“Be interesting, be enthusiastic…and don’t talk too much.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Like you, I’ve given companies, associations, causes, etc., permission to send me information on topics, product information and promotional offers. I knew going into this that some of these companies would be smart enough to know how to market online to their permission-based group and others wouldn’t have a clue. And I’ve been right on both counts.
Permission-based marketing is now at the heart of relationships between companies and their customers and prospects. People opt-in to receive your emails, “Like” your company on Facebook, subscribe to your website’s RSS feed or your You Tube channel, or follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn. But having permission to market to someone isn’t a license to bombard them with marketing messages.
In fact, not knowing when to “zip it” is a classic marketing mistake that too many marketing people make. If marketing is about building relationships with customers, over-marketing is the best way to kill the relationship and send the customer or prospect heading for the door. Just recently, yesterday to be exact, I came across a really interesting study entitled “The Social Breakup” prepared by ExactTarget, a company that provides clear evidence of what happens to customer relationships when the marketer comes on too strong:
- 91% of consumers have unsubscribed from permission-based marketing emails
- 81% of consumers have either “unliked” or removed a company’s posts from their Facebook.
Guess the biggest reason people break up with companies? (Drum roll)…Too much marketing. The study showed that:
- 54% of consumers unsubscribe when emails come too frequently;
- 63% of customers have “unliked” a company on Facebook due to excessive postings.
On that note, let me tell you a quick story about an industry association I did some freelance consulting for. Within their business specialty, they were the largest association in the country but people were increasingly not renewing their membership. After talking to the marketing department and executive management, two recommendations were made: 1) Cut in third the number of emails and direct mail pieces that were being sent out; 2) Find out why people were not renewing. Well, they didn’t like the first recommendation but did ‘humor’ me by taking my advice about doing the research. When the member survey report was finalized it said that the #1 reason for members not renewing was a direct result of their being really bothered by the sheer number of emails they were receiving. Guess what the association did? They disregarded the research and went back to doing what they were doing…no lie!
So, how do you know when you’re over-marketing and about to kill a customer or prospective relationship? It can be a fine line, but here are some principles to guide your marketing planning to avoid this costly error.
- Ask your customers. The best way to understand how customers and prospects feel about the frequency of your promotions is to ask them. If most tell you the frequency is “about right,” then you’re on the right path.
- Measure your opt-outs. Count the number of people who are cutting off their dialogue with you by unsubscribing to emails, unfollowing you on Twitter, and unliking you on Facebook. If the numbers are escalating, over-marketing could be why.
- Understand your customer relationships. A customer who rarely or sporadically orders has a different relationship with your business than one who orders all the time. Regular customers might welcome frequent promotional emails with special deals, but sporadic customers are more likely to be turned off by too much marketing.
- Follow your own firm. Opt-in to your own promotions to put yourself in the customer’s or prospect’s shoes and find out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your promotional messages. If even you get tired of hearing from your company, you’ll know it’s time to turn down the volume.
- Deliver more value. People may opt-in in hopes of getting deals from you, but a lasting relationship between a brand and a customer goes beyond special promotions. When you deliver content, insights, access, and other exclusive advantages that only those who have opted-in can receive, you create real reasons for the relationship to flourish.
- Coordinate your efforts. If there’s a few departments in your company sending out emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts to customers and prospects, this lack of coordination can create some permission-based chaos. In order to avoid over-promoting, set some boundaries and coordinate your efforts.
- Compare with that of your competitors. Take a look at the marketplace to get a handle on the volume or permission-based marketing activities. If you’re marketing much more frequently than your competitors, you could be the smartest marketer in the bunch or the one that people hesitate to start a relationship with because you talk too much.
At the end of the day, people opt in because they want to hear from you. But if you disrespect the relationship by coming on too strong, customers and prospects will flee. Treating your customers and prospects well is common courtesy; treating their permission to market to them as a gift is even better…it’s a smart marketing strategy. Have a wonderful holiday season.