Rethinking the Customer Relationship

Hi, [marketing person],

Look, we need to talk. Recently I’ve gotten the impression you’re trying to get my attention. Everywhere I turn I see your brand online. I get your emails, which I almost immediately mark as “read” because I don’t care. I see your brand all over Facebook and Instagram. I may like a post of yours every now and then, but it’s only because I like your brand. I even see your brand on websites where I wouldn’t expect to see you. It’s getting a little weird.

You’re trying too hard. We’ve had good times together. I enjoy your products, and I use them in my everyday life. In fact, I talk about them with my friends all the time, but I don’t need you in my face 24/7. I know you’re there, and I’ll reach out to you when I want your product or need your help.

So, for now, I’m moving to a private messaging network. Don’t expect to hear from me as often as you did before. Sure, I’ll still visit, but I don’t think we need the same in-your-face relationship as we once had. It’s been nice getting to know you, but I need my space.


[Your Customer]

Does this sound familiar?

Sometimes our customers define the marketer-to-customer relationship for us. They make it clear that they don’t want to share their information, and that they don’t want us intruding in their lives.

And yet… when they love a brand, they want to share it with their friends. They want to brag about the brand and show it off on their personal social media feeds. If there’s a problem with the brand, they want to engage with the brand on social media. They want to be able to tell the brand their problems and have them resolved.

And, every now and then, they actually want to hear what you have to say. It’s a very confusing relationship.

It’s a relationship that we need to define.

Define the Relationship

A good place to start is with the concept of “permission marketing.” As Seth Godin explains it:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” – Seth Godin

When someone subscribes to your blog, they’re giving you permission to communicate with them. If they “like” your page on Facebook or Twitter, the assumption is that they like what you have to say and want to hear more of it. However, bear in mind that it’s the “privilege (not the right)” to communicate with your customers when they choose to let you communicate with them. Additionally, the content you provide should be, “anticipated, personal and relevant.” These are high expectations, so how do we as marketers address these challenges?

The Obvious

I can’t go any further without stating the obvious: you need to write engaging content. It needs to be creative, and it needs to be interesting and relevant to your clients. One firm that does this really well is Carney, a marketing agency out of Pittsburgh that writes a daily newsletter appropriately called The Daily Carnage. Their emails aren’t self-important emails focused on getting you to buy their content. They’re focused on improving your life as a marketer. The newsletter is succinct, educational and a great way to start your morning. Personally, I look forward to getting it every day.

Meet your customers where they are: Private Messaging Apps

As our friend wrote us in their letter, they’re moving on to private messaging apps. They’re moving from Facebook and Twitter to applications where they can message each other privately like Telegram, Kik, and WeChat.

As these apps grow and expand, there are plenty of opportunities for unique engagements. In 2015, the comedy website Funny Or Die partnered with Kik to provide custom content and promoted chats with their fans directly in the app. Their campaigns paid off, resulting in over 1.5 million chatters on their Kik account in just three months.

Give them a unique experience

You want your customers to be talking about you even when you’re not directly involved in the conversation. With the trend towards private messaging apps, this means you have to come up with new and creative ways to be a part of their conversations. Not every brand can afford to sponsor advertising on private messaging apps, and, even if you can, advertising opportunities within these apps can be expensive or even non-existent, as the purpose of many of them is to provide a, well, private, chat experience free of advertising.

One way around this barrier is through the use of custom keyboards and sticker packs. As long as the app accepts the use of a custom keyboard, your customers will be free to share your stickers. At Smallball, we recommend using stickers packs as a reward for your customers who are engaging with your brand in some way. It could be a reward for taking a survey or simply subscribing to the blog. It could even be redeemed from an in-store purchase. So long as it’s tied to an experience, it’ll be memorable to them and they’ll be more likely to use and share the experience with their friends.

Your customers may be redefining the way they approach their relationship with you, but this doesn’t mean that you need to let them just run away. Give them a reason to come back and engage with your brand, and they’ll keep coming back for you. Just don’t ever give up on being creative.

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