Licensed to spam?

Last week, I wrote a piece about how poor digital marketing practice is damaging our industry.  At the heart of this is not just how brands are failing to build meaningful relationships with their audiences, but the fact that they’re often actively disengaging them.

Like many areas of marketing practice, addressing the basics is not rocket science, but it does take work.  Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes will help ensure they’re truly engaged with, rather than irritated by, your brand.

How you manage data capture

Consumers are generally accepting of the fact that buying online means surrendering more personal data than completely necessary.  But they also expect a fair return for this.  Many brands are so busy collecting dates of birth and mobile numbers that they forget to ask about contact or content preferences.

Even brands we love bombard us with irritating or irrelevant emails, and with no way to amend the frequency or the type of content, completely unsubscribing from their mailing list is the only option.  This is a crazy waste of a loyal customer’s details and damages goodwill.

In a spooky bit of timing, this week’s Marketoonist blog tackles this very issue.

A poor segmentation strategy that focuses just on basic demographics, not attitudes, and in some cases, ignores even those (emails of children’s wear offers to people without kids, or teenage make-up tips to a woman in her 50s…) is not relationship building.  If you’re going to capture this stuff, at least use it properly.

And if you’ve got the basics right, attitudinal ‘Golden Questions’ in your data capture will help you segment your database by something more meaningful than postcodes.

When to ask for feedback

Constant, poorly timed pleas for feedback are an irritation that can smack of brand desperation (“tell me you love me!”).  Of course, peer reviews are one of the best things about the internet, but not everyone wants to write them for every hotel they stay in or restaurant they dine at, and certainly not before they’ve checked out or finished their pudding.  It’s another unasked contact preference.

I recently spent a couple of weeks in Florida.  My airline asked me to review my flight just as I arrived on holiday.  They knew the date of my return flight, so why not wait until I got home?  Since I’ve been back, I’ve received endless emails offering me deals on trips to Miami…  From the the company I booked my trip to Miami with.

Now my supermarket is asking me to review my groceries.  Am I seriously meant to individually rate the 50+ items in my trolley every week?  And if I do, does anyone really care about my opinion of a kilo of spuds?

So what is this all for?  If it were truly joined up to a segmentation strategy (like Tesco Clubcard in its heyday), it would be acceptable and understandable, but mostly its just more ‘big data’ clutter that many marketers have no idea how to properly utilise.

Join up the customer experience

Many retailers seem to find it difficult to deliver a consistent experience both on- and offline.  Even major brands are guilty of getting the basics wrong.  It damages brand loyalty and credibility when simple real world transactions are met with a ‘computer says no’ response.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced stores who’ve refused to accept the return of online purchases in-store, but how about these examples;

  • An inferior experience for in-store shoppers who can’t track their deliveries online due to different ordering systems and codes
  • In-store returns being dependent on the online payment method (PayPal purchases had to be posted back).

Your customer doesn’t care that your retail division is separate from your online division, with separate customer service teams and ordering systems.  That’s your problem, sort it out.

Improve your Customer Service

Back in March 2014, I wrote two companion pieces, ‘Time to Address the Relationship Disconnect’ and ‘How Not to do Customer Service’.  Re-reading these two years later, it’s depressing how little has changed.  Unbelievably, many brands still send emails from ‘do not reply’ addresses.  (For me that’s the customer service equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going “la la la not listening”).

And whilst it’s great that many brands now recognise the power of Twitter as a contact channel, the experience is still patchy.  For some customers, it’s a last resort when all other channels have failed.  For some brands, they’re only responding because they’ve been publicly named and shamed.  And all too often we see jokey replies to serious questions, as that’s the brand’s Social Media tone of voice – irrespective of how (in)appropriate it may be.

The strange thing is all the examples in this piece are from some very big brands* who should know better – and who mainly do know better when it comes to how they use offline media channels.

So listen up marketers, here’s the thing.  Knowing your customers and giving them what they want is the foundation of marketing – and business.  There can’t be engagement without proper, permission-based dialogue.  And that dialogue has to start on day one.  After all, you can’t engage with me if you have no idea who I am or what I want.

Fix the basics before you waste any more money on content marketing.  And if all of these things are broken, you probably need a new strategy.  Call me, I’d be delighted to help.

* Waitrose, BA, Booking.com, Dwell, Body Shop, Argos, Superdrug, Virgin Trains, House of Fraser, MailChimp and Apple.

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