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Author's profile photo John Burton

The Scary Truth About Marketing Campaigns: Why Email Blasts Are A Thing Of The Past, and What Smart Companies Are Doing to Drive Sales

/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/3617855124_38a2b7f293_211319.jpgEveryone hates spam. And I admit it; I’m part of the problem. No, I don’t  control a vast army of evil spam-bots who do my bidding, filling people’s email  inboxes with unsolicited email offers to save 50% on Viagra or Rolex Watches.  I’m just a tiny cog in the giant well-oiled machine called Email Marketing. But, as a business software insider who has co-written numerous  technical articles on topics like, “Expand the Content of Outbound Email  Campaigns” and “Your Mass Emails Can Also be Personal if You Use Marketing Attributes”, I  do feel somewhat responsible for the misguided usage of email marketing. And I’d  like to make amends.

Here’s the truth about even the most carefully crafted targeted email  marketing campaigns: they suck. Look, just because you once bought a product  from me, doesn’t mean you now want to receive weekly/daily/hourly email offers  from me. High-frequency communications, no matter how nicely formatted or  personalized, aren’t going to lure you into doing more business with me or  improve our “relationship”. If you get two unsolicited emails from me in the  same week, I’m pretty sure you’re going to click the Unsubscribe link at the  bottom of the email.

Smart companies are realizing that rather than bombarding customers with  spammy email offers, there are more effective ways of increasing repeat  purchases and gaining a greater customer wallet share. comes to mind  as a particularly good example – for a number of reasons.

Everyone is of course probably already familiar with Amazon’s intelligent  product recommendation tools, such as, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also  Bought” or “Inspired by Your Browsing History” suggestions which encourage  customers to buy additional items that they may have not previously considered  (or even been aware of). Suggesting relevant add-ons, accessories, related  products, or upsells at the time of purchase is far more effective than  sending an unsolicited follow-up email a month later.

Much has also been written about the great success of Amazon’s “Prime” membership program which offers customers  unlimited free shipping in exchange for a $79 a year membership fee. It’s not  actually the annual fees though that are padding Amazon’s bottom line. Rather,  the real success of the program is about modifying customer behavior. It has  been shown that customers with Amazon Prime make more frequent purchases and  spend 200% to 300% more than regular customers. Now that’s how you grow your  customers!

Another interesting thing that Amazon has rolled out to increase customer  purchase frequency is their “Subscribe and Save” program for selected products that  people tend to buy on a regular reoccurring basis such as vitamins and  supplements, health and personal care items, baby food, diapers, pet food and  pet supplies, and so on. When a customer selects one of the eligible items and  add it to their cart, Amazon then offers the customer a slightly lower price if  they sign up to receive shipments at regular intervals. The customer can choose  the frequency of the shipments, skip shipments when necessary, or even  unsubscribe at any time. It’s not about locking the customer into a contract (as  in the Telco industry), but rather it’s about converting one time shoppers into  regular repeat customers.

When I sat down to write this blog, I didn’t intend it to become a tribute to Although I have to give props where props are due. Amazon certainly does a  great job of encouraging customers to buy more products – and to buy more  frequently. And they do it without any spam.

I think all of us, regardless of our Industry and whether we are in  business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, can probably  think of ways we can apply similar strategies in our own organizations or in our  own lives. As an example, let’s talk about something near and dear to my heart  (or my feet as the case may be) – running shoes. My running buddies call  me a “shoe *****”, though they insist it is meant as a compliment.  I  probably own several dozen pairs of running shoes (that may become a future blog  post of its own) and I am constantly buying new ones as the old ones wear  out.

As you might suspect, I get inundated with emails from running shoe stores  and online sports retailers promoting their latest sales. Typically these emails  are completely generic, advertising various brands and models that I have never  bought and will likely never purchase. You see, I’m a bit specific about what  brands, models, sizes, and colors I wear. As someone who regularly purchases  Brooks Pure Grit men’s 10.5 in black, I’m not particularly interested in saving  40% off on fluorescent women’s Nike’s.

Similarly, if I just bought a new pair of racing flats last week, I’m  probably not already interested in buying another replacement pair already  this week. While I log a lot of miles, my shoes do generally last me  longer than a week. As a fairly regular runner, I typically replace my shoes  every 3 months based on the amount of mileage I run per week. Obviously a less  active runner might replace their shoes less frequently, perhaps every six  months. And this is a perfect case for a “subscribe and save” offer!

Clearly, companies could stand to gain a lot from moving away from generic,  albeit “targeted” and “personalized” email sales offers that address the  customer by name and utilize a relevant marketing attribute or two, but show no  real understanding of the customer’s needs or buying behavior – and instead  implement programs that let customers indicate which products they want, and at  what frequency they want to buy them.

This stuff isn’t science fiction. The technology is already here. Using tools  like SAP CRM and SAP Hana, you can make sense of big data on the fly to retrieve  – at the moment a customer adds a product to their cart on the web site – what  other products that customer has purchased in the past, what related marketing  attributes might be relevant, and the typical usage patterns for similar  customers. Based on that information, you can recommend a purchase frequency to  the customer and a corresponding discount level. Presto!

To learn more about how SAP can help you increase customer retention and  drive repeat business – all without being “spammy” – sign up today to attend the annual America’s SAP User Group  (ASUG) and SapphireNOW conference co-located in Orlando, Florida from May 14  – 16. I’ll be there. And I hope to see you. But leave your spam at home.

This article originally appeared at Business2Community

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