Consumers are bombarded with millionsof messages every day. In an ever-changing, expanding world of marketing, how does a company cut through theclutter to get its message heard? And whatabout the customer who always seems justbeyond reach?
According to Ken Dawson, chief marketing officer of InfoCision Management Corporation, the secret is to start a dialoguewith your customer. Unlike traditional, massmarketing strategies, the most effectiveapproaches now focus on personal connections and interactions.
“One-to-one marketing is where it starts,”says Dawson. “Companies must get awayfrom the old idea of direct marketing, whena billboard, newspaper ad or form letterwith a ‘one size fits all’ approach was theonly option. It is all about individualizedmass marketing now. Today it is quite practical — even easy — to customize messagesfor your audience. Not only do customersrespond to this approach, they are beginning to expect it.”
Smart Business spoke with Dawson abouthow you can get a better ROI and more satisfied customers by reaching out with customized offers specific to their needs.
How does a company start a one-to-one marketing strategy?
First, you have to listen to what your customer tells you. Some people prefer an activeconversation, while others prefer a more passive approach. Some will want to call you attheir convenience. Some like e-mail. Everymarketer should be aware of the preferencesof its customers. If someone asks to be takenoff a mailing list but responds to Web promotions, do what they want. It sounds simplistic,but too many companies don’t do it. This is adisastrous mistake, because it is impossibleto win a customer when they aren’t ready toreceive your information. If you know theright channel to use, and the best time of dayto contact them, you will get a positiveresponse.
Also, find out what your customer is interested in and cross-sell products and servicesto them. Buyers appreciate this and respond.Many Web sites do this, and it works wellwith phone calls and catalog sales also. For example, if a customer buys curtains, it isalmost intuitive to offer her curtain rods ortiebacks. If a buyer has children, offer himage-appropriate products in addition to otheritems for the home. Make it a one-to-oneexperience based on the demographics, hobbies and buying behaviors of your customers.
Do customers usually buy into one-to-onemarketing?
A savvy customer knows she is being targeted for a sale, but one-to-one marketingcan create a feeling of mutual respect and apositive relationship. If you purchase an itemat a big box store, it is simply a transaction —no warmth, no personalization. But, if youbuy at a mom-and-pop store, the owner islikely to talk to you, let you know the itemsyou ordered last week have come in, orinquire about your cousin’s health. It is a personal relationship that is mutually beneficial.
Businesses must do the same thing withone-to-one marketing. Move away from blanket sales and build a true relationship. Everycompany has the technology to accomplish this, but few make good use of it. Take, forexample, an automobile customer whoalways buys black sports cars. The offer hereceives should have a black sports car in it,not a red minivan.
What information should I collect?
Capture every bit of information you canand use it to create a customer profile.Examine information on gender, income, voting preferences, etc. This will help you connect your product with the needs and wantsof your customer.
Additionally, businesses should be awarethat many customers are abandoning landlines and using only their cell phones. TheFCC and the FTC heavily regulate cell phonesolicitation, and if you don’t have expressedwritten or verbal consent, you cannot call acell phone number. With number portability(allowing land line numbers to be convertedto cell numbers) regulatory compliancecould become a problem. To prevent anyissues in the future, request that data now.Every time you reach out to a customer,always include an opt-in question for phonenumbers and e-mail addresses. If you haveapproval to use a cell phone number, you willhave a big leg up on the competition. Soinvest now and leverage that data because it’sthe best way to stay in touch with a hard-to-reach customer.
Any other thoughts on one-to-one marketing?
Don’t be afraid to try new strategies or tomove your marketing budget from one areato another in order to accommodate a one-toone tactic. You won’t be sorry you made thedecision to do so. Flexibility allows you toadapt to fluctuating markets, and building apersonal relationship with a customer ispriceless. This approach will help youenhance your brand position and increaseyour ROI.
KEN DAWSON is the chief marketing officer of InfoCision Management Corp. Reach him at email@example.com. In businessfor 25 years, InfoCision Management Corp. is the second-largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customercare services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 100 companies and smaller businesses. InfoCision is also a leaderof inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, religious and political organizations. InfoCision operates 32 call centers at 13 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.