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Fusing Relationship Marketing And Online Marketing July 22, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing.
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For nearly the past 15 years, my career has been focused on helping marketers leverage data to better understand and more effectively market to customers on an individual level. In my early days in the industry, I worked primarily with marketing groups leveraging offline channels like catalogs and other forms of direct mail. In recent years, I’ve spent most of my time working with relationship marketing and database marketing groups and with online marketing groups. What amazes me (and is my key topic of my post today) is that while these marketers view themselves as so different they are really starting to converge.

Marketing Channels Are Evolving

There’s lots of change happening in the marketing domain. It’s a time of uncertainty but also one of opportunity.  Marketing channels are evolving at a rapid rate:

  • Mass media is less and less effective as audiences fragment and adopt technologies and tools (like DVRs) that enable them to tune out ads.
  • The Internet is no longer “new media” since most consumers are online.
  • Traditional outbound direct marketing channels require more analytic sophistication as response rates decline and more states consider and adopt privacy legislation.

Addressability Is the Common Link

Addressable channels are channels both outbound and inbound – through which marketing can communicate directly with an individual – identifiable or anonymous. This includes traditional direct marketing channels including direct mail and phone, internet channels like Web sites, email, mobile, and social media and, as technology and distribution capabilities continue to evolve, even traditional mass marketing channels like TV, billboards, and radio.

As addressable channels become more prevalent, marketers are recognizing that they need new skills to effectively engage, communicate, and interact with customers. Specifically, marketers must:

  • Listen to all information provided by customers and prospects – both explicit and implied.
  • Understand past and present information to determine the best possible marketing action.
  • Communicate in a compelling, timely, and relevant manner.

What’s more, marketers must do this across inbound as well as outbound channels and in an integrated way.

Interactive Marketing Will Emerge As A Dominant Marketing Discipline

I believe that the best term to describe the fusion of these capabilities is “interactive marketing” which I will define as:

Engaging each customer and prospect in a cross-channel dialog that builds upon their past and current behavior.

Although the term isn’t new, few (other than Prof. John Deighton of Harvard who is widely credited with coining the term) define it as broadly as I have here.

What’s interesting is that, in many organizations, the required capabilities already reside in different parts of the company – relationship marketing, database marketing, online marketing, ecommerce, etc. Unfortunately, rather than integrating these skills many of the companies I talk with are adding duplicate capabilities within stovepipe marketing groups. The result? A widening gap between “online” and “direct” marketing functions.

Rather than continuing to grow the silos, companies should explore cross-training, opening lines of communication, and integrating marketing teams that communicate with customers via addressable channels.

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Integrated Lead Management Best Practices April 11, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology.
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Last week I participated in a Webinar — moderated by Bob Thompson of CustomerThink and sponsored by the good folks at Citrix Online. My portion of the event focused on helping marketers think about how to leverage Webinars as part of an integrated lead nurturing program. Here’s the overview: 

How to Retain and Nurture Valuable Webinar Leads

Don’t let your webinar prospects fritter away. View this on-demand Webinar to hear Elana Anderson, founder of NxtERA Marketing, and Beth Gilbert of Citrix Online discuss the tactics B2B marketers can use to leverage Webinars in an integrated lead-nurturing program.

View this on-demand Webinar to help you:
• Understand the role that Webinars play in lead
generation.

• Know how to leverage Webinars in an
integrated lead-nurturing program.

• Identify marketing tactics and technologies that
help integrate lead-development and nurturing
programs.

Not that I am biased, but the Webinar shares a lot of great content packed into 45 minutes. If your company leverages Webinars to generate leads or if you struggle with lead quality and lead management, I think you will find it time well spent. Here’s the link. Please feel free to contact me with feedback. Cheers.

My New Integrated Marketing Column On ClickZ April 11, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy.
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Wanted to let everyone know that I am now a guest expert on ClickZ. Check out the new integrated marketing column and my inaugural article: Five Fundamentals of Integrated Marketing. I’ll be posting new articles bi-weekly.

See you in LA next week? April 1, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing.
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Busy, busy, busy! That’s the month of April for me. Sorry I haven’t been posting the last couple of weeks, but I have a ton of balls in the air at the moment. One of the major things I’ve been working on is a minor treatise aimed to help marketers systematically improve the relevance of their customer communications. My work on this whitepaper, “Marketing Beyond The Status Quo,” is sponsored by the good people at Responsys and we’re planning to unveil it together next week at Forrester’s Marketing Forum in Los Angeles.  Our session is Tuesday, April 8th at 2:25pm. I’ll be presenting along with Scott Olrich (Responsys’ CMO) and Randy Cuff (Director of CRM Development at Intrawest). Here’s the abstract for the session:

Few interactive marketers are ecstatic about their ability to deliver meaningful and timely marketing messages. In fact, most agree that more relevant and timely marketing communications will be better received by customers and increase response rates. However, when time is scarce, budgets are tight, and single channel campaign management solutions are already integrated and delivering ROI, marketers are hard pressed to change the status quo. In this thought-provoking session, Elana Anderson, former Vice President and Research Director leading Forrester’s marketing practice, and Scott Olrich, CMO of Responsys will unveil the findings from a first-ever study identifying the drivers of the “status quo” paradigm, and reveal the strategies and marketing technologies smart marketers are using to deliver superior marketing performance and ROI across channels.  

If you are attending the forum, please stop by our session. I’ll be there for the full two days, so drop me an email if you want to connect at some point during the event. Hope to see you there!

Demonstrating The Brand Value Of Email January 29, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing.
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I had the opportunity to catch up with Robert Raines, VP of Product Management & Creative Services at E-LOAN last week. I first met Robert several years ago when he was getting the company’s email programs off the ground. Robert shared with me some of the things that he’s accomplished since we last spoke and, as always, he had some great insights.

E-LOAN wanted to evaluate the impact of its email program 

Robert is a firm believer in testing and, more specifically, using control groups to measure the impact of email marketing activities. To determine the long-term benefit of its email program, the E-LOAN team created a randomly selected universal control group. While the control group still received transactional email communications (e.g., “We have received your application”), it received no email marketing treatment whatsoever for a period of 18 months.

To ensure that individuals selected into the control group were excluded from all email marketing efforts, the team created an exclusion table in its marketing database and automatically excluded the control group from any database extracts that were sent to its email service provider (Responsys).

What E-LOAN learned

What was E-LOAN looking for? The company wanted to evaluate the application rate of the mailed population vs. that of the unmailed population (the control group) over an 18-month period. As you might expect, at the beginning of the test there was very little difference in the application rate of the two groups. But, over time, the emailed population had a significantly higher application rate. So much higher that, according to Robert, the difference alone is enough to justify the total annual cost of the company’s email program.

Robert is also quick to point out that it’s not just about being in the inbox that matters. The E-LOAN team works hard to ensure that its email program is relevant and it uses a mixed strategy that includes broadcast messages (e.g., “The Fed has lowered interest rates”) and highly targeted, event-triggered communications.

Recommendations

Email marketers often complain that they don’t have enough staff and struggle to manage what’s already on their plate given the staff that they have. I believe that this complaint becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… Email is cheap, just blast it out, and we’ll keep the bare bones operation going… To break through this cycle, email marketing managers should:

  • Devote 6-8 hours of the team’s time to implementing a test and measurement strategy. As a manager myself, I know that it’s possible to squeeze some amount of extra time out of the week. If you are really committed to making email marketing more strategic in your company, find 15-20% of someone’s time and focus it on test and measurement as Robert has done at E-LOAN. Sure, the E-LOAN test that I’ve shared here took 18 months, so start with something smaller. For instance, test the difference between a broadcast newsletter and a newsletter with dynamically targeted content.
  • Trend results over time. A quick test to show that targeted content generates higher open and click rates is indeed interesting. But, it’s more interesting to trend this information over time to evaluate the sustained value of a targeted vs. untargeted program.
  • Document a business case. If your goal is to improve the internal stature of your email efforts, get more budget, and grow your team, then it’s imperative to document your case. Avoid doing this at an individual campaign level and comparing metrics — like opens and clicks — against industry averages. Focus on the bigger picture and build a case that exposes the real business value of your efforts. What is the ROI of targeted vs. broadcast communications? Or, as in the E-LOAN example, do your customers buy more if they receive email marketing communications from you? This is the kind of case that your bosses need to free up more resources.

How Can Marketers Harness The Social Web? January 22, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Web 2.0.
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This month’s topic over at CustomerThink focuses on how companies can leverage the social web to drive business results. Here’s the topic description:

Blogging, word of mouth and social networking can have a tremendous impact on how your company is perceived. But it’s a lot like herding cats. How do you manage all the people who can have an effect on your brand?

It is a lot like herding cats and I think the key question that the topic overview sets forth is a good one: How do you manage?…  Rather than attempting to manage the Social Web, I recommend that marketers:

  • Put down the bullhorn and listen. Corporations and their marketing arms love to be in control. While we will learn many more lessons from the Social Web in the coming years, a crucial lesson learned to date is that we – the marketers – are not in the driver’s seat. The community is in control. As participants in the Social Web, we must set aside our desire to control and manage the message. We must listen, interact as peers, and learn from the community.
  • Adopt technologies to help listen and learn. Social computing technologies provide a platform for anyone to rave or condemn the companies with which they do business. At the same time, they create a searchable public record of what people are saying. That’s the beauty of it! We now unprecedented access to what people say about us. But, it doesn’t make sense to have a fleet of staff running Google queries every day. To help, there are monitoring technologies and services from companies like Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, MotiveQuest, and others that automate the task of capturing and organizing what people are saying.
  • Define processes to communicate, consider, and leverage the insight across the business. Positive or negative, we can learn from what people are saying and we can leverage what we learn many ways: for R&D or product development, to improve customer service, to refine messaging, etc. I believe that Marketing should be the conduit from which the entire company taps into this new valuable source of customer insight. Marketing execs need to take the lead internally to get processes in place to ensure that learnings are effectively communicated and considered for their impact on how the company goes to market and serves its customers.
  • Choose to participate with eyes wide open. While I do believe that all large companies should be in listen mode on the Social Web, I think the decision regarding whether to actively participate is more complex. Does participation help you sell more stuff, identify new market needs, or retain customers? It depends on your business and, beyond that, early adopters are still trying to blaze a path that leads to business results. As with any investment of marketing budget and time, make sure to establish goals – or at least a hypothesis – that define what you expect to gain. If you don’t do this, you can’t measure.
  • Always be genuine. We’ve already seen well publicized examples of fake blogs. The community loves to seek out and expose those who are disingenuous. Again, Marketers must relinquish their desire to manage, control, and manipulate. The Social Web offers an unprecedented opportunity to interact directly with your target audience, don’t blow it.

Marketers, Welcome To 2008! January 8, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing, Web 2.0.
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I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season! My 2008 is off and running at a fast clip and, once again, the blog had to wait while I dealt with matters related to my pocketbook. But, here I am and I simply couldn’t resist the urge for my first post of 2008 to be my own set of [perhaps wishful thinking] predictions for marketing in 2008. I mean, what kind of marketing blogger would I be if I didn’t throw my two cents into the discussion?…

Before the holidays, I shared some thoughts with Barney Beal over at TechTarget. He’s just released a podcast of our discussion. So, if you want to hear my voice (including a bunch of “ums”, “you knows”, and even a few giggles), please check it out. I’m also joined by my friend and former colleague, John Ragsdale, as well as Rob Bois from AMR. My lesson learned: don’t attempt to record a podcast on your mobile device while on the go!

So, here’s my outlook on marketing in 2008:

  • No sea change events will rock the marketing world in 2008. What kind of prediction is this!?! I don’t think I’m copping out here… I recently looked back at my predictions for 2005. Short of adding more focus to social computing and Web 2.0, I could republish that document now and call it a day (of course I’m biased, but I think it’s good stuff). My point is: marketers (and industry pundits) need to avoid the urge (and thrill) to seek out the next trend to turn into hype. While it’s certainly important to keep an eye on what’s on the horizon, don’t jump into the next new thing without a clear business hypothesis regarding its potential value. And, by all means, measure against your hypothesis.
  • The Web 2.0 hype will moderate and we’ll get down to business. I’m bullish that we’re past the days when all marketers seemed convinced that they needed start a blog or spend money in Second Life. While these tactics (yes, they are tactics – i.e., not strategy) make sense for some firms, for most they don’t. There’s no doubt that social computing behavior is having a tremendous impact on the way business gets done but it’s no excuse for taking the cart (tactics) before the horse (strategy).Ok, so what is important here? Ever since I joined the industry (late 80’s), I’ve heard statements like “customer is king” and “listen to your customers.” But in those days, marketers had the bullhorn. Today, social technologies give customers a platform and a bullhorn of their own. Companies that aren’t listening run the risk of being caught unprepared (and that costs money). There’s no question that there is tremendous potential to leverage social communities, but we’re still in the early days. In 2008, we’ll start sort it out. For many companies this means sitting on the sidelines and keeping an eye on the developments. For early adopters, be clear about the objectives behind what you are doing and establish how you will measure against those objectives.
  • Marketing organizations will get a social conscience. In line with my previous comments, firms need to recognize that today’s consumers are really good at sniffing out and publicizing inconsistencies between what corporations and their brands say and how they act. In 2008 companies must take this bull by the horns – or risk getting trampled. Specifically, I mean walk the talk and align your brands and your behavior in the marketplace with what you say. Whether you are a cataloger of outdoor living that happens to send up to 40 catalogs a year to some customers on your file, a consumer goods brand that purports to promote inner beauty and self-confidence among young women while marketing other brands that paint women as objects, or a financial services firm that invests in companies with business interests in areas rife with genocide – you need to get on top of this.

  • Significant emergence of on demand marketing technology. Tired of dealing with internal technology groups? Well, some good news for marketers on the technology front. The on-demand marketing technology sector is heating up and more viable (yet still not comprehensive) software-as-a-service options are emerging to help marketers plan and organize their activities more effectively, design and launch multichannel campaigns, and measure results. For more insight on this one, see The “On Demand Marketing Suite” Is Becoming A Reality.

  • More focus on behavioral targeting. “Behavioral targeting” is definitely a term that is generating an increasing amount of interest in the online marketing sectors. But, I also find that the term means different things depending on who you are talking to. I take a broad view. Specifically, I define behavioral targeting as:

    Leveraging aggregated and individual behavior data to deliver targeted and customized content to an individual — through online ad networks, on site messaging, as well as other online and offline direct communication channels.

    If companies would only define it this way, they’d recognize that they may very well have behavioral analysis experts sitting in one part of their company while individuals in another group are struggling to figure out the basics and complaining that they don’t have the right skills or tools. I’ll focus more on this one in future posts, but I want to say here and now that it is high time to get those cool spec wearing web data gurus together with the database marketing quant jocks.

  • Companies will start to sort out the role of the CMO. OK, I couldn’t resist. I know that this is one that tends to turn up every year and maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part but, we’ve all seen the stats about the CMO revolving door and I think it’s time for marketing to step up and take ownership. As I said in my recent post about the role of the CMO, I fervently believe that the role of the CMO is to “define and lead a customer-focused marketing strategy that crosses product, channel, geographic, and even functional boundaries.” If marketing fails to transform itself into this role, I believe that the CMO title will eventually die out and marketing will succumb to a future as a tactical, services-oriented role within the enterprise. As a related aside, I was heartened today to see the news that David Norton who has accomplished so much great stuff heading up relationship marketing at Harrah’s Entertainment has been promoted into the CMO role. We need more CEOs that think along the lines of Harrah’s CEO, Gary Loveman:

“In today’s complex multi-channel marketplace, we must continue to strengthen customer relationships and deliver high-quality brand experiences across our entire portfolio.”

What Does [Should] A CMO Do? December 18, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology.
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In its quarterly SEC filing, Orbitz announced that it has (also see related AdAge article):

…decided to eliminate the global Chief Marketing Officer position and continue managing the Company’s marketing efforts on a regional basis. In connection with that decision, Randy Wagner, Chief Marketing Officer of the Company, is expected to leave the Company in mid-February 2008.

That’s unfortunate. I’ve met Randy — she was a keynote speaker at the Forrester Marketing Forum last year which I hosted. She’s a bright, strong leader and I’m sorry to see her go. But, I’m more concerned about Orbitz and all of the other companies out there that are cutting CMO positions and/or clearly struggling to define the role.

I think Orbitz is missing the point. I don’t disagree at all with the idea that defining and managing campaigns on a regional level can be a more effective way to drive to growth goals. I just don’t think that the job of the CMO is to define and manage campaigns.

So, what SHOULD a CMO do?

Well, we’ve been talking for years about integrated marketing, customer centricity, customer relationship management, customer experience management, 1:1 marketing, etc… I’ve been intimately focused in this arena myself for a over a dozen years and I feel like we (the broad and royal “we”) have made little progress towards these goals. To be sure, a lot has also changed in the last 12 years but if we EVER want to get there (or even close) then we need a strong leader. And, from my perspective, that leader is the CMO. The role of the CMO should be to:

define and lead a customer-focused marketing strategy that crosses product, channel, geographic, and even functional boundaries.

I realize that this is much easier said than done. It starts with a CEO who believes in the business benefit of being customer-focused and a CMO with the vision, leadership capabilities, and charter to make it happen. It will also require:

  • A complete overhaul of the marketing organization. I’m talking structure and reporting hierarchies, metrics, culture, and process — all of it. What’s the right answer here? Well, as all good consultants say, “it depends”;-) I haven’t found a perfect organization yet. The key is understanding where the organizational weaknesses are and then putting tools or processes in place to help bridge the gaps. First and foremost, however, I believe it starts with the metrics. The CEO, CMO, and CFO need to sit down and figure out how to measure marketing impact in ways that don’t result in marketing teams competing with one another for customer mindshare or quibbling over which team gets credit for customer conversion.
  • Acquiring and nurturing new skills. What skills am I referring to? Left-brained skills: business acumen, process orientation, quantitative analysis, and technical knowhow. We’ve been talking about this one for a while and it is slowly happening. But, marketing leaders often complain that it’s hard to find these skills along with a love of the customer and a passion for marketing all in the same body. I suggest looking for consultants (Accenture, Bain, etc.) who want to get off the road, pillaging your internal IT organization for the systems analysts or project managers that always ask the business questions, or plucking young marketing analysts for whom there is no technical barrier and putting them all in an aggressive mentorship and cross-team training program. 
  • Significant investment in technology and infrastructure. How boring is this one? My POV on this is that rather than going goo-goo gaga over the next trend and treating it as a antidote to all of marketing’s woes, it’s high time for marketing organizations to recognize that technology — and integrated technology at that — is a crucial enabler. To achieve our goals of customer-centric and integrated marketing, we need to manage the marketing process on top of a framework that is, itself, integrated. Again, no easy answers here — there’s no vendor or application out there that will take care of this for you. And, I’m not saying that the CMO has to be a techie. But, a good leader recognizes his/her strengths and weaknesses and surrounds him/herself with a team that can fill the gaps. The bottom line here is that marketing organizations need to have a technology strategy. Those that don’t will NEVER achieve the customer-centric vision or be able to effectively integrate their activities.   

Who is responsible for driving this agenda — on a global level? The CMO.

Now, I also want to be clear here that I was not implying above that the CMO doesn’t have responsibility for the global brand(s)…  She does! Today’s consumers are really good at sniffing out and publicizing inconsistencies between what corporations and their brands say and how they act (think the recent Unilever Dove/Axe controversy). So, today’s CMOs must own aligning every brand under the corporate umbrella with the core values of the corporate entity and reconciling the brands with one another. Companies that fail to do this are at the mercy of the consumer.

Five steps to understanding customer retention December 4, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Strategy.
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17 comments

 I recently responded to a question from a network that I participate in.

What is achievable customer retention and is there a level of customer retention that is not profitable to reach?

I’ve talked with a lot of marketers about this question and, frankly, there is no easy bake answer. It’s easy to look for a quick published statistic or benchmark and call it a day. But, how much does knowing that your retention rate is better than your competitor’s really help your business? It may help CYA, but it doesn’t help your bottom line.

IMO: marketers rely way too much on benchmarks (open rates, click rates, retention, etc.). Rather than rely on industry benchmarks (I don’t even know of a comprehensive source for retention by industry), I encourage marketers to:

  1. Establish a baseline for current average retention. Examine your customer base to understand average retention. Better yet, do it by customer segment if you can.
  2. Understand the timeline to customer profitability. Every business has different acquisition and services costs so if you don’t already know how long it takes for a new customer to become profitable, then you need to figure it out. Subtract your costs to acquire and serve the customer from average customer revenue over time. Companies that are really good at this use individual customer revenue and get into cost minutia to attribute costs at an individual level and even include costs like physical plant and electricity. But, if you’re just getting started, keep it simple and stick with averages.
  3. Set a target retention rate. The longer it takes to become profitable, the higher the retention rate needs to be. Establishing and monitoring a retention KPI will tie retention directly to business performance.
  4. Define marketing tactics to improve retention. If current retention is not at the target level, then set improving retention as a key business objective and drill down into a series of tactics aimed at moving the needle. Don’t shoot in the dark though. Engage a statistician to do some data analysis to better understand what key factors that correlate to longtime customers or customers that attrite. Then, establish marketing and customer service practices and campaigns that are specifically focus on encouraging the factors that are correlated with long-term customers.
  5. Measure results consistently. Periodically, reevaluate the retention rate to see how what you are doing is impacting customer retention. Make sure you are also considering metrics that help you tweak your programs at a tactical level too. Specifically, are the tactics you have implementing really encouraging those factors that correlate with long-term customers?

“Relationship” Marketing November 9, 2007

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy.
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I just started cross posting some of my blog entries on the CustomerThink site. This week’s post generated a lot of discussion about misguided attempts at relationship marketing. Here are some of the examples that were raised (I’ll summarize from the comments):

  • T-mobile birthday card (with balloon): Described as an “expensively produced standard letter,” the birthday greeting reached a customer with a record of service issues and it arrived late! The customer’s reaction? Not impressed — probably not upset enough to quit T-mobile, but upset enough to blog about it. (example from Graham Hill)

  • Pet birthday card from insurance company: According to Gywnne Young, who submitted the comment, “The card wasn’t edible and it didn’t squeak. So it went in the recycling bin. And far from the warm fuzzy feeling I’m sure the company meant to give me, I was left with a feeling of disgust.”

  • Got you back: “A major electronics retailer regularly sent a birthday card to individuals from a database of prospective customers. One recipient was so incensed over this invasion of his privacy that he took action. After a little Internet sleuthing, he found the name of the company’s CEO, and then found out his wife’s name and HER birthday. Then he sent the CEO’s wife a birthday card, and asked her how she felt about receiving the card, including the obvious insincerity of the sentiment inside the card. The program was immediately pulled.” (example from Andrew Rudin).

Now, let me share a couple other examples with you which had a totally different effect.

  • Recognizing a personal milestone:  When Scotiabank customers pay their final mortgage payment, the bank sends out a letter thanking the customer for her business and congratulating her on reaching the milestone. Internally, bank employees have dubbed the letter, “the wedding invitation,” because it is printed on fancy stock and doesn’t include the typical marketing speak, colorful logos, or offers. Two weeks later, the branch follows up with a phone call: again congratulations, thanks for business, anything we can help you with in the future (no pressure, no pitch)… According to individuals I have interviewed at Scotiabank, this program has yielded an incremental balance lift of $500 per contact (that adds up).

  • Birthday greetings from Bill: For as long as I can remember, I have received birthday cards from Bill. The cards were always handpicked and contained a personal message from Bill. I had never met Bill. Who was he? He was my grandfather’s financial advisor.  My sisters and my cousins all got cards from Bill. And, when several of us had enough means of our own, we too became Bill’s clients.

  • Mom loves the holiday wine and cheese: My mom (a science professor at William and Mary), is very skeptical of marketing (and doctors). She doesn’t fall for anything. That said, she literally gushed over the wine and cheese basket that she received last Christmas from her financial advisor. The basket came with a card and a personal note. She knew it was “marketing,” but it succeeded in giving her the “warm and fuzzies” nonetheless.

What’s different about these examples and what works?

The examples that work are:

  • Between parties that have a significant relationship: What kind of relationship do you have with your mobile company or insurance carrier? Probably not a personal one.  

  • Not a marketing pitch: What!?! Can marketing be subtle? In fact, Scotiabank’s restraint in foregoing the glossy insert or list of latest offers significantly contributes to making these communications more real and sincere for the recipient.

  • Personal and sincere: Scotiabank’s restraint contributes to the sincerity of the message as do the handwritten notes or even just the signature from the financial advisor.

Relationships come from sincere interactions

Maybe we’ve all gone a little too cuckoo over the term “relationship” marketing. Let’s be clear, relationship marketing IS NOT blasting a message to a semi-targeted list. And, I don’t think I’m in the minority here, but most customers really don’t want to have a relationship with the company they buy their toilet paper from.

Here are my top line recommendations to would be relationship marketers:

  • Only be personal when you have a right to be: I plan to crack a bottle of champagne if I ever pay off a mortgage! And, I wouldn’t be upset at all if my bank sent me a card recognizing my achievement. However, if the envelope was stuffed with glossy pitches aimed at securing more of my money, I think I would be a tad perturbed.

  • Look for opportunities that positively impact customer experience:  Think about marketing from the perspective of service. Part of marketing, by it’s nature, will always be to inform but more marketers need to seek our opportunities to offer proactive service and pleasantly surprise their customers. Rather than sending an insincere birthday card, another wireless carrier called customers that had experienced a series of dropped calls to APOLOGIZE and offer a break on the monthly bill.

  • Expand your definition of “relationship marketing” to include community: What can a firm that doesn’t have a substantial — or even direct – relationship with its customers do?  Recognize that it’s not about the toilet paper! Take a look at P&G’s Home Made Simple. Note that the site isn’t simply hawking products — in fact, you won’t even see a single product above the fold. Customers get tips on managing their household, decorating, and healthy living as well as coupons to try new products (but, again, the product marketing appears secondary). P&G gets valuable market research information and a group of customers that are convinced that the P&G is genuinely interested in them. Del Monte’s social community of dog lovers is another good example of how a firm can engage and build relationships and gain insights that allow the company to better understand customers and innovate (see the case study).

Let’s gather some more examples

I’d love to further peel apart the good examples from the bad so, please, add comments here or send me your examples as well your reaction (positive or negative).