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Let's be radical, let's side with the customer

27th Jun 2018
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GDPR is in place and enforceable – phew! We can all hear the sighs of relief by CMOs across the country. But now the opt-in questions have been asked marketers have moved on to ask, ‘who can we actually contact with what message?’ In meeting rooms all over the law is being taken apart to make a case for why customers who did not give consent can be contacted. Legitimate interest is fast becoming the new forbidden fruit of marketing paradise.

I question this approach wholeheartedly. If we need to make a detailed case for why we are certain we can contact the customer, don‘t we know deep down that we probably shouldn’t contact them? But the alternative is scary. Not sending an email or a SMS to the customer might miss out on the chance that the customer happened to be in the market for the particular item we are selling, at that particular time, paying attention to the particular message we sent. Right?...wrong. Not contacting customers takes guts. But it also means you respect your customers and their wishes. Not opting in to receive marketing messages most likely means no marketing messages please. So rather than asking ourselves how can we push legitimate intent and get away with it, we should ask ourselves: Why did the customer not consent in the first place?

To understand this, we first need to split the customer base: Group 1 who has lost all interest in your products, service and brand. Maybe they have no longer a need (e.g. baby is 2 years old so no more baby products needed) or they have found a better alternative (e.g. still buy trainers but switched from Adidas to Nike). Group 2 who still engage with your brand but engage on their terms. So, either your content offers no interest nor value to them, the channel you use is not theirs or they are proactive consumers who find the info they seek when they need it on their terms. Most likely you will use a combination of qual and quant research to segment your base. I’d recommend utilising the qual phase of this work to uncover insights into how the customer might be persuaded to change their behaviour.  Describing other brand relationships where the customer does engage through different channels have proven to reveal good insights into the mind of the customer and what indeed motivates them.

So how do you increase engagement? I recommend focusing on customers who are still engaged with your brand but have opted out due to your content and channels being of no value to them. As they still have a relationship with your brand, motivating them through relevant content and offers to engage might be easier than reaching out to customers who have moved on. Content is key to successful engagement. As seen with Red Bull, EasyJet or Virgin Holidays, variety in content and high level of personalisation engage customers. Offering a balance between hard hitting products sales, brand inspiring stories (Red Bull stunts where they drop a man from the edge of the earth), user generated content (Virgin #seizetheholiday) and topics that go beyond the brand and capture the customer’s life (EasyJet 20th anniversary email) is key to drive engagement. So, when you look at your content calendar, do you see a mix? Do you see an integration with social, onsite, email or app? Do you see clear content themes emerging that tell a story over time and utilise the different channels to their optimum? Do you have a clear measurement approach in place so you can learn what customers like what segment and serve more of it to them? If yes, then your customer engagement with the brand should be increasing, and chances are your opt-in rate will increase over time as well. For when you offer the customer something he/she enjoys they will want more and not miss out. 

And note, I say engagement not consent. I do not believe that our objective as customer-centric marketers is to drive consent. Our objective is to offer the right experiences to motivate our customers to engage, and ultimately to buy, donate, sign up one more time. GDPR has given us all a wonderful opportunity to side with the law and the customer. To take a stand and say, I shall focus on relevance not on reach. I shall respect my customer ‘s wishes and challenge myself to deliver on their needs and wants, rather than on my own need to drive sales at all costs. So ask yourself ‘Are you ready to stand with the customer?’ 

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