I have just about had it. If I get one more e-mail, or site banner, or follow-up offer that says “Just for You”, I am going to scream. In this age of personalization, we all expect that there will be something RELEVANT or even remotely interesting in these offers. But rarely is there anything worthwhile.  All marketers like to tell you that before, during & after a transaction that they are engaged and giving me something personally relevant. It just ain’t so. It is all fake. The marketer is trying to extract more dollars from me now, not building a relationship with me.

I have been doing some kind of sales for most of the last 22 years. During that time, I have talked to a lot of people. And there is that moment during the sales process where you scramble to find common ground, a bit of shared interest, and a spark of commonality that becomes the touchstone of your burgeoning relationship. (And a relationship is what all successful transactions are built on.) In the world of e-commerce, we find commonality in brands or products, in pricing approach, or perhaps, shared causes. The relationship between consumer and marketer is, without a doubt, tenuous at best during the first (or first few) transactions. Over time, the consumer grows a relationship with the marketer around met expectations, and quality of experience.

But the marketer rarely returns the investment.

The marketer does not grow their relationship with the consumer. Target, when they use big data to discover that a shopper is likely preggers, is making an effort to create life-stage relevancy. But most marketers use scant data to make my shopping experience better. (Why show me another washer when I just bought one? I might more likely prefer coupons for detergent, or a great deal on a hose checkup in 2 years or something.) This is hard stuff, and since the marketer has an incomplete profile of my economic activity, they can usually only see the world through their narrow lens. But, let’s try to use the massive computing power we have available to make some really good investment in growing the relationship that marketers have with consumers.

The are super-smart big data companies like Cognection that drive data-based product recommendations. There are others like ChoiceStream that do on-the-fly analysis to present the consumer with “moments that matter” (sorry, but how seriously do you take yourself, ChoiceStream?!?). And there are smart-tech companies like SiteSpect that allow you to reassemble pages infinitely to find the right personalized approach.  But all of these require marketers to think on a one-to-one level with their consumers. It is no longer spray and pray with marketing. This is about relationship building. This is about marketers realizing that competition and lost sales are only 1 click away.

If you build a real relationship with a customer and think about years-long engagement rather than just transaction long engagements, you will create a sustainable, authentic relationship that lasts (and creates economic value).

Stop being fake. Be authentic and scramble for the common ground with consumers. It matters. Your long-term success hangs in the balance. Do you want to be Amazon (long-term, relationship, value-add, trusted) or Best Buy (transactionally-based, promotion-heavy and closing 50 stores)? Invest and be real.

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