Opinionated Marketers: Stop Talking to Your Customers

Vario Creative can set up effective email marketing campaigns for small businessJohn Whiteside has a great post up where posits that as marketers, we need to be sure the means of communication is appropriate to the message.

He notes that he was contacted on his  phone by his auto dealer to remind him his car was due for service, and also by his insurance company just as a thank you for being their customer.  His point:

That’s not a bad reason to contact a customer, but it’s a horrible reason to call them on the phone. Especially in an age where more and more people (including me) use mobile phones as their primary phones.

I can’t agree more.  We need to keep in mind that the Hypocratic Oath has applicability to marketing.  “First, do no harm” ought to be our mantra.  The potential for truly annoying a customer with a phone call is extremely high.  Call them when it’s important – perhaps “I just noticed your insurance policy will run out next week,” or “Your car’s computer emailed me, it says it’s about to throw a Johnson Rod – get over here ASAP.”

I too am one of those people that basically uses his cell for everything.  My desk phone has a message on it to tell you to call me on my cell, even though it’s often sitting three feet from my corporeal presence.  If I get a call on the home phone, the chance is 95% that it’s someone I don’t want to talk to, probably a telemarketer, no one who knows me would ever waste their time calling that line.

I had a rude awakening last week.  One of my product managers has been sending a monthly newsletter, and I had thought the list was targetted at only her products clients.  It turns out she’s been sending to a much broader list of our customers, most of whom no longer use her product.  My problem is that for every mailing, there are a handful of unsubscribes.  While those potential customers may have no interest in her product, their potential customers for so many other things we sell.  But, unfortunately due to the way I handle unsubscribes, they’re all the same to me.  Once you tell me “No More” that’s exactly what you get.  You’re dead to me.

From time to time, we talk about putting the email marketing chores in the hands of the product managers, or perhaps an administrative assistant (not that there are many of them walking around anymore).  I’ll admit it, I’d love to give up that task, but the truth is, there’s no way I’d ever consider handing direct access to our customer email lists to someone who doesn’t have a firm grasp of marketing.  One or two screw ups, and we’ll never be able to email anyone again.  That’s just one of the things that truly scares me as a marketer.  Every time I hit the send button I fear the switchboard will light up with complaints, and I’ll say that if you’re not worried about that, then you don’t have enough respect for your ability to shoot your company in the foot…or worse.

Obviously, not everyone feels that way.  I routinely will get 3 or 4 versions of the same email newsletter from any one of a number of companies I might have talked to 5 or 6 years ago.  I’ve never responded to them, and I’ve never followed the call to action to go to their site.  Yet 5 years later, I still get their email newsletter.

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