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Recalibrating The Meaning of “Relevant” March 11, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Online Marketing.
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Have you ever refinanced your mortgage only to be bombarded by offers to lower your mortgage rate for six weeks after you closed on your new loan? This happens because financial services companies are purchasing “triggers” from credit bureaus that indicate you have had a recent loan approval. The problem with these triggers is that they are not timely. By the time the marketing communication gets to the customer, it’s too late.

Relevance = right message + right time + right place

Perhaps it is a cliché, but it’s a good one. Too many marketers focus entirely on the message component of relevance. For these marketers, “place” is typically an outbound channel and “time” is based on the internal campaign calendar – not the customer’s needs. To be relevant, marketers must step outside the confines of the functional silo that they are responsible for and think outside in – from the perspective of the customer. In addition to targeting the message itself based upon a customer’s stated or implied needs, relevance requires:  

  • Timely reaction or response to customer actions. Although some marketers are experimenting with trigger-based communications and on-site customized messaging, the prominence of these tactics pales in comparison to the weekly or semi-weekly campaign pushes. The beauty of these tactics, however, is that they can be automated.
  • Cross-channel integration. Your customers don’t care that you are only responsible for email and not the website or direct mail and not the call center. When a potential customer clicks on a search result or an online ad and lands on your generic home page or receives an offer in the mail and calls customer service to inquire further, he expects a seamless handoff. Yet, creative elements often dominate conversations about integrated marketing rather than a focus on what the customer is trying to achieve as he traverses the channels. The result of this oversight? For the customer, it often means dead ends and unnecessary frustration. For the company, it means lost opportunities and, possibly, damage to the brand.
  • A programmatic approach. Did you know that maximizing individual campaign response might be to the detriment of overall program ROI? That’s right. Sending more messages may generate a higher response, but how many others are simply tuning out? The current industry standard in the retail sector is 1-2 email messages a week. Amazon differentiates itself in the inbox by not always being there. An email offer from Amazon might be, “A brand new Leonard Cohen CD is available. Since you have enjoyed Leonard Cohen in the past, we thought you might want to know…” This programmatic approach requires different metrics than the campaign-centric approach – for example, program engagement over time or revenue per customer (not campaign).
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