It was a discussion about that sometimes prosaic subject, CRM. One of the participants, a young marketer, used an oft-heard term. “Of course,” he said, “digital technology revolutionized CRM.”
His companion thought for a moment. “I can see how digital technology has made CRM faster and easier, but we’re still doing the same things we ever did. Keeping lists, making contact by phone or mail, and giving privileges to our best customers. Hardly a revolution.”
The younger man paused. It was a bit like the moment when a teenager realises, for the first time, that his parents must have had sex.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. In the digital world, the more things seem to change, the more we end up doing what we always did, only faster, and a hell of a lot more frequently.
Mail-order shopping has been around a long time—Amazon just made it easier. We’ve written letters for centuries, but email lets us write more of them than ever before. We used to book travel over the phone; now, we do it on any number of websites, and it’s enabled more of us to go more places, more often, more cheaply.
But what has digital technology actually changed? For most businesses, digital is an efficiency tool rather than a game-changer. Business 2.0, or simply Business 1.99999999?
Fast, plentiful and inexpensive. Business reads these words, and hears the pleasant hum of efficiency. Normal humans confront fast, plentiful, inexpensive communications and decode them like goods which appear in the same fashion. They think cheap.
Cheap content clogs my digital inbox, my Twitter, my facebook feed. I click away silly, intrusive web-dreck as I try to read Slate, Salon, The New Yorker, or watch a friend’s wedding on YouTube. Reaching me this way as a consumer, is easy and cheap. It feels like it.
Here’s a radical suggestion for commercial communicators. As yourself how you can make your digital interactions less efficient.
How can you slow them down? How can you engage fewer people, but have them like it more?
Remember, liking your message contributes more to it being spread.
Maybe an actual physical letter to your customers might return as much on your investment as dozens of web-encounters. Maybe a sincere, unscripted phone call from a well-informed, professional employee—which costs far more than a robo-call—might serve your purpose better.
Often, we achieve efficiency by stripping our messages of the time and space to create meaning.
Should we be surprised that the returns for our efficiencies are often illusory?