When Brands Apologize, Customers Often Listen and Forgive

Happy customers are loyal customers. But what happens when “surprise and delight” is actually “surprise and incite”? Social media has raised the stakes for brands. Customers, most often angry ones, have a forum to air their grievances.

Happy customers are loyal customers. But what happens when “surprise and delight” is actually “surprise and incite”?

Social media has raised the stakes for brands. Customers, most often angry ones, have a forum to air their grievances. I see it constantly on Twitter, and have admittedly participated myself, when air travel goes terribly wrong or quality falls short of expectations.

The good news is that it’s recoverable.

Brands that react swiftly, thoughtfully, and transparently are the ones who win. And by win, I mean they don’t necessarily lose customers as a result of their actions, inaction or missteps.

This week alone, two retailers were seemingly insensitive to their female customers and perceived as body-shaming the very people they want to empower.

Macy’s

Macy’s was called out in one tweet that received 48,000 likes and 6,000 comments for plates by a company called Pourtions that were highly controversial for their message. Intended to bring humor to the concept of portion control, the dinner plates feature a large ring that read “Mom Jeans,” a smaller ring that read “Favorite Jeans,” and an even smaller ring that read “Skinny Jeans.”

Macy’s responded by apologizing and vowing to remove the plates from their stores. Of course, not everyone in the Twittersphere agreed with this decision. But it does show a sense of responsibility for its products and consideration for its customers.

Forever 21

Forever 21 also came under fire this week for sending Atkins bars in online orders with plus size merchandise. They’re not just good at fast fashion, but they also showed they can deliver a fast reaction.

In response to press coverage of the “snafu,” Forever 21 said:

“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time, and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”

In this case, I think the word “test” is a critical one. If Forever 21 had done some market research and testing, perhaps it would have learned that a partnership with a brand like Atkins, that is depicted as a diet company, could be detrimental to its brand perception.

Conclusion

The merchandise you sell, the partners you align with, the sites where your ads run, the people you hire, the way you respond to criticism — all of these decisions impact your customers and shape your brand identity.

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

By Association: Brands, Data and Marketing Finally Have Come Together

Call it marketing data’s destiny. On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). Perhaps a merger more than 100 years in the making.

Call it “marketing data’s destiny.”

On July 1, if membership approves, the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) will be owned and operated by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

The former first began in 1917 — the latter in 1910. Perhaps this moment is destiny 100-plus years in the making.

In 1915, William Wrigley sent chewing gum to every household listed in every phone book in America — more than 1 million at the time. That was “direct marketing.”

What David Ogilvy Knew, We All Must Know Now

One of the greatest advertising practitioners of all time – David Ogilvy – knew that “direct response” advertisers — no matter what the medium — knew which ads worked, and which didn’t, because of their discipline to measure. Direct marketing was Ogilvy’s “secret weapon.”

Google did not invent analytics — direct marketers were always data-driven, and have been testing and analyzing and measuring every piece of advertising real estate under the sun. Google helped to introduce analytics to digital-first marketers.

Early on, direct marketers recognized Amazon as what it truly is — front end to back end: “direct marketing on steroids.”

DMA knows data. Its conferences, content, professional development — and advocacy and representation — have always advanced the discipline of data-driven marketing, in quality and quantity. Accountability, efficiency, return on investment, testing and audience measurement — these attributes, for perhaps decades too long — were relegated “second-class” citizenship by Madison Avenue, general advertising and the worship of creativity.

Oh, how times have changed.

Data Streams — What Direct Response Started, Digital Exploded

Even before the Internet was invented, smart brands — leading brands — started to recognize the power of data in their advertising and marketing. While some had dabbled in direct mail, most pursued sales promotion techniques that mimic but do not fully commit to direct marketing measurement. It was the advent of database marketing — fueled by loyalty programs, 800 numbers and credit cards — that gave many “big” advertisers their first taste of audience engagement.

Brand champions were curious, and many were hooked. Nothing helps a brand more than customer interaction. Data sets the stage for such interaction through relevance — and interactions enable behavioral and contextual insights for future messaging and content.

Digital marketing — and mobile since — have exploded the availability of data.  So all-told, brands must be data-centric today, because that’s how customers are found, sustained, served and replicated. In fact, data-centricity and customer-centricity are nearly indistinguishable.

ANA and DMA coming together — it’s as if brands understand (or know they need to understand) that data champions the consumer and serves the brand promise. Data serves to prove the effectiveness of all the advertising, marketing and engagement brought forth.

ANA has been acquiring organizations — Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Brand Activation Association, Business Marketing Association and now the Data and Marketing Association. There certainly may be more to this most recent transaction than my humble point of view here today.

But I’d rather believe that data-driven marketing, finally, has received an accolade from brands 100 years due. Congratulations are in order.

 

3 DRTV Testing Tips for Digital Marketers

Lately, I have been talking to several marketers that want to test direct response television advertising for their brands. Interestingly, these companies that want to test DRTV are category disruptors, born from the Internet. These are companies founded on direct relationships with consumers established through search engines and social media.

DRTVLately, I have been talking to several marketers that want to test direct response television advertising for their brands. Interestingly, these companies that want to test DRTV are category disruptors, born from the Internet. These are companies founded on direct relationships with consumers established through search engines and social media.

The reasons to complement data-driven digital marketing with television are convincing. These internet brands are faced with many challengers in the same space. It is difficult to establish a unique brand position through search. Television remains the most powerful medium for quickly communicating a message and establishing an identity.

More importantly, marketers are finding that building companies one-click at a time is not achieving their goals for growth. Nielsen reports the average American still watches 5 hours a day. With that large an audience television can quickly scale the reach needed to grow businesses.

Most companies are concerned with the high-entry costs for television and not getting the instant ROI expected from digital channels. That’s what makes the more accountable DRTV so compelling. The opportunity to lower media costs with the assumption that the spots will generate response.

These expectations for DRTV might be misunderstood and a little high. One of the companies that I spoke with did a test of television (on their own and not with my direction). They ended up canceling after 2-weeks because of cost and perceived lack of performance.

Before testing television’s impact on response and acquisition, ensure your test is set-up to deliver effective and measurable results. A poor test could result in mistakenly dismissing a potentially valuable channel for marketing.

Here are a few tips for an effective test:

Tip #1 – Utilize Television to Its Strength – Reach

Television is a mass medium and is most efficient when used to reach a mass audience.

Digital marketers might believe that an impression delivered to a non-targeted prospect is useless and a wasted expense.  Restricting reach to select areas using cable or specific homes through addressable OTT may seem to solutions for waste. However, these options reduce consumer reach while increasing media costs, impairing the benefits of television, efficiency and scale.

With your initial television test, utilize the networks, stations, and dayparts that best reach your target audience.  If the results are good, you can start looking for ways to optimize your buy to drive more efficiency. If the television doesn’t drive results, at least you don’t need to second guess your media execution.

When putting together a test with the right stations and dayparts, be less concerned about Reach, Frequency, and GRPs.  Those are metrics to predict the effectiveness of a traditional television buy. If you are testing DRTV with the intent of generating response, results should be the measure of effectiveness.  Do look for deals as a lower cost per spot should contribute to a lower cost per response.

Tip #2 – Track All Results!

My preferred method for tracking the performance of a DRTV test are dedicated phone numbers assigned to each station.  With time-stamped, phone number data it is possible to identify the best stations and dayparts for driving results.

However, a digital disruptor may not be set-up for phone calls. They will likely want to drive response to its online sales-funnel.  Spot airing times and web-traffic data can be aligned to measure direct response to the ads. Establish site traffic baselines before spots begin airing to quantify traffic lift in response to television.

When tracking all results, also look for lift in response rates to other channels. Unlike other mediums, the awareness created by television is likely to increase response in other channels.

Quantifying the impact television can have on other channels can be done with the classic tactic of Control versus Treated. By holding out a market from a recent program, I had comparison data to quantify the lift DRTV had on other channels. The test showed a 25% increase to the direct mail response and a 50% lift in the search clickthrough rate.

If a control hold-out isn’t possible, compare response rates from pre and post television advertising. The lift in response rates can be enough to support using television as a compliment to other direct channels.

Tip #3 – Give DRTV Testing Some Time

Testing television for the first time is big decision.  It requires company buy-in and investments of time on money to develop a spot and get it on television. The desire to show immediate success is great, however, it is a test. Results can take time to develop.

It can take a couple of weeks for a brand with limited awareness to connect with consumers.

Two-weeks of frequency may be needed to build enough interest to elicit a response. It can take longer depending on your DRTV schedule.

If results are limited after two-weeks consider adjusting the television schedule to test different programming.

At 4-weeks you should have quantified results, either direct response to the television or response lift in other channels. With results you can begin assessing the opportunities for expanding the program.

If the results are not seen in 4-weeks, then it might be time to suspend the program. As direct marketers know, more spending isn’t likely to improve ROI.

Because the initial test didn’t produce the desired results does not mean that television cannot work for your brand. Go back and reconsider all elements of the program including the spot, the offers, and the media buy.

The Facebook Tornado and Other Threats to a Static Plan

The world of online marketing is in perpetual flux. Anticipating change and being ready to adjust for it is the only way for marketers to thrive in this environment. And this month’s challenge to the digital marketing equilibrium has been the announcement of Facebook’s algorithmic update.

The world of online marketing is in perpetual flux. This constant vertigo is caused by many things, including technological progress, competitive or market pressures, and new consumer expectations. Anticipating change and being ready to adjust for it is the only way for marketers to thrive in this environment. Easier said, than done. And this month’s challenge to the digital marketing equilibrium has been the announcement of the algorithmic update to Facebook.

Facebook is a priority investment for many brands. Marketers have been wooed with flexible and effective consumer access in an interactive environment, with the added appeal that it only partly feels like an ad environment. Because of these benefits, brands have come to invest and rely heavily on this platform they neither own nor can control.

The pros and cons, tweaks and modifications in response to the Facebook changes have been covered fully by many experts by now and should not be a huge obstacle for marketers. Assuming you are on top of the changes and have created an agile team and approach, this latest disruption represents only a tactical change — one in a long line of continuing adjustments to strategy, execution, budgeting and reporting wrought by outside influences.

The interruption of carefully prepared strategies and programs only highlights the value found in a nimble mindset. How do online marketing folks prepare for success?

  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your marketing plans to include many touchpoints across your customers’ journey.
  • Don’t overinvest in any platform or environment that you don’t control. If you are going to play in the walled gardens of Facebook or Amazon or other environments where you have little control, be sure do so with purpose and not exclusively. Make sure you build direct relationships outside of those walled gardens. Capture customer or other critical data in your own environments and use appropriate CRM or other touchpoints to maintain a direct relationship.
  • Continue to test. Use the information return that digital provides to fuel constant optimization.
  • Budget and plan by quarter, if you can. If not, create a process that is change friendly. You can’t predict or plan too far ahead if the short to mid term horizon is shifting.
  • Make sure your brand stays relevant. Even the smartest marketing plan won’t overcome a poorly conceived offering or product. Keep in touch with consumers via research and influencer or advocate relationships to understand your brand’s current place in their (also) shifting lives. Checking in frequently will provide you with an early warning system for any dissatisfaction or shift in interest.
  • Use all your levers. You have more variables to test and change then just where to advertise or how to advertise. Think about sales distribution channels, pricing, product bundling, product variations like packaging, size, flavors, colors, etc…
  • Use each environment for one or several particular purposes creating a portfolio approach that covers all your needs. Measure each according to the particular objectives and the whole of your portfolio of marketing investments according to your overall goals.
  • Track competitor spending, messaging, activity and trends. See what they are testing and watch their progress. Social environments offer an open lab rich with insights.
  • Stay in touch with the broader world trends that are siphoning consumer attention. Choose your opportunities to either compete with world news and events or sit on the sidelines to avoid wasting money or connecting the brand to unrelated or unwelcome events.
  • Look for efficient media forms. Being able to choose CPA or bid pricing models gives you some certainty that will help your budget. However, the media cost is a meaningless metric without the cost per conversion or other performance measures that tell you the true cost of your effort.
  • Don’t jump into long term media contracts without aggressive out clauses or performance guarantees. Things change too fast to make that a good bet. This is putting the premiums of sponsorships and other time-based visibility options in question.
  • Look for opportunities to test out new stuff and stay ahead of changes that will impact your business. Dedicate resources or create a lab environment that rewards internal innovation.
  • Find great partners. With so much to know and keep up with it is helpful to have talents outside of your own team’s expertise. Great partners will help educate you and your team and extend your value.

Testing: Sometimes, the Little Things Count

We’re always seeking new approaches to achieve breakthrough results in direct response marketing, and sometimes we get a big win with a bold new concept. But while you’re on the quest for a big idea, don’t overlook the little things. Slight changes, particularly in your call to action or offer structure, can result in incremental improvements and even significant lifts in response. And in the online world, these tests are easy to execute and results can be read quickly.

testing in marketing
“A/B testing,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Howard Lake

We’re always seeking new approaches to achieve breakthrough results in direct response marketing, and sometimes we get a big win with a bold new concept. But while you’re on the quest for a big idea, don’t overlook the little things. Slight changes, particularly in your call to action or offer structure, can result in incremental improvements and even significant lifts in response. And in the online world, these tests are easy to execute and results can be read quickly.

Recently, I moderated a panel for the Philly DMA. Panelists Caleb Freeman of Calcium USA, Kate Gomulka of MayoSeitz Media, Julie Herbster of Quattro Direct, and Arly Iampietro of Nutrisystem all shared tips on optimizing online marketing.

Some of the insights Iampietro conveyed illustrate how little things can result in significant wins. She’s responsible for optimizing the website user experience at Nutrisystem. So Iampietro showed us how minor changes to the copy on the call-to-action button, like using a caret (>) next to the button text, made a big difference in guiding customers through the conversion process. Also, for a high-commitment product like a diet program, things that suggested a commitment by the visitor before the person was ready to commit depress response.

For example, early on in the user experience:

  • “Continue >” stimulates more clicks than “Order now >”
  • “View plan >” outperforms “Get started >”

Other easy tests include changing up the imagery on the site. For example, men converted better when shown pictures of men with women rather than with other men.

Offer structure is highly important and easy to test. In his book “Predictably Irrational,” psychologist Dan Ariely relates a classic example of how a simple change in the offer structure made a difference for The Economist magazine. He presented a group of 100 MBA students with the following offers:

  • Internet-Only Subscription                    $59
  • Print-Only Subscription                        $125
  • Print and Internet Subscription          $125

The results — 84 selected the combo offer vs. 16 selecting Internet only. With the “Print Only” decoy offer removed, only 32 selected the combo offer. I repeated this experiment with a group of 30 undergrad students, presenting the scenario without the decoy offer first. None of them chose the print and Internet option. With the decoy offer inserted, about half went for the combo offer — and these were budget-conscious undergrads who don’t consume print as a rule!

Easy-to-execute tests that bring big results are not limited to online marketing. In my agency days, we had a B2B client who was sending millions of mailers out each season. We tested multiple creative executions against a very recalcitrant control every year, without a significant win. Then we decided to buck traditional direct wisdom that mailing to an actual name would outperform a non-personal address. What we found was that addressing mail to the functional title of the decision-maker outperformed our mailings to specific names, some of which may no longer have been at the company. So don’t be afraid to test against your long-held assumptions, so long as you do it in a limited way.
The takeaway? A big win doesn’t always come from a big change.

What little things have you done that have generated big wins?

Content Testing Before Going ‘All-In’

So you’re thinking about leveraging content? Before you write your eBook or webinar slides, you’ll want to try and make sure your topic will actually resonate with your target audience.

So you’re thinking about leveraging content? Before you write your eBook or webinar slides, you’ll want to try and make sure your topic will actually resonate with your target audience.

Whether you’re content magnet is free or paid, or eBook or webinar, it’s important to test the waters before jumping in with both feet.

One of the biggest challenges I hear from clients is determining which “theme” they should choose for an eBook or webinar before investing all of the time, resources and expenses that are involved with writing, production and marketing.

Sometimes, more often than not, just because you think a topic is interesting doesn’t mean it’s something the marketplace will buy into.

Consumers are very savvy these days. There’s so much free content out there, that if you’re asking for their email address (or even more, their credit card) to download an eBook or sign up for a webinar, it better be something mind-blowing … a new perspective … something that gives them that “a-ha” moment.

Clients often feel they have their fingers on the pulse of the market. And maybe they do. But it’s the marketer who needs to help drive the content machine and do some due diligence first before going all-in.

Working in online and print publishing for the last 15-plus years, I have some proven tips and best practices to help you determine the validity of content (i.e., Topic or theme) for your next eBook or webinar.

Of course, there’s no crystal ball to help you see how something will ultimately perform with so many variables that can influence conversions, such as brand recognition, ad copy, creative design of landing page, price point, etc. Ultimately, the market will let you know if it’s interested in your topic or not. But your overall efforts can be a little easier, with some solid pre-requisites …

Surveillance

Look at what you’re competitors are putting out there with eBooks and webinars. You can do some simple competitive analysis to see the types of content topics they’re focusing on. Go to their website. What free reports are they using for organic traffic? Also, check out sites like ispionage.com. This site lets you type in a website URL so you can see competitor’s paid and organic keywords, landing pages, PPC spends and more. The free version is limited. To see full data, you have to subscribe. But this can give you some good ideas.

Getting Social

Sites like Social Mention let you search for keywords, show you how often they’re being used and where they are among the top social media platforms. This is as close as you can get to being a fly on the wall.

Keyword Research

Think of your topics in terms of keyword strings of what your target audience would likely search for. Use a keyword search platform, like Google’s keyword planner or Wordtracker. Look for keyword and potential topics that are not too popular (as the market is likely saturated with that content) but also not under-searched … the sweet spot.

Trends

Sites like Trends.google.com give you a general view of what’s trending on the Web. You can search by topic and see what people are interested in.

Purchase Behavior

Sites like Clickbank.com and Amazon.com (Kindle eBooks) will show you best-selling digital content. Clickbanks is a marketplace specifically for eBooks. You can search by topic, then sort by popularity and other criteria. The more popular eBooks can be a gauge of hot topics. Kindle eBooks can be searched and sorted by topics and you can see the best-selling topics in various categories from health, self-help and more.

Testing

Before going all-out with a 25-page eBook or a 30-minute webinar, test the concept with a 1-pager, quick and dirty digital download. Create a strong PPC text ad or Facebook ad and see what the initial clicks and conversions are. This is a great way to really see how the general marketplace will react to your topic and if it’s got legs. Carve out a small test budget (anywhere from $65 to $250, depending on your marketing medium) and let the ad run for one to two weeks. Keep it simple and remember this is just a test.

Experience

Some things you just see over and over again, so you have a good inkling of what gets your target audience excited. Generally speaking, there are a few things I’ve noticed that will, nine out of 10 times, get people to convert. Topics that:

  • Tie into a current event or are time sensitive
  • Are controversial or a contrarian viewpoint (a “hot button” issue)
  • Tap into an emotion (fear, greed, vanity, exclusivity)
  • Solve a problem
  • Save you time or money
  • Help you be healthier, wealthier or wiser in some way
  • Reveal something
  • A forecast or prediction (this works well in financial newsletter publishing, i.e. Top Stocks of 2018)
  • Are sensational or “forbidden” (this tactic is not for the faint of heart)
  • Include “Top” lists (such as, “Top 10 Ways to Combat Cancer”)
  • Combine two of the above

Remember, the core of direct response marketing is testing.

So view your content testing with an open mind and let the market help dictate your next move.

Being calculated and strategic will help you either hit a home run or, even if your test bombs, save you time and money in the long run.

Third-Party Data: A Quest for Quality

As marketing depends increasingly on data, a data quality regimen is an absolute necessity. While that’s been known to most “traditional” direct and database marketers for decades, I sometimes think the world of digital data is dragging along kicking and screaming.

Data mining
“Big_Data_Prob,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by KamiPhuc

As marketing depends increasingly on data, a data quality regimen is an absolute necessity.

While that’s been known to most “traditional” direct and database marketers for decades, I sometimes think the world of digital data is dragging along kicking and screaming. Quality data is a quest, and seeking it out requires a discipline to test sources before appending and using the data.

The only mistake is not to test.

Coming from Data & Marketing Association’s &Then17, where a panel of brand chiefs were discussing perspectives on using first-, second- and third-party data in marketing, it seemed clear to me that the C-suite — to the extent that it is aware at all — appears to lack confidence in most third-party data sources, and how they could or should be deployed. Obviously the variety, volume and velocity of data can be overwhelming — particularly as digital, social and mobile channels churn a constant flow of data to evaluate and onboard – but the need to append and enhance first-party data with observed third-party data is absolutely the right way to go. Once an enterprise is ready to do so.

Still, third-party data has a confidence hurdle to overcome. But overcome we must.

If brands rely on first-party data alone, or second-party data from select marketing partners, and ignore third-party data sources, then advertisers are potentially shutting themselves off from cross-device customer identity recognition and resolution, better marketing attribution models, more refined lookalike, persona and acquisition models, customer journey mapping, omni-channel consumer discovery — and even a more complete customer view.

With all this on the line, it’s obvious (to me) that there must be executive buy-in to investigate and build-in third-party data. And integrating such data with first- and second-party sources. (Of course, first- and second-party data may have data quality issues, too.)

But let’s be clear — such a must is not just a grab-and-go data play. Maybe some brands have been burned on third-party data use. Hence, third-party data suppliers have a must of their own: either prove your quality now, or change your business processes so you can.

“If 2017 is the year of data, 2018 will be the year of data quality,” said Maureen Noonan, sales executive in the retail channel, LiveRamp, last week at the company’s Ramp Up on the Road event in Philadelphia.

On a Direct Marketing Club of New York Webinar two days later, Michelle Said, senior manager, New Marketing Institute at MediaMath, spoke of the TLC MediaMath goes through in evaluating third-party data sources and onboarding. Indeed, much of the Q&A on that webinar honed in on evaluating digital data prior to deployment. She said Data Management Platforms (DMPs) — where data are integrated — and Demand Supply Platforms (DSPs) — where audiences (media) are purchased — might best be merged to increase customer data match rates and improve data quality.

Unfortunately, there’s no industry report card on third-party data sources, nor one of the handful of onboarding players. Thus, it is imperative digital data users must adopt a discipline to test before the buy. If you’re not making time to test, then you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to garbage-in, garbage-out. Right now, the pursuit of quality is driving the data marketplace.

Why Direct Mail Control Packages Fatigue

Almost every direct mail control package will fatigue at some point. The question is simply this: why? Today, I offer my insight and perspective about why winning packages slowly fatigue, and how you can get ahead of the inevitable downward curve.

Almost every direct mail control package will fatigue at some point. The question is simply this: why? Today, I offer my insight and perspective about why winning packages slowly fatigue, and how you can get ahead of the inevitable downward curve.

To understand why a direct mail control — that package you’ve invested time and money that’s now tested and wins above all others — fatigues, it’s first helpful to understand why it worked in the first place. There are a number of reasons, but there are a couple that rise above others:

  • Using the right list, you nailed the emotional hot button of why prospects respond in mass, together at this season in their lives.
  • Using the right offer, you identified the unique selling proposition that sells at this season in their lives.

Key words in the bullets above are, I believe, “at this season in their lives.” Why? Because often, as marketers we’re not always sure the buyer’s mind frame, worldview, or where they are in the season in their lives.

You’ve surely heard the cliché marketers use that says how it’s important to meet buyers where they are. Cliché or not, it’s true.

Your prospect’s state of awareness of their problem, and your solution, along with where you meet them with your copy and offer, dictates your success.

In other words, people are at some point on a continuum of knowledge about their problem and solution. Imagine a scale of 1 to 7 where a 1 represents that your prospect is completely unaware of any aspect of your product or service. Conversely, a 7 means your prospect is completely aware.

To create a winning message — whether direct mail and any other channel — your headline and lead should match the awareness on the 1 to 7 scale to be effective.

If your prospect is, say, at a 2, but your copy is at a 5, you’ll lose them because the prospect didn’t understand what you were trying to sell.

After testing various messaging approaches in your copy to “meet your prospect where they are,” let’s say you finally hit a winner: most of your prospects on the 1 to 7 scale have an awareness of 4, and your sales message aligns with that spot. You’re achieving your objectives. Time to roll out!

So you do, mailing over and over the same direct mail package, or using this message in digital channels. But in time, your prospect has seen your promotion … or they’ve caught a story on social media or TV on the topic … or they’ve read something somewhere that makes them a bit more educated and moves them up the knowledge scale.

In today’s lightning fast news cycle, in a short time — perhaps a few months — but maybe only days or hours — your market’s awareness has risen from, say, 2 to 4, or maybe even quickly from a 2 to a 7. But if you haven’t been testing different copy and creative in anticipation of this increase in awareness, you risk your message no longer being aligned with your market. If you don’t stay on top of this changing awareness and understanding, your direct mail control package or messaging in other channels fatigues, and you’ll wonder why.

In a future blog post I’ll dive into various degrees of awareness, and how you can better determine where your customers are, and where you should be. But in the meantime, here’s what you should be doing:

  1. Assess your prospect’s awareness of the problem your product or service solves.
  2. Write several different headlines and leads, with each aligning at a different level on an awareness scale.
  3. Start testing them against one another to find the sweet spot — in this moment.

Remember: if your successful headline today is a 2, you need to be testing at levels 3, 4 and higher. If you do that and find that a test is “over the heads” of your market today, tuck it away in the wings and consider testing it again when the time is right.

If you don’t identify your future “sweet spot” today, then someday, when you least expect it, your prospects will have moved higher up their awareness scale, and you’ll be resting on your laurels, thinking you’re spending money on a direct mail control winner that’s gradually slipping away.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

The 10 Most Effective Tips for Customer Reactivation

Are you looking for the best ways to reactivate dormant customers and reduce churn? Here’s a roundup of the 10 most effective practices today, in both business and consumer markets. Consider which of these may be the most applicable to your business, your customers and your objectives.

Are you looking for the best ways to reactivate dormant customers and reduce churn? Here’s a roundup of the 10 most effective practices today, in both business and consumer markets. Consider which of these may be the most applicable to your business, your customers and your objectives. And don’t forget to set aside some budget for ongoing retention and reactivation marketing. It’s the best money you can spend.

1. Move Quickly

The longer a customer is inactive, the more likely an eventual defection. Early action is arguably the single most effective technique in reactivation marketing. But, you can take this principal a step further if you examine customer behavior patterns to predict inactivity before it even starts. For example, if purchase frequency slows, or order size shrinks, inactivity is likely to follow. Analyze the characteristics of your purchase cycle.   Anomalies in a particular customer’s behavior may indicate a problem that, with early intervention, can be addressed.

2. Segment Your Dormant Customers, and Treat Them Differently

As marketers well know, different customers have different needs, and represent different levels of value to the firm. Applying segmentation is a key success factor in the reactivation effort, just as it is elsewhere in marketing.   Consider such segmentation variables as:

  • Original acquisition source media, like email, SEM, direct mail, display advertising, event, or telemarketing.
  • Channel usage. This can be communications channels like email or telephone. Or it can be purchase channel preferences, like retail store, tablet, mobile, or desktop computer.
  • Product usage.
  • Customer value, using indicators like RFM, cumulative margins, or intent signals.
  • Inactivity length, typically divided by months or years, depending on the purchase cycle in your business.

3. Deepen Your Understanding of the Dormant Customer

There are a number of approaches you can take, among them:

  1. Analyze behavioral patterns, looking for insights. For example, you may notice that an unusually large order is followed by a period of inactivity, and hypothesize that the customer is not getting ready to leave—she just has all the product she needs for a while.
  2. Use data append to gather more information about the customer. Your database marketing partner can add data points to your customer record that will suggest effective reactivation strategies. Demographic, lifestyle and attitudinal data are especially revealing.
  3. Consider some research, using an outbound telephone call, or a focus group, to gain additional insights into the reasons for the inactivity.

4. Communicate Through Different Channels

Thanks to marketing automation, email communications have become very easy to deploy, and there’s no question that email is effective for current customer communications. But relying entirely on email may annoy lapsed customers, not to mention leave you exposed to possible spam traps. So don’t forget the other options available—telephone, postal mail, mobile, retargeted display advertising, social media, your website — and add them to the mix to broaden your reach and keep your customers interested in your messaging. If your customer records are incomplete, ask your database marketing partner to append additional elements to allow communications through these other channels.

5. Use Proven Offers

Once you’ve determined that the inactivity is not a customer service problem, then the essential tool for reactivation is a motivational offer. Discounts are widely used by marketers today—because they work. But consider additional offers that have proven to be effective in reactivation marketing, such as:

Right-Size Your Content Marketing

Goldilocks knew what she was talking about: There’s too big, too small and just right. Here’s how to right-size your content marketing to make your efforts as effective as possible.

Make sure the value of your content marketing outweighs the effort to produce it.
Make sure the value of your content marketing outweighs the effort to produce it.

Goldilocks knew what she was talking about: There’s too big, too small and just right. Here’s how to right-size your content marketing to make your efforts as effective as possible.

Knowing When Enough Is Enough

I’ve often told the story of a colleague — a copywriter — who, years ago, had been sending out a quarterly email newsletter. This newsletter was incredibly productive for the copywriter, producing new business from old clients as well converting new prospects. Every time it landed in people’s inboxes, the inquiries flowed.

“Brilliant!” the copywriter thought. “I should send this monthly instead of quarterly.”

And, smart as you are, you know what happens next: crickets. The email newsletter’s effectiveness dropped precipitously, with new business now just trickling in.

Clearly, the copywriter’s clients and prospects didn’t really want or need to hear from her more often than they were. Of course, more may have been at play than just the change in frequency. We live in the very real, very chaotic world, so other factors may have contributed to the drop in effectiveness.

Testing Tells the Tale

She had no way of knowing this until she tried to improve on her already impressive results. And even though that test didn’t work out very well, testing is the first rule for finding the right size and shape for your content marketing efforts.

Even at the risk of negatively affecting your results, you have to experiment constantly and in as controlled a fashion as possible. Setting it and forgetting it isn’t likely to yield the dramatic drop-off our friend the copywriter saw. More likely, your marketing will slowly wither.

Data-Driven Decision Making

To avoid that, we need to pay attention to metrics and analytics. The copywriter realized her email was generating business; wondering how she could make it generate more is absolutely the right implies. I would encourage a bit more rigor and discipline in metrics gathering and evaluation, but encourage you to seek ongoing, incremental improvements.

That only happens when you are willing to be active in your risk-taking rather than passive. Because you’re mistaking if you think that choosing to stay the course isn’t a risk of its own.