Is Your Customer Ready for You?

The Customer Buying Decision Process

You send out all sorts of marketing initiatives to reach your targeted audience and your customers. But are they ready for you? If you have their information to market to them, you already have them placed somewhere in your sales funnel.

Do you know where? Probably not.

Every day you yourself, as a marketer and a consumer, probably receive half a dozen or more marketing informational emails telling you how to target your customers based on where they are in the purchase path or decision making process. You nod along and read the snippets, and are no further along in your own conversion process (in this case converting into action) than most of your audience.

Where in the Funnel is Your Customer

So you’re not a huge company, your list isn’t that big, and you blast out communications to all your targets equally. Sometimes you may target geographically, some times perhaps by purchasers or non-purchasers. But in reality, most companies don’t really target too tightly to their customers in the decision making process.

Why? For several reasons:

  1. Time. Too few people are wearing too few hats and you want to get the most bang for the buck, so to speak. You figure you’ll hit your targets, and may hit others as well, but you’ll eventually get the ones who are motivated.
  2. What? You just don’t know how to. Your data, you say, isn’t detailed enough or linked enough to tell you that. You either don’t have a CRM or don’t know how to get the data cross-pollinated with your CRM from your ESP.
  3. You actually want return customers as well as first time buyers so you intentionally target everyone, all the time. No, that’s just a big old rationalization and you know it.
  4. Your list is too small and the effort isn’t worth the return on investment. No. You pay for every initiative you send out, so if you only sent to those who are most likely to convert you know it would be cheaper (even with print runs, even with the “low cost” of email sends).

Take the email excuse there in that last one for a minute. Email is cheap, you say, so why not always send out to everyone? It’s hardly worth the resource allocation to spend the time to review the list for behaviors and to then pull out specific ones, develop custom pieces and offers/content for each group based on where they are and what they’ve done. It just doesn’t make sense, especially for your specific kind of customer.

That is a rookie error. The cost of email is far more than the send cost. True, email sends per are low, and emails are effective, and you cannot predict how a user will respond. Data, after all, only shows how they HAVE responded, and from that you can only get a better idea of how they MIGHT respond in the future based on past behavior. Of course we know that individuals are just that, individuals, and can change their mind, behavior, reactions based on a thousand different things. We know this through psychological studies, marketing studies, interviews, test cases, customer surveys, etc.

But we also know this because we too get emails and don’t open them all.

And how we respond or don’t respond has a significant effect … on the cost of those emails being sent. It’s more than the `1-10 cent an email you think it is.

Let’s take a peek at promotional emails.

Promotional emails may be used to sell a particular product that you have a larger mark up on, or one you have a large quantity of inventory. They might also serve as a way to gently remind your customers or prospects that you’re there, and to have them think about you and your services for a brief moment, ever so tactfully reminding them.

In reality, however, they may be bombarding those very readers who are sick of hearing from you but haven’t gotten around to make the commitment to unsubscribe. Take a quick peek at your email stats. Those users who have not opened your emails, who have not unsubscribed, and who after several unopens have not had your emails go into their spam box, might be more dedicated than you realize.

We all know (and if you send emails and you don’t know this, there’s a bigger issue) that many email programs (especially the free ones like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail) track how many times you get emails from a specific sender and don’t open them. Eventually the users don’t see them anymore because they automatically get moved into junk or spam mail folders.

Your ESP sees it, and marks it as a spam notification. Once they get moved in there several ESPs will no longer send those customers emails. As a marketer, you have a short window of opportunity on the the number of times you can send a user an email before it gets marked as “soft spam”.

But if your customers HAVEN’T been opening your emails, and uses one of the email clients that does that (again, if you don’t know which ones, that’s a bigger issue and you need to research that yourself!) that means the customer actually made the effort to unmark your emails as spam.

That’s a really big deal. That means they’re just not ready for you yet. That means you have a new opportunity to grab their attention (with a huge focus on the subject line) to entice them back to you. They’re interested, they’re just not quite ready. Are you going to wait for them, or are you going to nudge them?

 Nudge Them

I used to work for a company that sold a product I, as a consumer, regularly bought. Before I worked for the company I didn’t buy from them. Why? Because I kept forgetting about them. When I was in my decision making process I seemed to always forget they existed. Funny, too, since their domain was so short, sweet, perfectly identified to their audience. Still, I never bought from them. I didn’t get their emails. I didn’t get their catalogs. I didn’t see their ads on search engines because as a customer of the industry, I had my “go to” spots to shop, compare, and buy. They didn’t exist in my world. And in theirs I didn’t exist.

But how is that, because years ago I had signed up for an email once. When I worked for them I was able to see how that happened. It’s not that I didn’t exist to them, it’s that I had CEASED to exist to them. I was removed from their email list because I hadn’t opened their emails. I didn’t do it, my email provider did, and then notified their ESP automatically from one server to another did … because I didn’t open their emails. The my email client assumed I wasn’t interested, and told theirs that I thought their email was junk.

Ain’t technology grand?

Today I get their emails. I no longer work there, I rarely shop there, and I typically don’t open their emails. I still get every one that is targeted to my group of customer type though.

First off, I got an email I opened. Boom, it was like the entire clock reset. I was a person again, a new lease on a marketing life for them. I don’t know the algorithm my email program uses, and after entertaining myself to see how long it would go before it would start going to junk again, I lost interest and forgot to count. (See, even marketers have lots of masks, lets not forget everyone does! It’s a behavior thing for all our audiences!)

Finally I added them to the safe sender list. By then, of course, they had my mailing address and I became more of an entity to them, and had become a customer. So again, the clock reset and I took on a whole new level of designation with that company. We had a new relationship, so not only did I register as an open, I registered as a click through.

While I was there it wasn’t just me. I used me as an example to dig deeper and find more like me. The audience we served there was enormous, but in reality, it was even far greater than we had been reaching out to.

The trick to getting more … was actually reaching out to fewer.

Reaching out by targeting smaller groups. We gained more customers. Who bought more frequently. And spread the word. And we were paying for fewer dead individual email sends that were automatically going to junk boxes, and slowly eating away at our white list rating.

Email marketing IS inexpensive. But Email done wrong isn’t cheap.

And that’s just one tactic on one platform, on one type of customer engagement level. Still think you can market without a strategy?