August 13, 2008

Microchannels And Politics And E-Mail And Search

From Tamara via Ken Magill at Direct Magazine, a discussion about search now competing with e-mail for consumer attention. As expected, the article is sarcastic, defending a channel that is all-too-often used for a one-way conversation that benefits the marketer, not the customer.

Here's another one for you. In Washington, our primary is on August 19. Telemarketing is a micro-channel available to politicians. You might remember telemarketing, that's the channel that was hammered in a consumer revolt earlier this decade.

Well, non-profits and politicians are exempt from most of the tenants of do-not-call legislation. So five minutes ago, when the phone rings and the caller ID says "Toll Free Service", I know that my friend Ralph isn't calling me to go golfing.

I pick up the phone, and it is from "XXX YYYY", a candidate for a congressional seat. The message, of course, is automated. The candidate tells me how important this election is, and that the candidate REALLY NEEDS MY VOTE. Then, the automated message hangs up. Can you feel the warmth of the automated message?

Not surprisingly, this candidate also sent me direct mail postcards, and somehow obtained my e-mail address, sending me numerous e-mail messages asking for my vote --- seldom telling me how I benefit, always telling me how the candidate REALLY NEEDS MY VOTE.

And then earlier today, the good folks at Marketing Sherpa got in on the action --- sending me an e-mail message communicating that "We Want Your Help Moving Our Books" as they move to a new office. At least they gave the consumer some incentive, offering 30% off the merchandise they don't want to move to a new office.

We marketers are destroying micro-channels. Why do we think our customers love search?

We scorch the Earth in our quest to obtain what is best for us right now ... heck, I'm guilty of it from time to time. We need a vote on August 19, so we don't hesitate making an automated call telling somebody what we need from them. We don't want to move books or papers next month, so we send an e-mail campaign telling the customer that we'll discount merchandise that we forced dumber consumers to pay full price for earlier this month. We send a remail of a catalog to a customer because we don't want to incur the expense of new creative, we'd rather just send the same message again to the customer.

Every one of these practices erodes a relationship just a little bit.

In the future, we're going to have hundreds of micro-channels at our disposal. Consumers seem to be running as fast as they can from the micro-channels that napalm them. Marketers ruined catalog marketing and e-mail marketing and television advertising and radio advertising and newspaper advertising. So, the consumers went elsewhere, they went to places like MySpace. Then marketers found MySpace, so customers ran to blogs and Facebook The marketers found blogs and Facebook, so customers ran to Twitter. Then the marketers find Twitter, so the customers run to FriendFeed, and then Plurk, and it never ends. At least in search marketing, the marketers are roped off on the right hand side of the results page on Google, able to yell, but not able to interact.

Our challenge is to harness all of these micro-channels while somehow building good will with our customers. What are we giving the customer? Why should the customer spend any time with us?