According to a recent Yesmail study, 80 percent of B2C companies are relying on very basic customer information such as demographics to influence marketing campaigns. There are various barriers inhibiting marketers from sending personalized emails, including limited internal resources and fragmented marketing systems. This comes from companies having multiple marketing agencies and technology partners. While those are all valid challenges, demographics alone cannot give a complete view of audiences. It leaves out valuable information that social media and other sources contain. Put simply, marketers don’t know their customers as well as they think they do.

The primary culprit for this information void is customer relationship management (CRM) programs. These rely on data that is sent to companies, which is basic and ignores customer nuances. More importantly, CRM encourages the mentality that marketers own and drive the customer conversation. Because of both social media and a shift in consumer habits, this is no longer true. Both CRM programs and a CRM mentality permit marketers to put little effort into understanding how their customers want to interact with them. Little effort produces little results.

Instead, marketers should use a combination of the vast data resources available to them to get a complete view of the customer journey. If they use these resources, they will find that customers are telling brands how they want brands to talk to them

It’s time for marketers to ditch CRM in favor or CMR, or customer-managed relationships.

Instead of using a trial-and-error approach to customer engagement, marketers should listen to how their customers engage with them. To achieve that personal connection with customers, marketers should remember these three keys to CMR:

  1. Communication – As with all relationships, communication is key. By building relationships with consumers, marketers will discover what their customers are looking for in their relationships with brands. They may prefer witty comments, 24/7 service or a multichannel experience. CMR takes the guesswork out of developing marketing strategies.
  2. Consistency – An important component of that communication is providing a consistent experience to customers across channels. This means they should not only send a similar number of emails each week but also use similar language and color schemes they use in other channels. A great example of this is Walgreens. Their in-store employees say “Be well” instead of “Have a nice day,” and their marketing emails follow suit.
  3. Trust – Consistency in brand messaging feeds into building a trusting consumer-brand relationship. Consumers don’t like surprises; they want to know what to expect when communicating with their favorite brands. Another component of trust is sending the right message to the right people. Consumers are savvy, and brands lose consumers’ trust when deploy impersonal messages.

With the components of CMR established, it’s time to dive into how to activate a successful program. Here are the steps to activation:

  1. Research customers. Marketers should use data, technology and any channels available to them to conduct this research. They should dive into the engagement within their channels as well as that of the industry to gather a better understanding of their customer. Targeting women aged 25-54 is not enough. CMR requires brands to be more specific in their targeting.
  2. Keep it consistent. When developing a CMR-based marketing strategy, marketers must look at the entire customer journey with the brand. Consider their purchase behavior and social engagement, for example. Perhaps the real target audience is working moms when you’ve been targeting teens. With that audience in mind, CMR marketers can research this group’s experience with the brand.
  3. Personalize messages. With a holistic view of the customer in mind, marketers can then create rich, useful content to guide customers into repeat purchases. For example, knowing that working moms do their back-to-school shopping the weekend before the first day of school, marketers can email them Saturday morning to remind them to go shopping.

Brands can no longer expect to drive the conversation with their customers. Consumers want to tell their favorite brands how to engage with them, and they have the necessary technology and desire to do so. All marketers have to do is listen and adapt.