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Net Promoter Score is not a customer metric October 31, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology.
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Did the title attract your attention? Good! I’ve heard a lot of people talking about Net Promoter (NPS) as the “one metric” – the “killer metric” – that marketing needs to worry about. This concerns me!  I’m not here to bash NPS, there are others who are taking that on. As for me, I think Net Promoter is indeed a useful metric – primarily because it is so simple. And that simplicity is what has the marketing community falling head over heels over it. Well folks, let’s not go too gaga.

Why do I say NPS is not a customer metric? At an aggregate level, according to the research led by Fred Reichheld, a high NPS score correlates to business growth. But, aside from a segmentation of promoters, passives, and detractors, it doesn’t tell you much at an individual customer level. Most importantly, it doesn’t give you any insight into your customers’ needs, desires, and motivations or help you determine what to do or how to treat individual customers. Sure, you might think, “we need to turn the passives into promoters,” but how are you actually going to do that when what motivates one passive is completely different from what motivates another?

There is no killer metric

Sorry to say it, but there is no killer marketing metric. Yep, you need to take a balanced approach. You need value metrics to help evaluate the value and impact of marketing investment. You need operational metrics to help run the operation, diagnose issues, and improve efficiency. The way I’ve heard some executives talking lately, I fear they are focusing their marketing team solely on NPS and turning their businesses upside down to turn every customer into a “promoter.” My response? Pull back the throttle and apply a measure of basic business logic – you don’t want to end up with a lot of happy customers and an unprofitable business. If you review the details of what they have to say, this is certainly not what Reichheld and the folks at Satmetrix intended.

NPS, among others, can be a very useful gauge of the satisfaction and general well being of your customer base. But, it must be combined with other customer metrics (like retention, profitability, etc.) and insight (like life stage, attitudes, etc.) in order to effectively inform customer interactions. The bottom line? Business and marketing executives out there need to recognize that building an effective marketing measurement and customer analysis capability requires resources, focus, new skills (analytic and technical), and a lot of elbow grease.

The weekly catalog take in my household October 26, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing.
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Catalogs                    Catalog Poundage

To further the points I made in yesterday’s post, I thought I’d display the volume of catalogs that come into my household on a weekly basis. I get rid of them every weekend so the picture shows what arrived in my mailbox between Monday and Thursday. The stats: a grand total of 41 catalogs weighing in at 12.2 lbs. And the holiday season is just getting started!

 Why do I get so many catalogs? I am an avid online shopper. It is a matter of pride to me that I haven’t set foot in a store (other than Costco) to do any holiday shopping since 2000. But, I don’t think that individuals that shop online expect — or want — to be overwhelmed with catalogs as a result. To my point yesterday: we in the direct marketing industry need to be leaders in driving the solution. Starting with opt-in (or at least opt-out) to catalogs is a reasonable place to start.

Catalogers, green is in! October 24, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing.
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Last week’s article in the New York Times about Catalog Choice got me thinking about the catalog industry.

Now a new online service called Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) is facilitating attempts to unsubscribe. The site was developed by three nonprofit environmental groups — the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ecology Center — to relay requests en masse to specific retailers. Since it was introduced last Wednesday, more than 20,000 people have registered.

Now, I know a little something about how a catalog operation works because I ran very large database marketing technology projects at Staples and Eddie Bauer in the mid-late 90’s. So, here’s my take…

The Internet is partially to blame for increased catalog circulation

Despite predictions that the Internet would decrease direct marketing postal mail volumes, a 2005 study by Forrester Research (disclosure: I edited the report) showed that 60% of high-volume direct marketers (those that mail 50M or more pieces annually) planned to increase their mail spend. What that report didn’t say is that the Internet is actually deserves some of the blame for the increase.

Maybe this bucks conventional wisdom, but think about it. In the old days, catalogers could only build their house file by buying lists and participating in cooperative data sharing initiatives like Abacus. Now, if someone comes and buys on my site, then of course I’m going to add them to my house file. And, I’m also going to add them to my list for my sister brands too. It’s a no brainer. So, today, catalogers still use tools like Abacus and they also assume that every online shopper also wants a catalog. Pretty presumptuous, don’t you think?

Well, today’s over marketed and increasingly environmentally conscious consumers won’t have it. That’s what gives rise to organizations like Catalog Choice. And, this is just the beginning.

The industry needs to take action

I definitely don’t have all the answers here. Catalogers are in a tough place and I sympathize. When each catalog turns a profit, it’s hard to come up with a business case to stop. But I think the industry needs to take the lead and start working on the problem. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  1. Enable online customers to opt-out (better yet, IN) of catalogs on your site. You do this for email right? Technically you don’t have to –the CAN-SPAM law only mandates that you honor an opt-out. But, you do it because consumers fought back against email spam. So do it for your catalogs too (catalogs are a lot more expensive than email after all). It’s not hard to add another flag to your database that you check in your campaign list pull process. I am not aware that any retailers are doing this today – it’s time to start.

  2. Allow customers to limit the number of catalogs they receive. Some retailers I’ve worked with send as many as 60 mailings a year to a single household – that’s a lot of paper! Take the catalog opt-in a step further and give your customers a choice to limit the number of catalogs their household receives every year. Now, it’s up to you to figure out – through modeling and contact optimization techniques – which catalogs will drive the most return from that household within the customer’s set limit.

  3. Tighten up the deduplication rules. So, my husband and I don’t have the same last name. That doesn’t mean that we want duplicates of every catalog in our house. I had this argument with a client in 1995. The response I got was, “The catalog could be going to a sorority house or an apartment – we want to get as many eyeballs on each book as possible.” Well, with a little external data and a tad more technical elbow grease, you can easily determine that I live in a residential suburb in a single family home. So, please, don’t send me two catalogs and save yourself a tree and a few bucks in the process.

Sure, the ideas I’m proposing will limit your reach, but they WILL help the environment and be viewed as a step in the right direction by your greening customer base. You can get some leverage from this – publicize the fact that you are committed to being more green and helping the environment. But be careful with this part, don’t say you are green and fail to walk the talk – today’s consumer is watching and now has plenty of channels through which to be heard.