Is compliance curtailing your customer relationships?

The marketing community is out of touch with its customers. We don’t know what they want and I don’t think we’re trying hard enough to find out.

Brexit is a good example of this disconnect; most marketers were convinced that the country would vote to remain. Even today, the majority believe that a second Brexit vote would see the UK population come to its senses. The reality is very different. A recent YouGov poll revealed that more people than ever (68%) now support Brexit.

This breakdown in customer/brand relations is rooted in distrust. According to Nielsen, consumer trust is at an all-time low across all forms of advertising and communications. And as the post-truth epidemic spreads like wildfire, it’s likely these figures will continue to fall. How long will it be before consumers simply refuse to believe anything we have to say?

To avoid this outcome, we need to create a more authentic relationship with consumers. The regulatory approach to customer engagement simply isn’t working. Many marketers are now more concerned with avoiding fines than they are with engaging customers. And it’s becoming all too common for brands to hire ‘marketing people’ whose sole purpose is ensuring their organisation stays on the right side of the law.

These organisations are missing the point. The likes of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) exist to engender transparency between businesses and their customers. Those who attempt to manipulate the rules and gain an advantage on customers are creating the potential for problems and turning their back on an opportunity. They may be able to dodge fines in the short term but they aren’t building genuine reciprocal engagement with their customers. They’re also wasting resources that would be better invested in customer-centric work.

Regulations can’t be ignored of course. But they shouldn’t be the starting point for marketers defining their customer engagement strategy. The focus should be on establishing fair, honest and transparent relationships. If you truly understand your customers’ expectations and requirements, then your strategy should be compliant by default.

At the DMA, we’re now exploring how we can support marketers in building better customer relationships. As a first step, we’ll be expanding the DMA Code. Originally launched in August 2015, the Code showed our members how to be truly customer-centric by setting down some simple outcome-based principles for marketing. At its heart is one simple message: put the customer first.

This should be the starting point for every marketer building a customer engagement strategy. Everything else, including compliance, can wait.

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