November 9, 2016 | by Steve Lawrence

The New “Relationship Business”

Critical digital business strategies you need to understand

On daily basis, the Internet, digital marketing and the vast changes online strategies are bringing to businesses may seem distant concerns for your bottom line. But Mitch Joel, president of Mirum, a marketing agency with 46 offices globally, told the MSCI Tubular Conference that metals industry leaders simply cannot afford to ignore the digital marketing revolution.

“We are in the middle of a digital culture transformation in business,” Joel said, “and you have to understand what you want your business to be in this new world.”

The digital guru described several quickly shifting and crucial elements of business operations where this digital transformation is having a major impact. Direct relationships may be one of the biggest. Metals service centers and mills, as we all know, live and die by the relationships they develop. “But there is a war going on for those relationships, and for your customers,” he said. “You need to think about what you are doing to build and keep those relationships and how a website, or email, or some forms of social media can help.” He cautioned that if you are not thinking digitally about customer relations, your competitors are.

Data analytics, a prime mover in the digital world these days, can help significantly with those relationships and with solidifying your customer roster. “You know a lot about your customers and how they do business: what they order and when, and what they might be needing in the future, and what is happening all along the value chain,” he said.

This information can help you talk more effectively with your customers, understand them better, and improve your service offerings to them, Joel pointed out. But you may need a data analytics system to collect and analyze this information efficiently. “With the information you collect from your customers, you can create a better experience for them,” Joel said.

One particularly effective way to do that is what he called utility, or being as useful to your customers as you can. The Internet offers a range of communications devices that you can use to stay in front of your customers with useful information, Joel explained. Electronic newsletters, videos, news alerts are just a few of the ways businesses today stay in touch with customers without bombarding them constantly with possibly annoying direct sales pitches. “You can provide tools and functionality, for ordering, for keeping up with industry trends, for your customers,” Joel said. “You can create tools your customers can use.”

All of these strategies come together, Joel said, because we are now in a “one-screen world”. Whether we are ordering products, communicating with our business colleagues, or keeping track of our friends and family, mobile devices, smartphones and tablets are relegating personal computer screens to the office or home desk. But they are all connected and offer the ability to reach customers wherever they are and whenever you need to. This realization alone must factor into any marketing or customer relations strategy that you contemplate. “You need to understand what it can mean to you to be a player in this space,” he said.

Learn about MSCI's upcoming Tubular Conference.

Read our analysis on Big Data for the metals industry.