Why can’t customers and companies just get along?

These days, when there are so many stories about data security breaches and privacy, effective database marketing is at risk as well.  To succeed, marketers need to make the case, more convincingly than ever, why it is beneficial for consumers to share information about  preferences and interests.Privacy and database marketing

And the case is not hard to make.  We can make it from our personal experience.  How many times have you been swamped by web ads that have nothing to do with you?  We are graduating our last child from high school this year — please do not send me diaper ads!  I love to ski and play tennis — why are you sending me golf offers??

We are awash in irrelevant offers wherever we turn, yet  consumers balk at providing the very information that could improve their experiences and perhaps give them some valuable offers on things they are interested in.  When companies genuinely ask, consumers are often proud of refusing.

When companies try to make the case, their communication can be so full of legalese that it serves to frighten consumers even farther away!  It is more critical than ever that companies today, when asking customers to take a perceived risk (whether true or not), to be authentic, to talk as real people, one to another, to acknowledge the fears that consumers have and to make genuine promises.

Once you have made the promise, what do you have to do to succeed?  Keep on promising.  Like they say with shampoo, “repeat as necessary.”  And you should assume a lot of repeating will be necessary, with examples and support, to build up credibility that has been damaged for the marketing industry.

Companies interested in using database marketing to personalize communications need to keep making a clear, effective promise and then ask customers about their needs and interests.  Once a consumer has told you what they want, the best way to keep the relationship is to use that information, and not fall prey to the tendency to send out blitz offers in the futile hope that they may change their minds.

Companies are also at fault for not using their data about what a customer opens and clicks on to improve the communications accuracy for an individual customer.  Campaign management software makes such personalization possible today, yet even when a company has that software, they often return to a modified version of “spray and pray” — barraging customers to see if they will click on anything.

What marketers fail to do is to take the extra effort and test — actually do the hard work of email optimization and analyze clicks/opens and ask for preferences, and then customize their communications based on that information.  Sure it is a lot of work, but consider the possibility that the results may be strong enough to reprioritize your entire approach to marketing.  That is what Amazon, Overstock and other best practice ecommerce companies have discovered, and you could too!

If anyone wants to know, I am interested in Crossfit, tennis, skiing, cooking, theater, science fiction, travel, European soccer (Go Liverpool!), holistic health approaches and Jewish education.  PLEASE use that information to send me the right offers  — I can sure use some vacation discounts right now!   :).

To read some more about database marketing, please check out these posts:

Fight Corporate ADD with Rapid-fire Analytics

Are Marketers Responsible For the Last Mile of Customer Experience?