Profit or Relationships?


visual courtesy:
visual courtesy:

Relationship marketing has been around (in brand marketing) for some time. Technology has aided in enabling huge progress in developing customized brand offers and providing rewarding brand experiences.

Is there a lesson in this for the individual as well as the organisation?

As a marketer who’s a Muslim, I look at Islamic financial services (for consumers) that are offered. And as the agent/sales person/product developer (you name it!!) speaks, I wonder in amazement why is it that they are not asking me what I need?And why are they not clarifying what I ask them.

Maybe I’m not a Hi Net Worth (HNW) customer. I’m just one of the average, potential customers. Yet, time and again, I’ve not found explanations or details answering my queries. In fact I’ve never even been entertained as to what I want.
Just a “here’s a fabulous product. Oh! it’s sharia compliant by the way and you should look at it!” 

That’s all there is to the sales process?

Long story short, I’ve always left (these types of insurance, Islamic Finance investment product discussions/meet ups) feeling that:

A) The guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
B) They are still charging “interest”- just ‘disguising’ it with jargon
C) The brand is only interested in my money i.e. in making profit
D) What am I getting out of it?

The ‘what am i getting out of it?’ bit intrigued me! So to check, I went around my friends, family, associates, colleagues… Muslims and non-Muslims. To my surprise, the majority response I got was–” hey they are all the same. Just want your money and then they forget you”! And this response made me wonder…

Are the organisations in the Islamic finance & Halal sectors even bothered to know what is “brand experience”?

Here’s a scenario:

  • A sales person, knowledgeable and understanding the philosophy of his brand and the intention (objective), starts a dialogue with a potential client. Over time he understands his client’s financial needs and builds a professional relationship in which his client develops trust on the sales person. This trust then enables the sales person to advice (note the key word here is ‘advice’ NOT SELL) which product would best suit the client’s need.
  • During this period (of developing the relationship), the sales person provides information on the customer’s financial status and needs to product developers. This would enable the product developers to develop, customized products for that customer. Which then the sales person would have no problem in “selling” as it would answer the needs of the customer.
  • Lastly, given the “trust” created the customer is more receptive to the product than otherwise.

Once the first transaction has taken place, it’s a matter of time before that trust delivers more and more value to the brand (and in turn to the organisation). Resulting in the brand being profitable and respected. A brand with whom the customer wants to continue having a strong relationship as he finds “value” (of the advise and of customised products).

The value of such a relationship, over time, is enormous! As an example imagine the brand has 10 such strong relationships! Not only is the brand earning at a direct level through the transactions that these 10 customers have with it, but the referrals the customers give (and for sure they will if they are truly happy and have trust on the brand) bring it a secondary earning. The brand benefits financially and creates strong emotional value which impacts on the organisations’ reputation. 

But where are such brand experiences?

Whilst we read and experience such brand relationships in other sectors, the Islamic finance & Halal sectors seemed to have only taken the “stakeholders profit” maxim from their conventional counterparts in doing business.

Barring a couple of regional brands, there is absolutely no focus whatsoever on developing relationships through brand experience. Even some of the global Halal brands leave a lot to be desired for on this count.

Why is this so?

Is it the financial pressure on the business? (given that majority of Halal businesses are in the medium to large enterprise category & any Islamic financial services operates on the classic banking model where cost of money has to be earned back before the quarter is out).

Or is it a sheer lack of understanding the value of relationships?

Whichever it is, doing the same thing and expecting different results, just wont bring those desired results in.

Till business plans focus on developing relationships, using all that today’s technology offers us in a long-term planned manner, sustainability of organisations in these two industry sectors as suspect.