Online marketing or stalking?

Stalking is bad. It is scary, spooky and downright illegal – why is it then that some of our online colleagues in Australia resort to it as a viable marketing strategy? Sadly, it may be because they don’t realise they are doing it or they are too lazy to do their marketing properly. We should all band together and help stamp it out because it is hurting the industry and giving online marketing a bad name.

Of course I am not talking about the nefarious forms of cyberstalking but rather those companies who get a list of names and email addresses and constantly bombard them with useless and irrelevant email offers, playing the numbers game that an open rate of 1% and clickthrough rate of a few percent might work for them.   

If someone walks into your bricks and mortar store, you would welcome them and offer assistance, once. If you followed them around making suggestions and offering unwanted products or services, they would quickly turn tail and leave the store, and then two things would happen:

  1. They probably never come back into your stores, and
  2. They tell other people about their bad experience.

The same thing happens online. If you bombard people with junk email, they soon stop opening it and get a negative feel for your brand, which they will share with others.

The trap many marketers fall into is that they think just because a customer has registered or bought something or joined a club program that they have given you the right to blast them with irrelevant messages each week or month. In truth opt in helps you steer clear of anti-spam legislation but it does not diminish your responsibility as a professional marketer.

It is important to remember that marketing is about matching buyers and sellers – not about sellers throwing stuff at enough potential buyers that some will be silly enough to convert. The matching means understanding who the customer is and the trick is working out what they need and when they need it. In the online world there is plenty of available information to help a marketer know more and more about the customer – there really is a person behind that click. Smart companies are using technology to help build a profile of website visitors and their habits over time that can be used to make relevant offers to the right prospects at the right time.

Please can we start to move to professional online marketing now and avoid the pitfalls that beset the call centre industry when they went down this same path 10 years ago? Outbound telemarketing was based on the same numeric principles that some of our colleagues are using with their broad brush email stalking “campaigns” (loose usage: a campaign would generally expect to have some proper thought and strategy behind it). That is, send out or call enough and play the numbers game. The outbound telemarketing industry was eventually pulled into line. The same thing will happen with email marketing if we let the lazy marketers kill the communication channel for the rest of us.

Are marketers still afraid of the web? Part one of our interview with Joseph Jaffe

Part one: Are marketers still afraid of the web?

Part two: Are marketers still afraid of the web?

After his successful session at the 2009 ADMA Forum, Joseph Jaffe (president and chief interruptor of crayon) squeezed in a chat with to give us his thoughts on the event, his interpretation of brand commitment and why marketers are not utilising the web as well as they could be.

How is the ADMA Forum coming along?

It’s amazing to me to see there’s a real strong focus on the consumer and the customer, more so than you would expect at a direct marketing conference. We’ve got new media and youve got social media, but also some other interesting areas – for example Steven Noble from Forrester Research talking about loyalty and customer experience, which is a big key area that I’m focused on right now.

I was following your session on Twitter and something that you spoke about was the commitment to the consumer. Is it something you think is being followed through by marketers?

Not really. I was talking to somebody earlier who was saying that fundamentally one of the big problems here is that companies don’t trust their employees. I don’t think they trust their consumers either, or if they do, they don’t show it and they don’t act that way.

We want our consumers to trust us, trust the brand and trust the people behind the brand – trust the company. But the reality is there’s a distrust and the statistics are getting worse. You can juxtapose that with the reality – who do consumers trust? The answer is they trust each other.

In fact, Piaras at Edelman has what they call their global trust barometer (I think they call it the Annual Trust Barometer). NGOs aside, when it comes to government and corporations, etc. the trust levels are dropping radically. Where they’re increasing or where they’re going are to average, ordinary people like you and me. Getting the advice or the recommendations of our spouses, our friends, our colleagues, our co-workers is nothing new. What is new is that right now we’re getting the same advice – in fact we’re getting, from the quality and the quantity standpoint, better advice from this global village.

That’s where you put Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google; you put all of these different variables into context. That’s really what’s happening right now. It is a type of natural selection in a way, or it is a self-selected system that is flat, that is transparent, that is a level playing field in a sense. It’s really governed by the currency of trust.

So to go back to your question, this commitment to our consumers is either superficial or it’s lip service and/or it’s just very short lived – in other words, it’s very campaign like.

Do you think this is something that has developed over a long period or is a sudden occurrence?

My feeling is that we saw this with the boom and bust – because there isn’t that real cultural commitment to change, conversation and innovation, and a whole variety of different levels, it becomes ‘toe dipping’; marketers will dip their toes in the water, it will feel too cold and they’ll run away yelping. Or they’ll go in at a fairly superficial level and, the minute something goes wrong or doesn’t go completely right, they’ll do an about face and run away.

It’s this idea of getting burnt, and maybe it’s still the remnants of the bust. The fact is when there isn’t that cultural and deep-seated commitment to follow through, or a long-term focus, what generally happens is these investments become nothing more than just little tactical silos and one-offs – they’re almost set up and built to fail, as opposed to being built to last.

In part two of our chat with Joseph Jaffe, he continues his thoughts on web marketing and the role social media can play in marketing.

Acquiring new customers through telecommunication

Most of the sales staff I have worked with could use the telephone more effectively. I guarantee you there are hundreds of prospects in your territory who may never have heard from you and could quite easily have a need for your product or service. Alternatively they may have heard from you or your company a long time ago and it’s time for a follow-up call. Here are a few simple tips:

1. Have the purpose of your call perfectly clear in your mind
In B2B selling most of the time the call is used to qualify if there would be some value in you either meeting with the prospect or alternatively sending something through to them. Do some homework prior to the call. Has anyone else in the company spoken to this prospect before? Check your CRM. Maybe a quick website visit or a look at the Fin Review. Don’t procrastinate though.

2. Know what you will say when the gatekeeper or prospect answers
Your first 10 words are normally more important than the next 100. Try and listen closely to the gatekeeper’s name and use it during the call.

3. Listen closely to the way the customer speaks
Notice their pace, their choice of words, their tonality. Get into rhythm with them as quickly as you can. We tend to like people who are like us.

4. Acknowledge the fact that they are not sitting there waiting for your call Chances are they have other priorities. I like to start with the following: “Hi Mark, I’m sure you’re fairly busy, so I’ll be brief…” If they are not there, don’t leave a message. Listen closely to their voicemail.

5. Be prepared to set a time to make a follow-up call
Ask the prospect if it would be easier if you called them back at a more suitable time. You might confirm the call-back time via email.

6. Always check you are speaking to the right person
This can be a challenge. A big trap for new players is spending far too much time speaking to the wrong people. The best way to find out if you are speaking to the right person is to ask them. For example, “Are you the person responsible for client entertainment?” They may lie to you, but it is important that you ask. If they are not the right person, ask them whom they would suggest you should speak to.

7. Start by clarifying the reason for your call.
For example, “The reason for my call today is to find out if you are interested in some creative ways of strengthening your key customer relationships?”

8. Get permission to ask a few brief questions
For example, “Is it OK if I ask you a few quick questions? How would you go about making a decision like this? Would there be a number of people involved? Do you have an existing relationship with another company? Would you consider other options? How often do you need to…?”

9. Listen to everything they say
This maybe the most important point. Try and take a few notes when they are talking. Give them back a mini summary of what they told you – “So, what you’re saying is you do attend some events from time to time, but it’s rather just on the spur of the moment.”

10. Always try and end the call with an agreed action
Either a qualified meeting, agreement to send them something they would value or confirmation on a suitable time to call them back. I recommend a short email following the call confirming the agreements made.

11. In general keep the calls relatively brief
You are qualifying. Don’t waste their time. Use their website to gather more data if need be after the call. I prefer shorter, sharper initial calls for most prospects.

12. Make lots of calls
You’ve probably heard it many times before – it’s a numbers game. Get on a roll. Block the time out in your diary to make the calls and go hard. Stand up, smile and enjoy it. Track all the outcomes, update your data and make your call-backs.

I cannot understand why more salespeople don’t have their customers’ telephone numbers in their mobiles or blackberries. Don’t miss an opportunity to call a customer because the customer’s number wasn’t in your phone. Keep updating your phone with your contacts. You won’t regret it. Try and make more calls than anyone else in the company. Have the highest mobile bill for three months in a row, based on customer calls, and I’m confident you will be selling more than the other reps (all things being equal). Now, go on, hit the phones. Those prospects aren’t about to call you now, are they?