What the Bachelor(ette) taught me about customer engagement

Ok, I admit it. I’m addicted to the Bachelor and Bachelorette series.

I’m regularly shamed and ridiculed by friends and family about losing my “man card” every time I talk about it. But I can’t stop watching and I know I’m not alone. The reasons are not what my naysayer friends think. I could care less about whether Chris picks Whitney, or if Kaitlyn chooses John.

The hook is what they constantly refer to as the “journey.” The fact that there are drinking games that require you to chug every time the word “journey” is mentioned during the show tells you that it is fundamental to the series.

So you’re probably saying to yourself that this blog writer is going to try to convince me that this series is a metaphor for customer engagement. And you would be right.

Bachelor Bachelorette

Customer Engagement

Twenty-five men or women (vendors) start off the season trying to convince a featured bachelor or bachelorette (buying influence) that they are the love of his or her life, all in 12 weeks. In business, we would call that duration a “sales quarter.”

The first episode of the season is related to the first impression that each of the 25 contestants make with the eligible bachelor(ette). Many dress up as cute animals, do magical tricks, sing a love song, dance, speak in a romantic foreign language, or say something incredibly schmaltzy to stand out from the pack. The most memorable being duly rewarded with the famous “first impression rose” during that first episode. I harken back to how many times during my sales career I paid a window washer to drop down a sign (or get a media director to hold one up) about the media property I was selling in a desperate attempt for my first impression rose.

In the show, another rose ceremony follows where 3 or 4 unsuspecting contestants are eliminated when they do not get a rose, and therefore do not pass to the next episode (or in business, do not move on in the short list development process).

The bachelor(ette) continues for three months of phases that resemble the typical purchase process — education, consideration, case study, implementation scenarios, short list, and final decision.

One of the aspects of the show that interests me the most is the volatile relationship between each of the 25 contestants and the bachelor(ette), which are similar to different business personas. There’s that delicate balance between being engaging enough to be mysteriously attractive while avoiding the appearance of being desperately in love after only three episodes. In sales this would be described as “closing way too early.” There is so much angst and torment among the contestants about just when to say “I love you” without looking like a complete dolt — much like jumping three of the purchase cycle stages before the customer is ready.

Weeks of sponsored travel to exotic places, hundreds of glasses of champagne, tchotchkes, and highly memorable dinners in world class venues magnify this. In other words, the show imitates what CFOs see on many a Concur upload to their accounting department.

After roses are handed out (or not) for weeks, a highlight of the show occurs when the field is pruned down to 3 or 4 contestants. The “hometown visit” is the Bachelor(ette) equivalent of the final pitches in front of the executive committee.

Now the tough questions are asked. Mom always asks “how could you possibly fall in love with someone who has had affectionate encounters with a dozen other suitors over the past two months?” And Dad always says to his son-contestant, “as long as you’re happy I’m happy.”

The moms remind me of enterprise IT stereotype of being the “land of slow and no.” Dad, on the other hand, is the enterprise marketing guy stereotyped by IT as an “unguided missile.”  This is compounded by the geographic location of a contestant’s home (headquarters) and how compatible that locale is with “servicing” (sorry!) the decision makers.

And then comes the “final rose.” The crescendo of all the elation, trepidation and doubt found in the emotional indices of any considered buying decision. With the decision made, the marriage proposal is offered, and both buyer and seller think quietly to themselves, “Is this going to work when we go back to our mundane work lives and real-life (deployment) challenges take over?”

Okay, any customer engagement metaphors I’m missing that my fellow closeted Bachelor(ette) fans might want to offer?


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