Recent events in the marketing world are dizzying. Between Do-Not-Call happenings, signing of California spam laws, and the growth of the shopping/search nexus, it’s difficult to keep track of the basics, much less determine the implications. There is a theme unifying many of the latest developments — a theme marketers ought to give some good, hard thought to.
It all comes down to control. People want control over how they’re marketed to, and they’re clamoring to get it. Witness 158 telephone numbers registered per second on the Do-Not-Call registry, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Witness consumer anger over spam, resulting in the most punitive anti-spam law yet. Witness the incredible success of a “pull” medium, search, over which consumers have control. To accommodate new expectations, marketers must change strategy. Ignore consumers’ collective desire at your peril.
Call it the new marketing order. It’s a philosophical shift in the marketplace that has everything to do with intrusive techniques like spam and telemarketing. It’s fueled by the rise of a marketing-saturated (and -savvy) generation, and it’s underpinned by the technology revolution that raises consumers’ expectations of how companies can interact with them. While customer acquisition techniques are under the heaviest fire, the new order also demands changes in how companies conduct relationships with existing customers.
Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You
Take the Do-Not-Call list. More than 50 million Americans loudly proclaimed a strong disinclination to receive telemarketing calls. Even the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), one plaintiff in the Oklahoma case against the FTC, agrees marketers must abide by consumers’ wishes.
“In spite of any changes that might result from the federal court’s recent ruling, and whether or not there continues to be a government-administered national no-call list, it is appropriate for marketers to respect the wishes of consumers who have placed their phone numbers on the FTC’s list,” said Bob Wientzen, president and CEO of the DMA, in a statement.
In a recent report, META Group’s Elizabeth Roche said she believes the effectiveness of mass outbound marketing techniques (like spam and telemarketing) would soon diminish. That doesn’t mean the phone isn’t an important tool. When I talked with Roche this week, she emphasized the importance of leveraging consumer-initiated call-center calls, which allow marketers to cross- and up-sell. A consumer initiated the interaction, but marketers can learn from it and leverage it.
California Spam Ban
The California law brings into sharp relief the difference between an existing customer and a prospect. If you don’t already have a business relationship with someone, forget using email. So the law seems to say. That spells the end of opt-in list rental. It makes maintaining relationships with existing customers all the more important, and it makes convincing someone to opt-in for email communications a critical goal.
E-mail firm Quris this week issued a study, conducted with Equation Research, that said consumers can handle only 10 to 20 email relationships with trusted companies at one time. Researchers term this group the “inner circle.” They say marketers must displace other marketers to enter the it. Those who are already there must work hard to avoid being displaced. The most popular types of email? Transaction confirmations; account status updates; personalized email from traditional “offline” companies; scheduled corporate newsletters and customizable information updates. See a pattern? Relevance, personalization and customization are key.
The ultimate in personalized, customized marketing is also the hottest thing out there right now: search. My ClickZ colleague Fredrick Marckini characterizes search an element of “Inquiry Marketing.” It’s a good distinction that fits perfectly into the new marketing order.
People tell marketers — with their keywords — what they want, and marketers respond. Other variations include the behavioral marketing employed by the likes of the Wall Street Journal Online and NYTimes.com, which targets ads based upon users’ behavior. Some in the field liken certain types of user behavior, such as using a mortgage calculator online, to “hand raising.” These users indicate they’re interested in a particular type of product. The ever-controversial Gator and WhenU use similar techniques.
Of course, efforts by Shopping.com (formerly DealTime), Yahoo and Amazon (all of which made the news this week) to build and deploy better product search are ultimate examples of response to hand-raising. “Hello!” consumers on those sites announce, “I’m shopping!” In the new marketing order, the merchant’s job is to be there and to respond to the stated need for information.
If you can’t call potential customers and you can’t rent opt-in email lists, where do you turn? Convert prospects by being in the right place at the right time. Consumers have, and demand, choice. Pay attention to their choices. Respect them. Your company will be among the chosen.
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