A Time for Reflection

Issue 4: A Time for Reflection

Written by Peter Rosenwald

When the world seems to be spinning out of control, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on what truly matters. In this issue of Insider’s Corner, Peter invites you to join a conversation about building trust in uncertain times. This is an ongoing series. Click here to read the previous post.

A Time for Reflection

While we are, to a varying degree, confined to our home offices or isolated from our colleagues by six-foot-wide degrees of separation, it is perhaps a good time to sit back, put our feet up and try and reckon what our post-virus commercial and marketing world may look like.

It is unlikely to look much like what we have left behind. Whether or not that is a positive or a negative, only time will tell.

A Brave New World

Despite society’s continuing needs for all kinds of products, consumer demand for all but essentials is likely to have at least partially tanked if not dried up. Even if traditional distribution channels have been either temporarily or permanently disrupted, if I need a new car or air conditioner, I’m going to do my damndest not only to find one but to get the model I want from a brand I trust.

Those marketers who can take a somewhat longer view than usual, may end up benefiting from (or at least, surviving) the current crisis. That almost certainly means stepping back a little (or a lot) from our ‘act now’ knee jerk impulses which serve us well in the short term but at the same time along with ‘fake news’ have created a culture of disbelief and lack of trust. This is a good time to recognize it and do something about it.

Building Trust in Troubled Times

We need to overcome the increasing ‘distrust’ of institutions and brands apparent today. A recent survey by Edelman found “ethical drivers such as integrity, dependability and purpose drive 76 percent of the trust capital of business, while competence accounts for only 24 percent.”

Trust capital may become the new marketing gold standard, joining ‘brand equity’ as a key metric for valuing a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects. Can you value your trust capital? And if you can, is it as high as you would like it?

If there is a secret ingredient to building trust capital, it may be simply refocusing communications, reducing the ‘sell’ and enhancing the ‘empathy’ these times demand. The sensitive use of the data that marketers have available to them to build trust is a critical asset. So too is the direct channel which provides the closest thing to a one-to-one ‘kick the tires’ experience while dealerships and other retailers are temporarily shuttered.

Turn Data Into Knowledge

One of the wisest and most valuable perceptions about data-driven direct marketing is that it has the unique ability to transform a ‘product’ into a ‘service’.

In a seminar I gave for Microsoft executives some time ago, I asked how many of them had ‘subscriptions’? Only a few of the hands went up. Then I asked how many had Netflix? Almost all the hands went up. You could see their perceptions change as they realized that until then they hadn’t associated the word ‘subscription’ with a regular and continuous purchase of a service other than a magazine. What, other than a subscription, was their home lighting and cell phone service?

Obvious as it may be to some of us, lifetime value (LTV) is almost always worth considerably more than a single sale. A subscription (or whatever we decide to call it) is the underlying mechanism for LTV. If an active customer about whom we have considerable actionable data is worth more than a prospect about whom we are likely to know much less, not taking advantage of that knowledge and developing a continuing relationship wherever possible is a waste. “Data” said Lester Wunderman, “is an expense. Knowledge is a bargain.”

During our quarantined time for reflection, we might very well think about new and different ways to use the data, the knowledge and the distribution channels we have at our disposal and how best to keep or regain the trust capital so necessary in today’s uncertain world.

I’d appreciate your thoughts, please leave them in the Comments below or email them to me at insiderscorner@infocore.com

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