Customer Intimacy: A Lesson In Worst Practices

With all of the talk about social media, transparency, content relevance, and user-generated content, we most certainly have a grand vision in front of us. As marketers, we want to evolve with our customers, moving from a mindset of pushing our content out to large audiences to a mindset of collaboration and engagement.

What we truly want is the next iteration of Customer Intimacy, a term that originated over a decade ago, yet still applies well in today’s environment. The pinnacle of marketing and product success is to become not only a vendor, but a trusted partner. This can be delivered in a number of ways, from custom product delivery, to special support terms, to well-structured, data-driven marketing efforts that suggest the company truly cares about the customer.

To establish customer intimacy, we need to move past economies of scale and one-size-fits-all thinking. The qualities that matter most are flexibility, responsiveness, and engagement (sounds like social networking, doesn’t it?). And most of all, if you say you know me, you darn well better know me. Even if that’s just a mirage served up by advanced database marketing techniques.

Customer Intimacy: How to Do It Wrong

Earlier this week, I was sorting through a stack of junk mail when I came across an envelope from Domino’s Pizza. Even when sorting through junk, I take a moment to look at each piece for two reasons:

  1. To see if there are any deals of interest
  2. To review for any marketing takeaways or lessons I should take note of

Since I tend to eat more healthy, all-natural foods, I was not interested in whatever special coupon or deal the mailer included, but it caught my attention from a marketing perspective. Here is the mailer in question:

We Miss You Domino's Mailer

Okay, good start. I have in fact purchased Domino’s Pizza in the past. It’s just good database marketing to look at your customers to determine activity/inactivity over time, seasonal patterns, and other trends. It has been quite a while since we’ve ordered from them, so I naturally assumed they did their job and send a re-engagement plea.

Then I looked at how the envelope was addressed. See for yourself…

Addressed to Postal Customer

That’s right, they don’t even know my name (which I had to give to them when they took each and every order I’ve ever placed with them)! Even worse, I went ahead and opened the envelope to see if there were any other interesting gaffs, only to find a letter addressed to “Dear Domino’s Pizza Customer”.  Of course, they did explain that they noticed no activity on my part in 2011, but by the time I read that part, it was too late.

Small Errors, Big Impact

As you might guess, this mailer had exactly the opposite effect on me than they wanted. Should I get a craving for pizza, they’d be at the bottom of my wish list based on this campaign.

The lesson here is important – if you don’t have the data or the discipline to collect it, then don’t try to pretend you “know” me. Just send a generic message without all the hints that you did some analysis in it. If you can’t or won’t do it right, you simply can’t fake it. Not only will today’s consumers turn on you, but they could easily amplify their complaints online, perhaps via a blog or other outlet. Oh wait, that’s what I just did…

Got Any Examples Of Your Own?

I’d love to see any other amusing or simply awkward attempts at personalization and customer intimacy. If you have something good, share with us in the comments below!

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