It was at a coffee shop.
The sunlight was at the perfect angle and it was shining in through the enormous glass window beside us. I was perched on an recycled steel chair and he was across from me on a bench. We were engaged in a deep conversation about business and interesting projects and our passions. It was the kind of conversation that allowed time to slip away like fine sand through an hourglass.
As we chatted, I nibbled on a ginger cookie and sipped on my Guatemalan roast coffee and I thought about how nice the moment was. How wonderful it was to be surrounded by the warmth of the coffee shop, the smell of the beans, the engaging and interesting company and other people all doing their thing – engaging, reading, relaxing or hustling. It felt public yet intimate.
We chatted about all kinds of things and, weaved into the conversation, were hints about our work styles, our preferences, the things we love to do in business and the things we don’t love as much. We were truly getting to know each other and we were also chatting about potentially collaborating on some projects. A perfect blend.
Without breaking the stride in our conversation he looked at me and said,
“Mind if I have a bite of your cookie?”
and even though we had met just one time before I said,
“Not at all, please do.”
It felt natural, normal and perfectly reasonable to share my delicious cookie offering with this human being who was giving so much of himself to me – his passion, his energy for his work and his outlook on life and business – the bite of my cookie felt like the least I could do to honour the moment.
Even though what I’m describing sounds as if it could be a first date, it was a coffee date under a business premise but the entire experience was deeply rooted in emotional intimacy.
The Value of Emotional Intimacy
According to Wikipedia, emotional intimacy can be defined as the following:
Emotional intimacy is a psychological event that happens when trust levels and communication between two people are such that it fosters the mutual sharing of one another’s deepest selves. Emotional intimacy can be shared with not just your partner in life, but with friends, family, colleagues, even pets.
Deep intimacy requires a high level of transparency and openness. This involves a degree of vulnerability that can feel uncomfortable or anxiety-producing to many individuals. These feelings do, however, tend to diminish and even dissolve over time and with practice.
There are great benefits to being able to become emotionally intimate with other people. First, when trust is established you can be more of yourself and show up in the world how you want to show up and second, we get to explore ourselves at a much deeper level and usually, learn something new about ourselves or others. Plus, it just feels so darn good!
The emotion that I was feeling in that coffee shop moment was one of security. I felt that I could be vulnerable, open and honest with this person. Although the person I was with wasn’t selling anything to me, I left the coffee shop with a strong desire to work with this person on some really exciting projects. I wanted our connection to continue because it had just been so easy, warm and inviting.
Imagine if you could create that same feeling for your customers. Imagine if you could leave them wanting more of a connection with you because they felt like they could connect on an emotional level with you and your message. How might forging those types of connections with your customers change how you do business?
The Business Side of Intimacy
Personal intimacy is hugely important for connecting and building relationships but…
According to an article published on Harvard Business Review, customer intimacy means segmenting and targeting markets precisely and then tailoring offerings to match exactly the demands of those niches. Essentially, you look at who is in your target market and you create specialized experiences for the individual groups within it.
As I scoured the web for great examples of companies using customer intimacy as a core principle for their business, I continuously read articles that listed Nordstrom as being among the best in the world at customer intimacy. In one such article, on MiscMagazine.com, Cheesan Chew writes:
Companies that focus on customers can increase the value of their customer base by identifying those who are most profitable and building trusted advisor relationships with them to maximize profits.
Nordstrom, for example, is legendary in the retail business for its attention to customers’ individual needs. Instead of categorizing departments by merchandise, Nordstrom created fashion departments that fit individual lifestyles.
The retailer’s best customers benefit from Nordstrom’s “Perpetual Inventory” initiative, which provides the “right product, at the right place, at the right time.”
Nordstrom respects its customers’ communication preferences, and, in the process, has increased its cross-channel marketing capabilities.
While emotional intimacy in relationships differs from customer intimacy, the two do get paired together quite well.
In order to give your customer’s exactly what they desire, you need to understand them. In order to understand them, you need to get to know them better. The best way to get to know your customers better is through learning intimate details about their life.
In a WikiHow.com article, it is stated that customer intimacy can be built in a few steps. I’m going to highlight two key points here and you can pop over to the article to read the rest:
- Use intelligence to create solutions to needs customers don’t even know they have yet.
- Focus on the entire experience and find ways to build in engagement.
The key to achieving customer intimacy, as Chew put it so eloquently in her article, is to “Focus your efforts on a specific group of customers and get to know them better than anyone else does.”
What can you do in your own business to segment your customers down to niche groups and then create opportunities to connect with them on a deeper level? How can you provide for them an experience that makes them think, “Oh my… this is exactly what I needed and I didn’t even know that I needed it!” Leave any thoughts you might have on that in the comments below.
And, what are your thoughts (or questions!) about opening up and allowing yourself to experience emotional intimacy with others? Do you do this regularly in your own life? Do you think that changing how you connect with people on a regular basis could also support and guide your marketing efforts toward more customer connection?
Lots of food for thought…