Last week I had the considerable pleasure of spending a week in the Cornish countryside. Along the way I inadvertently rented a cottage from a man who eats roadkill and sampled the best of Cornwall’s family attractions. Needless to say, I am now very familiar with the feeding practices of pigs, goats and sheep; know why King Arthur really was born in Cornwall; and have stood next to the world’s biggest wooden plant tub (Guinness confirmation pending).
At every attraction, without fail, I was greeted by a cheerful member of staff who offered some kind of season ticket or annual subscription promising me unlimited days out if I’d sign up right then and there. It turns out I wasn’t in the mood for filling in a full direct debit form, but I was surprised by what happened next. Once they’d decided I wasn’t going to buy their subscription and contribute to their weekly sales tally, these cheerful individuals soon directed their attention elsewhere. What a missed opportunity! Most of them almost convinced me to sign up, and I would have happily handed over my contact details to find out more in the future, but no one asked.
All research agrees that increased exposure drives likelihood to purchase
As I basked in the sugary haze of my third cream tea, this dropped ball made me think of the often-arbitrary split between CRM and acquisition within brands. ‘Acquisition’, our industry tells us, is what you do when you want someone to buy something. It’s hard-headed, pushy, rational, and if it doesn’t get results it moves its attention elsewhere. On the other hand, we have ‘CRM’, where it’s acceptable to be in it for the long term; the best brands build relationships, create a dialogue, pull rather than push; and other equivalent epithets. Hard-headed sales tactics are included but only used as part of a wider process. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t worry! Regardless of which side of the ‘Which came first, the emotion or the transactions?’ debate you are, all research agrees that increased exposure drives likelihood to purchase.
I was an existing customer of most of the organisations I was visiting on my holidays. I’d visited them or some of their other sites before, but they didn’t know it because they didn’t ask. If only they’d invested a fraction of the effort they’d used to get me to sign up to just start a conversation about something engaging, I’m sure I’d have been a member of at least one of them before the year was out. But they didn’t even mention it because they were acquiring me rather than CRMing me.
True CRM starts at the first touchpoint rather than post-acquisition
Those brands would have had a much better chance of signing my fellow visitors and me up if they had recognised that true CRM (the type that creates relationships between brands and people) starts at the first touchpoint rather than post-acquisition. The irony is that most of them already have programmes like this going for their existing customers that can be adapted to supercharge their acquisition.
Maybe it’s time to stop treating acquisition and CRM differently and focus on creating positive value between people and brands, regardless of whether they immediately sign up to a direct debit.