E-commerce Marketing Slobs
Thirty-five years ago in a Broadway play called "Da," a single line stuck in my brain. "The only lesson I have learned in this life is," said actor Bernard Hughes, "in public restrooms, incoming traffic has the right of way."
The most important lesson I have taken away from 50 years in direct marketing:
You can treat your customers two ways: 1) You can make them feel loved; 2) You can make them feel like crap. If they feel loved—and honestly believe you care about them—they will make you rich.
A Good Offer I Decided Not to Take Advantage Of
Recently I received an email offer for a window bird feeder.
I have friends in the 'burbs and New England whose window bird feeders give them continual delight. Every morning they have breakfast with these scrappy, happy, chirping little guys on the other side of the glass.
The remembrance of them made me smile. No, I didn't want one for my little back yard patio in Center City Philly. I have a bird feeder. I don't need another.
How did the bird feeder guy know to email me this offer? Most likely he rented my e-address from eBirdseed.com, where I order hulled sunflower chips.
But I was happy to have the offer—and to know my seedsman was thinking about me and ways to make my life better.
This is good, traditional direct marketing.
"What You Didn't Post, Facebook May Still Know."
This was the headline of a New York Times story by Somini Sengpta. The lede:
Debra Aho Williamson, an advertising industry analyst and devoted coffee drinker, was intrigued by a promotion that popped up on her Facebook page recently. Sign up for a Starbucks loyalty card, it said, and get $5 off.
"When I saw that, I thought, I'm already a member of their loyalty club,"she said. "Why don't they know that?"...
... In shaping its targeted advertising strategy, it is no longer relying solely on what Facebook users reveal about themselves. Instead, it is tapping into outside sources of data to learn even more about them—and to sell ads that are more finely targeted to them. Facebook says that this way, marketers will be able to reach the right audience for the right products, and consumers will see advertisements that are, as the company calls it, "relevant" to them.
The Fault Is With Starbucks
If I read this marketing scheme correctly, I see absolutely nothing wrong on Facebook's part. Debra Aho Williamson went public in some venue about her love of coffee and Facebook's Web crawlers picked up on it.
Let's assume Starbucks hired Facebook to offer its loyalty program to all known coffee drinkers in the Facebook database.
In the world of Geezer Direct (in this case, I'm the Geezer), this would be the equivalent of a compiled list rental.
A compiled list in the case of snail mail is created from demographics, survey results, etc.
The advantages: a marketer can reach a lot of people at a relatively low list cost.
- List cost is minor next to postage, printing, inserting and mailing.
- You have no idea whether a person on a compiled list sees mail, opens mail or orders by mail.
A response list is rented for known behavior. You know the person opens mail and has bought something by mail—from a publisher, a catalog or an insurance company. Nine out of 10 times, a rented response list will pull better than a compiled list.
The point is list rentals are the guts of snail mail direct marketing acquisition efforts.
When Marketers Goof Up
When an offer is made to existing customers who are already using that product or service, the mailer looks like a chump.
About List Rentals
If this were the world of snail mail and Geezer Marketing, Facebook would cut a deal with Starbucks whereby its $5 loyalty program offer would be sent to any Facebooker who indicated a fondness for coffee.
The exceptions: If this were snail mail, Starbucks would be nuts to send mailings to known coffee lovers who are already loyalty card members for two reasons:
- Snail mail costs 40¢ (for a postcard) to 60¢ for full dress package. This is real money.
- It would be an insult to the Starbucks customer. People like to be known and coddled. Send the redundant offer and you are saying, "We don't know you and don't care."
The Solution: Merge/Purge
In this case, Starbucks does not want to tick off loyalty card members with an offer for something they already have. So the list of Facebook coffee aficionados should be bumped up against Starbucks loyalty members and the dupes eliminated.
In snail mail, you spend money for a merge/purge, because it represents huge dollar savings.
In the world of email—where everything is basically free—merge/purge is a PR thing. You don't want to waste the time, confuse or piss off of your existing customers.
A Case in Point
I am a voracious reader about World War II. I recently received a pitch from Amazon.com for war books.
Of the nine books offered, I have read two of them: "The Generals" by Thomas Ricks and "The Last Lion" by Paul Reid and William Manchester.
The Amazon.com in-house promotion kid responsible for the offer did not take the time or trouble to do a merge/purge. In this case it would be a merge/purge of books rather than email addresses.
I spent $36.98 to get these two titles into my Kindle. I am insulted by Amazon's lazy, incompetent little twerp.
In the future, I won't bother to look at Amazon.com book promotions any more. They waste my time.
Takeaways to Consider
- If you go public on the Internet with your love of coffee, addiction to cigarettes, being overweight or any other problems or proclivities, you are fair game for marketers.
- Just because email marketing is absurdly cheap, that's no excuse for shabby treatment of your customers.
- We are not blips of electricity on your database. We are breathing, living, loving and belching human beings who will spend money with you if you are nice to us.
- If you are not doing merge/purge, look into it.
- Response lists work better than compiled lists nine times out of 10—or more.