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How to Evolve Your Brand-Customer Relationships and Become a More Meaningful Partner

Kayla Hammersmith Senior Content Marketing Manager, DialogTech

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the nature of brand and customer relationships has been in a period of evolution. It’s not enough for brands to sell — they need to be a partner. And now, in the wake of the pandemic, it’s even more clear that brands need to forge deeper relationships with their audiences.

In the very first installment of our Embracing Evolution series, Melissa Berger, SVP Connections Strategy, NA CRM Lead, at Digitas, Dave McAnally, VP of Marketing at DialogTech, and Jennie Pisnoy, Director of Agency and Partner Development at DialogTech, discuss what it means to develop your brand-customer relationship.

In addition to discussing how brands can enhance their CRM strategy, Melissa, Dave, and Jennie shared some of their recent quarantine impulse buys. Melissa got an adult baby pool for her backyard, Dave’s been buying 80’s band T-shirts (as a matter of fact, he bought one right before the digital event…), and Jennie got an online cooking class for her kids.

Want all the information from the digital event? Check out the full on-demand webinar. For the top tips on how you can become a more meaningful partner for your customers and how to leverage data to do so, read on.

How Businesses Should Evolve Their Brand-Customer Relationships

For Melissa, brand-customer relationships aren’t all that different from, you know, “real” relationships. After all, just like a person, you meet a brand, you decide if you like them, you determine if you want to continue engaging with them, and then, one day, you tell everyone you know that you love them.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Melissa advises brands to be even more thoughtful about their customer relationships.

Customers are bombarded with outreach from every brand they’ve ever engaged with right now. Don’t let your outreach blend in. Instead, you need to ask yourself if you’re meeting the needs of the customer right now — and be very intentional with frequency and segmentation.

For more of Melissa’s insights on the relationship evolution, check out her Digitas blog post.

How to Make the Most of First-Party Data as a Customer Data Input

In addition to talking up his new collection of 80’s band T-shirts, Dave also talked up just how important leveraging first-party data is right now. After all, tapping into first-party data allows brands to be agile. And with the current landscape changing constantly, using first-party data from your audiences is key to being nimble. The traditional ways of using third-party data reports and lookbacks aren’t relevant anymore.

It’s also important to note that first-party data shouldn’t just be viewed as an output. It goes beyond seeing how customers are engaging on your website or if they’re subscribing to email lists. First-party data should be viewed as an input for your customer strategy.

Insights from phone calls are a vital source of first-party data that brands should be analyzing. Because calls provide very deliberate customer intent information and nuances that you can’t get from any other data source, these phone conversations with customers are an especially valuable input for your targeting and messaging strategy. According to Dave, this isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. It’s a must-have.

How to Translate Empathy Into a Long-Term Strategy

Let’s face it. Every brand has put out messaging around “these uncertain times.” That’s not enough. Consumers are paying attention to how brands are responding to the crisis and are quick to criticize.

That’s why it’s important to focus on the actions your brand can do. If there’s a way you can pivot your brand to craft an effort that helps people during the crisis, that’s a must. But even if your business doesn’t offer a product or service that directly helps the COVID-19 recovery, you can get creative. For example, if you’re a travel company and it doesn’t make sense for you to promote trip packages right now, you could put out entertaining content like how to pull off a staycation at home. That’s an action, too.

How to Avoid COVID-19 Content Fatigue

For Melissa, the first thing you should do to ensure that you’re not contributing to content fatigue is to check your segmentation. While it’s important to acknowledge the crisis, you don’t need to blast everyone in your database. In fact, if you blast everyone you’ve ever talked to, you’re likely reminding them that they should unsubscribe.

Case in point: Dave got an email on COVID-19 policies from the company he rented a wedding tuxedo from…ten years ago.

In addition to paying attention to the actions your customers are taking to inform your segmentation strategy, Melissa recommends focusing your messaging on what’s meaningful. You don’t have to send out an email every other day acknowledging the pandemic. Instead, use your resources somewhere else.

Melissa also introduces the idea of B2H, or a “business to human” approach. It’s easy to think about all the individuals in your CRM as just a job title, but that mindset gets you farther away from creating meaningful messaging. Understanding your audience as unique individuals helps you better serve your customers.

What Brands Should Do Now

As states begin to reopen and some businesses are resuming, we’re not just in a helper phase anymore. While it’s still key to display empathy (and it always will be!), Melissa and Dave have some tips for how brands should move forward.

For Dave, it’s important for brands to say goodbye to one-size-fits-all messaging. Businesses need to get smarter about personalization. It’s not just enough to insert a customer’s first name in an email — you need to get smart with your segmentation strategy.

Melissa notes that because the recovery from the pandemic won’t be the same in every location, your outreach needs to be smart. Don’t alienate anyone with your messaging. Be very clear about how you communicate your reopening plan and who you’re communicating it to. Ultimately, make every touch worthwhile.

For more insights on how brands should forge deeper relationships with their customers, watch the on-demand video, How to Leverage Customer Data and Your CRM Strategy to Become a Better Partner.

For wisdom from leading marketers on how to adapt for the COVID-19 crisis, explore our Mission-Critical Marketing on-demand series. Featuring experts from Yext,, and Raare Solutions, you’ll learn best practices on how to pivot your brand messaging, search marketing, and media strategy for current events.

Check It Out