One of the golden rules of successful marketing, as you well know, is the ability to deliver the “right” message to the “right” customer (or potential customer) at the “right” time. The CRM movement has managed a credible job helping us all to pull together the “right” message for the “right” customer, but we have yet to be able to deliver that message at the “right” time. In other words, we still have difficulty in getting a message to the customer when s/he is predisposed to buying.
I was thinking about this the other day when I read a blurb about a company called BlueLinx (www.bluelinx.com) in Charlotte, NC. BlueLinx has developed a product called “Q-Zone,” which allows people and organizations to control environmental disruptions of cell phones, pagers, and other types of noise-making portable electronic devices. Q-Zone uses the emerging Bluetooth (www.bluetooth.com) wireless technology to create “quiet zones” within churches, concert halls, conference centers, restaurants, hospitals, movie theaters, and other public places. Essentially, the technology turns the devices “off” when entering a quiet zone and “on” upon leaving. When I finished reading about BlueLinx, I realized that this same or similar technology could be used to bridge the delivery gap and get the message to the customer pretty close to the “right” time.
Let’s consider how this could work. I’m in the market for new shoes, so I decided to shop at the local mall. Once there, I turn on my web-enabled phone (PDA or another device) and let the shoe sellers in the mall know that I’m interested in buying a pair of size 12 black wingtips. Within seconds I became aware of the stores with size 12 black wing tips in stock and the pricing. I may even be offered discounts or other freebies for purchasing the shoes with a particular merchant. I can then visit each retailer, examine the quality and comfort of the shoe, and determine the most appropriate fit for me.
This same concept could be applied to hotel rooms, restaurants, gas stations, and a host of other merchants. Best of all, the customer retains control of the process, telling the merchants when s/he is ready to buy. Unlike most of today’s customer-focused marketing programs, there’s no intrusion by the merchant. The idea of delivering at the customer’s purchase decision point, or very near it, at the customer’s request, is what customer-focused marketing programs (call it CRM or whatever you like) should be about.
There are dozens of potential applications of this technology in the CRM space–I have a growing list, myself–that will help us be more efficient and less intrusive in delivering messages, content or other offers to our customers. Are we up to the challenge of thinking “out-of-the-box” for its use?