Most CRM initiatives have failed to involve the customer enough for the customers to see themselves when beholding the brand. They haven’t given power to the customer in ways that would allow both company and customer to be more vulnerable. CMR changes the game. It builds what Lois Geller, in her book Customers for Keeps (Adams Media Corporation, 2001), calls “friendship marketing.” She says, “Turns out the very attributes I look for in friends are the same ones I look for in brands. Friendship branding is a method of creating a warm, emotional bond between buyers and sellers—between businesses doing business with each other—in short, between any two parties in a transaction.” This type of bond requires the mutual respect of friendship that can best be achieved with CMR.
As Ray Jutkins, a noted direct mail consultant and speaker, says, “The idea is to treat customers the way you treat your best friends; in the very best way. First, as people. And then with first class service; a top quality product. You reach out and touch—hold their hand—be their teddy bear.”
The trick is to get customers to invest themselves in your brand, to reach out to you in friendship, which requires sharing. This will happen only when you let the customers manage the relationship. When customers can talk to you and define their needs, they begin to insert themselves in your brand. This calls for questions, not just about the customer’s needs, but about his or her interests, lifestyle, and current life stage. Customers will share this information if they see added value coming back to them from the relationship. One way to create this closeness is to involve customers in your business activities.