Capitalizing on Relationship Marketing

Companies are facing tough challenges in marketing effectiveness, and CRM professionals are being tasked with turning marketing campaigns into sales success stories. Unfortunately, automation technologies have caused message saturation, and marketing ROI is being compromised across multiple channels—often to the detriment of the customer relationship.

Socialize your data

Marketing and CRM teams are sophisticated. They use their data to drive action, predicting everything from who is more likely to open an email on what day of the week to what offer would resonate most with a specific persona.

But despite their sophisticated understanding of data manipulation and targeting, they still can't seem to generate the expected sales that marketing automation, social media, and loyalty programs/tools have promised.

So what's the issue? Marketers have not figured out how to measure and act on true purchase influence and get inactive customers to buy. No matter how much marketers invest in a beautiful, well-designed piece of communication, these customers will still be more likely to act upon the recommendation of a friend. While many brands are attempting to capitalize on data surrounding someone's social media influence (who has the most friends, generates the most "likes"), this data fails to reveal which customers are the true purchase influencers.

People buy what their friends buy

Finding and driving true purchase influence starts with customer and prospect data, but not in the way most companies expect. Simply looking at individual actions and keystrokes is not enough. CRM experts looking to drive sales and enhance brand loyalty need to focus on mapping relationships between people in their customer and prospect databases. Creating a social graph of real-world relationships (e.g., family, coworkers, college roommates, neighbors, teammates) rather than relying on Facebook friends and Twitter followers unlocks the power of these concrete bonds and allows companies to get more from existing prospect and customer data. Finding the connections (i.e., Customer A and Customer B are brothers and both work with Prospect C) helps companies better reach potential buyers who are much more likely to act because their friends have already done so.

Real-world relationships are much more influential than online connections when it comes to people's buying decisions, as they tend to involve more in-depth interactions, a heightened level of trust, and intense similarities, whether interests, hobbies, activities, salaries, education level, stage of life, etc. This is especially true based on specific topics/products—for instance, there may be one person who someone turns to for advice on a new car purchase and another upon whom they rely for direction on anything/everything child-related. Add to that the ability to see who tends to create a domino effect of purchasing activity, and companies are suddenly able to better determine the right audience, channel, and offer to reach and convert.

Reap the rewards

Being able to pinpoint and target consumers with purchase influence thanks to advances in big data and social graphing sounds great, but what are the real business stories? Closing the deal isn't about awareness. Industry innovators such as Comcast, Orange, and Sony are already reaping the rewards of socializing data, and, depending on the core marketing challenge/type of consumer you want to target, you can make better use of your data to drive sales and strengthen customer relationships too.

A prime example is high-end consumer products.We've found that the higher the price, the more influence a prospect/customer can have on his or her social circle. For instance, if one of your prospect's influential friends purchases a high-end TV, that prospect and the rest of his or her circle are three times more likely to purchase that same TV within an eight-week window as the buyer justifies his or her purchase by actively advocating its finer points. In addition, while close friends may not rush out to buy the same exact dress, we've seen that purchase influence is most notable for high-end designers/retailers when it comes to their collection. Buyers are more likely to shop at the same stores and from the same collection as others in their social circle.

Combining the power of big data with the value of the social graph, companies are realizing a boost of two to five times in marketing ROI and changing the game in acquisition, cross sell, and retention. It's time for companies to think beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and focus on how social can drive sales when the approach relies on the power of real-world connections and purchase influence.

Ran Shaul is the founder of Pursway, for which he also serves as chief client officer. 

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