Ask the Right Question to Get Closer to Customers

Why do we continue to ignore the clues around us and repeat the same tired CRM strategies? The vast majority of company/artist sites that I see, if they have any way to connect with their customers at all, use the lame “approach” of: “Sign up for our email newsletter.”

Why, why, why would anyone do this?

A call to action with no meaningful value proposition is not a call to action. It’s easily-ignored noise.

Even the so-called email-for-content revolution, in which some de minimis value proposition is created — a customer will hand over their email in exchange for some content (in the music business, it’s typically a download) — is hardly an innovative approach.

More importantly, this approach doesn’t give the firm/artist any knowledge of who the customers are, nor what it is they want. What do we really know from a customer via their email? Some firms ask for a zip code, and that’s a bit better, but still woefully inadequate and increasingly antiquated.

I suggest you introduce a different mechanism for CRM/customer engagement.

With respect to how to do this, again, the clues are all around us.

Do you really think, for instance, that the very successful founder of Flickr, Caterina Fake, would have launched her follow-up start up, Hunch — which asks users to answer a series of questions in order to be provided with recommendations based on their answers — had there not been a market/demand for this type of interactivity?

We like games, we like interactivity, we like answering questions.

One of the most popular user engagement elements of Facebook are the quizzes.

Pandora, I believe, largely succeeds because of the thumbs up/down nature of its UX.

And yet (aside for some poorly orchestrated “surveys”), I have NEVER seen any type of CRM approach where rather than just asking for an email, you’re also asked – ala Hunch, etc. – a series of questions that could not only help the firm understand you better, but (relatedly) improve the odds that you, the customer, receive relevant information from the firm.

For example, suppose you’re an artist. You have a gallery opening. At said gallery opening you provide postcards with one of your images on the front, and on the back a call to action for the holder of the post card to visit your site to get an exclusive hi-res download of an image by entering the code on the postcard.

The customer goes to the url, and, in order to get the downloadable image, they have to give their email address and code, but what if they were also asked to answer a few questions:

    Monet or Ruscha
    Serra or Sally Mann
    Black and White or Color

You get the idea.

If you do it in an engaging manner (again, ala Hunch), it won’t seem like some jive survey; rather, it’ll feel like an engaged conversation between artist and customer.

Create artful questions and not only will the process be entertaining, but will also help you get a whole lot closer to your customer.

This will allow you to gain knowledge, and, if done right, move you from CRM to VRM (Vendor Relationship Management).

Consider a few more questions you could ask customers after you’ve gotten them engaged:

    Weekly emails or monthly
    Emails only from us or from [insert photographer who is likely value aligned here]

In this way, the customer is managing their relationship with the vendor by granting permission and terms by which they’re willing to engage with you.

If a number of artists/bands/firms – all value aligned – asked their respective customers if they would like to receive updates from their favorite artist/band/firm, it would accelerate growth for these firms, while creating value for customers.

Doing it the other way – i.e. selling your email list – will only piss off your customers.

In terms of implementation, there are plenty of free or cheap survey tools out there, such as Survey Monkey.

With artful questions, we can not only engage customers, but learn more about them, and improve our interaction.

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