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What’s in an interaction?

by ‎01-11-2010 07:56 AM - edited ‎01-11-2010 12:12 PM (1,928 Views)

Most people would say that their contact management system has a great deal of value to their business, but what do they mean by that and how do you quantify that value?


Historically the value of a list of raw contact information has been trending down.  Contact list suppliers have been competing with the likes of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIN which often offer basic contact info for free.  The net cost of {Allen Duet, Sage Software, Sr. Product Manager} is probably in the $0.00001 range, and even adding my e-mail or phone number to the file still doesn’t raise the value significantly.  It takes a whole lot of contacts to get to any significant dollar amount for assessing value, yet customers with only a few hundred contacts in their contact management systems assign a lot of value to those systems – so where is all of this value?


The obvious answer is that the value is in the relationships a business has with those contacts.   But what defines a relationship? 


 At its most basic level relationships are defined by the interactions between two or more entities.  Those interactions manifest in a variety of ways – the most common is two people talking, but in today’s technology driven world interactions happen in proxy – anonymous blog commenter, or marketing, even the buying experience counts as an interaction.  Yes, a person can have a relationship with an inanimate object (maybe you’re thinking right now about the way you “feel” about ACT!) or a complex entity like a business – but even in these situations some level of interaction defines the relationship state.  Ultimately relationships are more fluid than we like to admit, at any given point in time the relationship has a distinct state and knowing recent interactions and avoiding certain interactions help a party in the relationship progress the relationship rather that regress.   


The crux of the value question is that knowing the state of a relationship is very empowering – with an accurate relationship state you can assess the probability of sale, expand windows of opportunity, influence decisions…. so many more possibilities!  Basically, relationship information provides the context that allows people to predict behavior and by extension assert some control on the future.  And the old business saying – time is money – finally gives you a measuring stick to quantify the value of being able to control the future.     


Once you accept the premise that interactions define a relationship the value of an interaction management tool, like ACT!, is readily apparent.  If you’re an individual using ACT! to manage your relationships, being able to quickly pick up the relationship context from scanning History or Notes on a contact allows you to develop way more relationships than your brain would typically be able to manage without help.  If you’re a business using ACT! seeing the interactions from multiple sources on behalf of a business helps you gauge the customer to business relationship state.  I love tools like ACT! E-marketing’s Call List feature which help prioritize your next interactions by scoring interactions your contacts have with your e-mail or website content. 


 The distinction between tools that facilitate one interaction type (like MS Outlook or Google Wave) and tools that track all interaction types (like ACT!), should be obvious.  Can Outlook tell you about all the calls made, or about the meetings last month, the postcards, and Christmas chocolates sent to a customer? – No.  But those interactions help truly define the relationship you have with that customer and what actions you can take within that relationship. 


 Having an interaction management tool allows you to know the past, understand the present and control the future and whether that’s for a handful of contacts or tens of thousands of contacts that’s pretty valuable stuff.


Message Edited by alduet on 01-11-2010 12:12 PM