More Internet Strategy

Mon, Oct 17, 2005

Articles, Strategy + Marketing

All but universal is the concept of personal space, private space and intimate space.  Violate any one of an individual’s invisible concentric orbits with no invitation, and reactions range from mild discomfort to freak-out.  Do it on a regular basis and you risk jail-time.  Almost certainly then, personal, private and intimate marketing space exists.  Violate them at what cost – a loss of marketing dollars and/or brand equity perhaps?

How many times have you heard that people in the Midwest are friendlier than those inane northeastern city dwellers?  My response: take the sweetest Midwesterner and cram them in a crowded city all day, every day and disrupt their precious lives with panhandlers, traffic jams, crowded elevators that stop on every floor and fill their ears with incessant noise – then see how damn friendly they stay. People are people – you can wear their asses down.  All those interruptions can make us cranky; the constant invasion of our invisible orbits will send us to a home for the chronically overloaded.

Interruption marketing was obviously named for how it competes for our attention – it interrupts.  I say that, at best marketing interrupts our attention, but at worst it violates it.  Interrupt me and you’d better have something worthy of my interest, violate it and you’d best come bearing gifts.  It didn’t used to be this way.  Back in the day, a marketing interruption was either benign or welcome, and often entertaining – like traffic in a small Midwestern town, it was easy to tolerate.  Now the bar is higher since competition for our attention is often beyond reason and marketers seem to insist on deeper penetration of our personal orbits.

Why will we tolerate TV commercials during our favorite program but scream angrily at ads prior to theater movies?  Why is e-mail spam so intrusive when junk mail brought by the postman only a nuisance?  Why – it’s a trade-off between personal gain and how deeply marketers penetrate our personal orbits.  For example: I don’t want to pay the high price for TV programming without commercials so I’m tolerant.  However, I expect the price of theater admission to insulate me from ads so any interruptions infuriate.  Similarly, roadside billboards barely touch my personal marketing space while e-mail spam enters my private zone often enough to enrage Monty Python.  There needs to be an equitable trade: gain my attention and give me something.

This marketing trade-off notion – along with respecting personal orbits – is at the core of internet customer relationship strategy as we aim to straddle that wafer-thin line separating brand expansion and erosion: tolerance and irritation – miss the target and you risk squandering brand equity.  Erosion begins as soon as the customer experience is undesirable or over promised or both.   Avoid irritating your target with balanced relevant trades at every point of contact; trade customer consideration for relevant information, attention for rewards, or time for entertainment, and ultimately – do I have to say it – cash for high perceived value.

Visualize earning $.25 for every spam e-mail; we’d probably do everything possible to attract more spam.  Spam is reviled because there is nothing in it for the spamee.  Consumers are selfish; there needs to be something in it for them, and it needs to be obvious and authentic.  As marketers – one way or another – we pay to communicate with our targets.   Interrupt with no relevant content and you pay through brand erosion.  How we pay is key to our success, central in gaining permission and basic to maintaining a profitable relationship with consumers.

Seth Godin, the father of the permission marketing concept explains: “You have to turn attention into permission, permission into learning, and learning into trust …. You tell consumers a little something about your company and its products, they tell you a little something about themselves, you tell them a little more, they tell you a little more – and over time, you create a mutually beneficial learning relationship. Permission marketing is marketing without interruptions.”  The internet is the perfect space for this info-swap.

If you’re a regular customer at Amazon.com you have swap experience.  I’m into blues music so I’ve purchased several blues CD’s on Amazon.  Once logged in I see, “Hello Mr. Bruce DeBoer”.  On the home page I can access a personal wish list or “Bruce’s Store” or “Bruce’s Gold Box”, and all are personalized based on my buying history or search activity.  If desired, I can ask to receive e-mail updates on new releases – and so it goes. Occasionally this seems intrusive; however, if the personal attention is removed my experience with Amazon deteriorates.  I like being recognized when I walk into a store [most of the time].  If ignored by the clerk I can get testy.

The latest technologies for the Web make one-on-one marketing feasible by allowing marketers to track individual behavior.  Through permission e-mail, search engine results or clicks on banner ads, marketers can learn what a prospective customer is seeking.  Run a search for “Polka Bands” and you get more than organic results, you get paid results from Polkamart or banner ads relevant to your search.  It’s the ultimate Internet point of sale advertising; it’s unobtrusive and frequently useful because it’s highly relevant.  Please note that I’m not talking about those obnoxious irrelevant blinking banners exclaiming you’re customer 10,000 and you just won a new laptop – or some other over-promised extraneous BS.

Turn one-on-one marketing relationships into CRM.  CRM is another one of those insufferable acronyms that industries throw at outsiders to establish superiority.  It stands for customer relationship management which is short for “whatever it takes to get and stay close to your customer.”  Internet software tools – like those Synthesis programs into the Synapse platform modules – can make it easier for internet marketers to communicate and target prospects one on one.  Tools that send and track e-mail responses, track surfing behavior, collect data, collate behavioral statistics or generate polls and questionnaires, make it possible to micro-target individuals or groups with relevant offers or incentives.

Sure – Interrupt to gain attention but make a fair trade with your viewer; if you penetrate personal orbits compensate accordingly. Continue to build relationships by asking permission to make fair trades; the ultimate trade is selling your high value product or service.  The business environment has changed but marketing theory, profit models and good business strategy hasn’t.  The customer relationship remains vital to your brand – build it with good experiences across all contact points.

The internet is an extraordinary tool for customer relations. Ideally, a website is merely the public facing portion of your internet marketing engine.  The engine is your customer relational data base with tools for communicating to prospects in an entertaining and relevant fashion.

Tap me on the shoulder with nothing to say and I’ll ignore you. Make me a relevant offer and I’ll pay attention.  Waste my time and I’ll dissent.  Gain my trust and I’ll communicate my needs.  I’m not loyal so stay vigilant.  Make me laugh and I’ll invite my friends.  Treat me right and I’ll come back for more.  Mess up and I’ll move on.

brand erosion, expectations, internet, Permission Marketing, Photography, strategy, technology, website

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