Tribe relationship management

Ever since I started working in the banking space – and that is, despite my young looks, quite a while ago – customer relationship management has been the holy grail for many a customer or prospect. Remember that period around the dotcom crash when everyone was implementing the latest CRM system? I can’t even remember the name of those companies now!


Well, it’s time to stop talking about customer relationship management. It hasn’t achieved what it was implemented to do and won’t achieve any more.

That’s it, finished, period.

Tribal relationship management is the next new thing. Today, the customer chooses the bank, not the other way around. Or better, the customer chooses what their peers choose. Marketing should be directed at the (digital) ‘tribes’, not the individual customers. So for example, when you’re buying a new car, it’s unlikely you will make your decision based on a review you read in a car magazine, it’s much more likely you’ll base your decision on what peers are saying on a car review forum. If you buy a BMW, unless you’re a geek, you’re not buying the car for its technical prowess but to belong to …, well, something.

The same applies to banking. If, as a bank, you are an avid sponsor of rugby and that on top of that you are a transparent and open bank, there’s a good chance that you will create a following amongst the rugby community or ‘tribe’. You could argue that the RaboDirect Melbourne Rebels provide their sponsor quality air time but the marketing effect is compounded by RaboDirect’s customer’s sense of belonging to or being associated with a cool rugby ‘tribe’. Look at the partnership between Rabobank and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – surely as an art buff, you’ll want to bank with them…?

Of course just sponsoring isn’t enough. You need to engage with your ‘tribe’. Thankfully, social media is there to help you with that. Participate in forums, reply to questions and be seen as active and caring. In return, the tribe members become unpaid marketing champions for a cause. Equally if one customer comes out and moans about bad services, there will be ten others who will shoot them down if they are wrong.

And you don’t even need to compete on price. Compete on cost, but don’t compete on price. Because if you do, you will enter the vicious cycle that looks like this: margins are reducing so let’s close the branches and let’s go internet banking, what about a CRM project, maybe a bit of BPO, no it doesn’t work so let’s buy another bank with a branch network, still not working, so let’s have a look at this social media thing. Back to square one.

By the way, if you haven’t read the book Tribes by Seth Godin, I strongly recommend it. It’s the innovative marketers bible and applies across industries.

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