Reason For Optimism #1: E-Mail Is Free
- Contrary to what the experts say, e-mail is, for all intents and purposes, free. And that's a big deal. E-mail is a craft that is fundamentally broken, built on the hopes of free shipping and 20% off of your order, built on the myth that great subject line content equals customer engagement. Almost nobody I speak with does any type of segmentation or personalization or customization. Free money is laying all over the floor, folks, just go pick it up!
- Contrary to what the experts say, social media is, for all intents and purposes, free. And that means that there is an endless world of experimentation here. Unfortunately, few people are doing any real experimentation. It's really easy to tweet the following message ... "dresses on sale, 20% off, they're cool on a 100 degree summer day". Be honest, nobody cares, and the 10% of your file that does care only care about you when you give them a promotion. You want a full price, loyal customer, right? This is a fertile place for experimentation. Try something new, different, innovative, it is free!
- We'll look at marketing in 2020 and we'll be floored by all of the ways that mobile changed things. Here's a hint: We create the future. Test, test, test, test, test. Try things. An Executive told me this spring that ... "It is too expensive to be on the bleeding edge and to fail, it's better to sit back and wait to see how the marketplace shakes out, then, you join in." Alright. It's not like you have to spend $2.4 million dollars a month on bleeding edge stuff, just try something, learn, and adapt!
- Notice how their growth stalled? I was wrong. It turns out that there aren't 200,000,000 people sitting around waiting to beat catalogers over the head with a 500 page mailer. Let 1.4 million people opt-out, use your website and marketing tools to attempt to have a relationship with the 299,000,000 folks who are left. Just because some folks express displeasure in a loud manner doesn't mean that there are a lot of folks who feel the same way.
- Search is almost universally under-leveraged. The fusion of social/mobile/search will yield infinite ways for the customer to pull you into their world. And it turns out that, in today's world, for many of us, search is an important leg in the offline/online/offline conversion process. See, many folks still watch television or listen to the radio or read newspapers ... and then they go to Google to do research before placing an offline purchase. Search plays an important role in this offline/online/offline conversion process.
- Sure, I poo-poo the evanescent "big green button above the fold vs. small blue button below the fold" testing that folks like to do. That being said, every one of us multichannel folk are leaving a 10% sales increase on the floor by not doing the hard work necessary to make sure our websites matter to the customer/prospect. Assign a team of folks to dive into website analytics and fix the darn thing. And here's another hint: Website conversion is more important than 'branding'.
- This is great news! Stick it to those who try to trap you in the past by encouraging you to market to customers using old-school techniques that are becoming more expensive and less responsive. Work your butt off to figure out how to be relevant through other marketing programs, print ads, online marketing, television, local radio, innovate, try something new. Stop being a victim! And if you want the USPS to see what the future looks like when you keep raising prices, ask them to look no further than the music industry ... a $30 concert ticket became a $60 concert ticket and then a $90 ticket and then a $150 ticket and then nobody bought tickets and now concerts are being canceled right and left because of poor attendance.
- I've said it a million times ... in 90% of my projects, contact with a human being increases customer lifetime value. Instead of paying a co-op six cents for the right to force paper into the mailbox of a customer who has never purchased from you, why not earn the right to call your customer and ask what you can do to make life easier for your customer?
- Back in the early 1990s, it was common for a company hiring a garden-variety manager or director to make mortgage payments or even to outright purchase the home of a new employee, as a perk to get the employee to work at a new company. Imagine if you did that today, imagine if you made it clear that you cared so much about talent that you were willing to get talented people out of a housing mess? You think you couldn't find talent that way? There are countless talented people who are trapped in dead-end jobs that they can't escape due to their housing situation. This is a rare time in history to pluck talent from the competition by making a life transition easier. Oh, I know, I can hear the complaints now, the HR folks saying that this isn't fair to existing employees or that it is just too expensive. Fine. Stick to your current process, and keep lamenting the fact that you can't find talent.
- The secret, of course, is to filter out the fanboy feedback and focus on what the average customer is saying. And when the average customer isn't saying anything, there's a problem, because what you're doing is so irrelevant to the average customer that there is nothing to talk about. But there's gold in the comments from average customers. On Twitter, I don't get too excited when the Twitterati re-tweet something I say, but I do pay really close attention to anything that the average follower re-tweets ... that's when you are making a difference (good or bad). It's free feedback, you don't need to conduct a focus group in order to obtain intelligence. So mine this stuff, folks!
- If you are an old-school cataloger, there has never been a better time to try small page counts with targeted merchandise to various segments of your housefile. Get past the efficiencies that the printers and post office provide to keep you focused on big page counts. Run the tests yourself, you, too, may find that you can get 88% of the demand on 27% of the pages.
- Take the implosion of the economy and a shredded 401k statement and loss of jobs and a 40% drop in home value and you have customers who have real, significant needs. Why not try to solve problems instead of offering discounts and promotions? Why not test same-day delivery of merchandise in a small town? If your warehouse is in Omaha, why not truck merchandise by van from Omaha to Lincoln, and use Lincoln as a test market to show what could happen if you fill a customer need within 6-12 hours? Imagine the stunned look on the face of the customer as the "Widgets America" van pulls up in front of the home at 6:25pm to deliver product that was ordered at 9:15am? Figure out a way to solve a need, and test a unique strategy to fill a need, then measure whether customer retention rates actually change. What do you think is going to be more effective, moving the medium-sized blue button above-the-fold, or stunning the customer with same-day delivery via the "Widgets America" van?
- Did you know that more hours of television are consumed today than at anytime in history? Sure, there are folks out there who are watching cats get stuck in cotton candy on YouTube, and yes, that tends to get all of the hype. Might the old-school advertising methods offer a way to get your message out to folks, given that the old-school medium still matters to just about everybody but the 1,294 pundits who make a living by promoting new technology?
- This may come to you as a surprise. Customers don't buy from you because you have an affiliate marketing program, or a brilliant online retargeting program, or because @gumby49 tweeted something about your brand. Customers buy from you because of the merchandise you sell. And in the past ten years, as technology became the focus, we lost our desire to sell merchandise. Now, we think that the standard phillips screwdriver will sell better if we just get the message out there on Facebook. Come on!! Merchandise is ultimately all that matters. Customers will create buzz about great products on social media. Social media can't do a thing with mediocre merchandise. Create something truly innovative or fashionable or something so needed by the customer that the customer can't possibly do anything but speak kindly of your merchandise. We've lost our way, we don't have a passion for merchandise. Honestly, take a look at the image below ... this is what was presented to me above the fold. Show me where the passion is? Show me that this merchant cares about this item. This merchant cares more about selling clicks via Google than they care about explaining to me why this item is better than the items I can find at any of 1,500 competitors. I'm telling you, there is more fertile ground to be found in having passion for merchandise than there is in social media and website optimization put together.
Reason For Optimism #15: Best Practices Are Just Waiting To Be Violated
- When I arrived at Eddie Bauer in 1995, the best practice for selecting names for catalog mailings was via RFM. You used recency, frequency, and monetary value to decide who to mail ... nobody even questioned the methodology. I implemented statistical models, and boom, another million in profit dropped to the bottom line. I recall employees who said "I thought this was just a one-time thing, you mean we're going to continue to do this?" Yes, we're going to continue to do this ... you see, a best practice had just been proven to not be a best practice. Instead of being one of the sheep, blindly following best practices off the cliff of relevance, why not innovate, or even better, why not just do something goofy, just to see what might happen? Anytime something is a best practice, it means that the best practice is ready to be challenged. Your job is to challenge the best practice, not to blindly follow it.
- If you are in the music industry, do you think it is fun to not be able to sell music via any semblance of tonnage anymore? Absolutely not. This is where the musician hits the road, and starts doing the hard work necessary to make a living. This is where we are in the multichannel marketing world. We were sold a lie. We were told that if we simply adhered to a multichannel marketing approach, everything would be fine. Well, nearly every pundit was wrong, weren't they? Our businesses are, by and large, less healthy today than a decade ago. In fact, many of us have sales declines of 10% to 30% over the past three years ... how did multichannel marketing work for you? Now is the time to do the hard work necessary to dig out from the rhetoric of the past decade.