One-to-one marketing was supposed to be the holy grail of customer relationship management.
Companies would no longer have to isolate us from the rest of world as a group to sell to us; they could actually do it on an individual basis. Problem is that we are hyper-social beings who prefer to operate within our tribes. We do not want to be isolated from our group so that sales people who know more about us than we feel comfortable with can give us the hard sell. We want the buying process to be a social process. We don’t trust companies to be on our side and prefer to get the information that will let us make sound buying decisions from our peers. The good news is that those hyper-social tribal peers cannot wait to help us and warn us about bad products and services.
As a team we may want to customize our group workspace, the tools we use, or the T-shirts we wear, but we don’t want one-to-one product customization. In fact we do not like too many choices. Research has shown that it significantly reduces our willingness to actually buy something. Even mass-customization leads to “mass confusion.”
Forget one-to-one, it never worked and never will because we do not want to be unique, we don’t want to have one-to-one conversations with companies, and we do not really want customization.
Now, wait – don’t throw that CRM system out just yet. While we may not like to have you try to sell us on a one-on-one basis based on all that rich data you have about us, we love it when we are actually ready to buy your product, or when we have a problem with your product and we call your call center, to feel super special by having you recognize us and treat us as if you were a long lost relative trying to help us. We also like it when “the system” (your ecommerce site or your online community) recommends content and people for us that is highly valuable because it’s based on what you know about us – much like Amazon will recommend us books, or the Apple Genius music.
Remember this – when we are ready to buy or when we have a problem with your product or service we want to be treated as an individual, when we are in the process of making a buying decision, we want to be treated as a member of our tribe. And yes, the logical extension of that thinking is that all your behavioral and contextual targeting campaigns are in fact a colossal waste of time and money. During the sales cycle you need to target our tribes!
Do you buy this argument? Please let me know.