Caffeinated ideas and views on marketing communications


Marketing by attrition?

Is your idea of marketing to send out the same offer over and over and over and over again in the hopes that your target will get so tired of hearing from you that they’ll just pay up to get rid of you? No? Well, it seems to be the force behind a lot of marketing, especially direct mail and email marketing. I call it marketing by attrition and I think it is probably the least effective type of marketing there is (not too mention the most annoying to recipients).

An example

Case in point is Sirius XM. A few months ago, I bought a new car that included three months free of Sirius XM radio. Before I even had the car a couple of weeks, I got a letter from Sirius that said I could sign up for $5 per month for a year(!). But then, I read  in the small print, I would be charged $16.99 per month after.  SiriusXM  sent me this exact offer in a letter several more times. Then, when my three-month trial was over, they sent me another slew of letters. So many in fact, I don’t have an exact number.

The offer is always the same. I am still not interested, but I bet they will continue sending me letters for the next year or more.


Is there a strategy?

What is the strategy here? Is there a strategy? Or is it a mandate that hasn’t been ever reviewed?

It seems to me that there’s some sort of mandate or directive at large companies, which have hundreds of thousands of potential clients, to keep marketing the same offer to each person who doesn’t sign up for the product or service. And keep sending it until they sign up.

But what happens if the target doesn’t respond?

Experience says that if a target doesn’t respond to your marketing, you may need to change something. Perhaps you need to revise the offer. Or perhaps you need to change your marketing tactics. In the marketing by attrition “strategy,” there seems to be no course correction other than eventually giving up. I wonder if there is a certain number of mailings that these companies send out, perhaps based on cost, after which they conclude the cost of having you as client is too high.  This method seems highly ineffective and costly.

What would work better?

Perhaps what would work better is to really understand what motivates each particular potential customer. This could involve sending out a survey or having a better sense of each customer through demographic and psychographic data.

Bottom line

If you are marketing by attrition, you may be fighting a long and losing battle.

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

You won’t know until you try

My nieces are a bit fussy when it comes to food. They don’t really want to try foods they haven’t had before. I once made a pasta dish, and my  four-year old niece looked at it with absolute horror. I told her she had to try it, and if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to finish eating it. She tried it and she didn’t like it (it had spinach in it, and she is not a fan since as she put it “I don’t like the green stuff”).

Sometimes you just don’t know until you try, yet we seem to work hard to avoid finding out for ourselves. If we are researching hotels, we read reviews on travel advice sites. If we are looking for a service professional, we check out ratings. We ask around. We want information before we make a decision.

Just today, I noticed what someone posted in a networking group in which I belong. She wanted to know about people’s experiences with the group because she was considering joining. In my opinion, networking is personal. You will have your own experiences and it is always worth it to attend a meeting or two to get a sense of the people and if it is a right fit for you. What others feel is almost completely irrelevant.

You just have to try it for yourself. Word of mouth and reviews can provide insight, but ultimately, what matters is how your experience goes.

The experience counts more

Several weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends if they had any handymen recommendations. My long-time handyman had retired due to injury and I needed someone to do a few things around the house. A friend passed on the name of someone who had done some work in his house. I contacted the handyman. He asked me to send him an email detailing what I needed done. He didn’t respond. I called again. He assured me he would respond. He didn’t. I called again. He was on vacation. Normally, I would have never contacted him again, but because he was recommended I did.

Finally, about three months after my initial contact, the handyman came to  give me an estimate for the work. It seemed quite high but I scheduled the work since by this time I was desperate to get it done. The handyman sent two of his guys to do the work. They were nice enough but not highly skilled. They did not even have a tool kit with them (I had to give them a screwdriver!). They finished doing the work. The main handyman stuck with his original estimate. I questioned it and I ended up paying almost $200 less than he estimated (the work took one and a half hours and he had estimated five).  I tried working with this handyman based on a trusted friend’s recommendation but the actual experience of working with him was not to my liking. I will not hire him again.

The marketing dilemma

Many marketers spend time on getting positive reviews and referrals, and those can stimulate people to try a product or service. But ultimately, the customer/client experience is what counts. People will stick with something and recommend it only if the experience itself is good.

The dilemma for many marketers is that many times we are hired to stimulate interest, but have no control over the user experience. If a company has hired many marketers to try and drum up interest for a product or service, chances are it is not the marketing that is lacking. It may well be that the product or service is not living up to the marketing.

What are your experiences with this? How does can marketing be better tied to user experience?

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

Perception, perception, perception.

Marketing is all about creating perception. We use ads, public relations, coupons, whatever, to shape the public’s perception of our product or service. Take for instance Geico. How do you perceive the insurer, which started life as a the Government Employees Insurance Company? Chances are you think of them as cheap insurance. Why? Because for years they have been using the tagline “15 minutes could save you 15% or more.” They also use a humorous approach to make them seem accessible. (I do love the new James Lipton commercial, where he “interviews” a “real” Geico customer.)

OK. So not all perception is accurate. Giant, a supermarket here in the mid-Atlantic, runs an ad campaign that makes it seem that Giant is the place to get everything you need and save money. So not true. Many products at Giant are more expensive than elsewhere. This is where marketers can get into trouble, or where we see a disconnect between a marketing department and an operations department. The marketers are being told go out and make it look like we offer great deals on a great selection of food.  Yet price points are really high for many items.

In Washington, yesterday and today, the hoopla is all about Scott McClellan’s new book, “What Happened.” Why? Because McClellan, who was press secretary for Bush, and who was in charge of shaping the public’s perception about issues such as the Iraq war, has turned. The book is highly critical of Bush and his advisers, and claims they actively used him to deceive the American public. There is a perception problem though–why should we believe McClellan now? What is motivating him to come out against Bush (to whom he was loyal for years) NOW?  In fact, the press does not seem to know what to make of this. I saw Martha Raddatz interview McClellan last night on ABC News and she asked him point blank if he thought the Bush White House were liars. He stopped short of saying that. What McClellan has to contend with it that he is perceived as a spinner. In fact, Martha called him on it–telling him he was spinning! It was unbelievable. Read the transcript here.

So there is often a gap to bridge between the truth and perception. In public affairs, if the bridge is shaky, the public will find out eventually. I think this is the case here. All governments spin the facts. That is a fact. But not all governments take the country to war. The truth is yet to be told, and the perception about the Iraq war has been crumbling for a while. Will Scott McClellan’s book bring this bridge down completely? I am not sure. Like I said before, he has a perception problem himself. Reporters don’t trust him. Dana Milbank (whose commentary I think is somewhat juvenile) pokes fun at McClellan in today’s Washington Post. It will play out eventually. Stay tuned.

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

My newest web venture

It’s kind of funny. I have been thinking about starting a blog for some time now, and last night I went to a WNBA event here in Washington (not a basketball game but an event sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association). The event was about book publicity and basically, the big conclusion of the evening was that to publicize a book today you must be on the web. You must have a website, or a blog, or both, or even just a MySpace page. Something on the WWW. Of course, that is just the start, because you have to get people to read your stuff too. 

That got me to thinking about my area of so-called expertise, marketing communications.  Specifically, I am thinking about traditional marketing communications tools such as brochures and press releases. Are these necessary anymore, or will they become as obsolete as Windows 98?  The answer I think is yes, eventually. Today, there is  still a market that is not tech savvy. There are people who enjoy print. Eventually those people will become obsolete, if you know what I mean.  For now, I think any savvy marcomm person needs to have a complete bag of tricks–press releases, blogs, websites, printed brochures, downloadable press kits, etc.  Also, there is a whole generation of marcomm people who are not comfortable in a completely electronic environment, or don’t understand how to go about it. Or they know just a little bit and are afraid to learn. Then, there are the young ‘uns, who have been on Facebook since it started and who prefer texting to talking. We are not only communicating to this generation, but we are using them to do the communicating for us (that is, we hire them as interns, account execs, copywriters or whatever). 

In a traditional marcomm agency, be it straight PR or straight advertising or a hybrid, the upper echelon (or “management”) may still be clinging to the days before email was an alternative to a phone call and videoconferencing was super cool. Webinars and podcasts are not a substitute for a good old fashioned ad or press release. And they keep doing the same old and wondering why they are losing market share. Change is always slower for an established company. But what distinguishes effective marketing in my opinion, is understanding who the target audience is and where they get their information. Thus, if we are marketing hearing aids, perhaps print (an older skewing medium) alone will do the trick. But if we are trying to expand a market, reach younger people, then we’d be foolish to expend all efforts on traditional media. 

About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.


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