough to communicate what it wants (and perhaps needs) to hear.

Marketers can research buyer behavior and buyer personas and apply the results to their communications for the most effective messaging. In this way, marketers are much more likely to get targets on board with their products and services.

Appointment in Samarra: Learn more about your target and audience segments through social networks
Author John O’Hara has a remarkable talent for populating his novels with characters so real that the reader half expects to see their features push through in bas-relief on the page. This is especially true of Appointment in Samarra, which features a whole community of characters who frequently take refuge in the neighborhood’s country club, better known as the original social network.

What marketers can learn from O’Hara is that social networks provide valuable networking opportunities, which can generate leads and result in conversions. Marketers should use them as an opportunity to get to know all the main players in the game, the Julian Englishes, Froggy Ogdens and Helene Holmans, and to help them create a comprehensive communications plan that targets different segments.

Social media gives marketers a sample set of all the personalities that interact with your brand, and often, these personalities couldn’t be more different. But this is a good thing, as different segments allow for a more comprehensive campaign. With a little research into their diverse social media subscribers, marketers can develop messaging that has universal appeal. They can also use what they know about their targets to develop communications that speak directly to a specific segment. The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to mingle with your social network, because you can learn a great deal about what people want and expect from your brand based on their profiles and posts.

My Uncle Oswald: Enduring relationships must have mutual value

Image Courtesy: Cinemage Books.

Readers familiar with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach might find themselves a little surprised at the premise of Oswald, but they won’t be disappointed. The PG version is this: A man and a woman work together on a guaranteed “get rich quick” scheme that can only succeed with the other’s participation.

Business relationships are no different than everyday relationships. We maintain contact with the people in our lives because they serve a purpose like fulfilling an emotional need or serving as a mentor. The marketer-customer relationship has always been mutually beneficial by nature: Customers drive demand, and marketers fulfill it.

In order for this relationship to endure, both parties must bring something to the table. For example, the enrollment form is an excellent engagement device that equally benefits the marketer and the customer. It usually marks the beginning of a business relationship, as it requires the customer’s contact information, but it’s also used to make a purchase, which is every marketer’s ultimate goal. The customer benefits by receiving alerts via email and direct mail about updates and discounts on products and services. The relationship is maintained through further communications and equal participation. Just don’t forget the above-mentioned advice about relevance: Customers will continue to engage in your brand so long as the content addresses their needs.

Topics: Social Media Marketing

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