Will buy anything at Target–PING!
Are Brands Listening

I often wonder what marketers think of me as I bop around the internet or cruise through my nearest shopping center. What do my habits say about me and what alarms do they set off? Will buy anything at Target – PING! Loves memes–PING! Makes purchases at online retailers at least once per week–PING! Regularly browses bridal registries for the five weddings she’s attending this year–PING! Expends a comparable amount of time determining how to get to these five weddings and weeping quietly over the amount of money they will cost her–PING! PING! PING!

At every turn—online, offline, inline (skating?)—there are opportunities for marketers to develop a fuller picture of who I am as a person and to find ways to communicate with me that will resonate. Some of these are straightforward: I bought car insurance, therefore I must own a vehicle and may be interested in auto-related offerings. Others may be harder to infer, but I’m fully confident that the savvy marketer can figure it out: I researched international travel destinations, therefore I’m probably planning to leave the country, change my name, and live out the rest of my days on a sparsely populated island in the mid-Atlantic.

Easy, right?


In my seasoned two months at Marketo, I’ve started to view the communications I receive from brands through a ‘marketing automation lens‘. Roughly speaking, I’ve been gauging how well brands know me and how much they’re really listening to what I say and do. This ranges from the emails I receive to the ads I see when I’m surfing various websites.

The Disconnect

What’s shocking is that marketing departments at major companies are still not evolved enough to make basic conclusions about my habits and therefore use those conclusions to nurture me effectively.

Here is an example: I recently bought a gym membership online. I completed the purchase, went in for a workout, and saw the trial period come and go. So why do I keep seeing ads to sign up for the same gym online, as though I’m still a prospect? If anything, shouldn’t I be seeing messages that encourage me to attend the company’s exercise classes and purchase cute workout gear? The focus shouldn’t be on conversion (since that already happened) but should instead focus on engagement—compelling me to go to the gym on a regular basis.

Another example: I’ve been an overtly proud cat owner for the past four years. I tweet, post, snap, and message about my cat, Monster (she’s adorable—I promise). I do 85% of my pet shopping at ONE retailer, both online and in-store. So explain to me why this retailer keeps sending me offers for dog food, poop bags, and leashes? My profile in their system could not be any more complete—I joined the rewards program, I set up an online account, I subscribed to the company newsletter, AND I adopted my cat from one of its adoption agencies. So, I ask, why the disconnect?

It’s Time to Evolve

What I’ve found is that a majority of B2C brands haven’t evolved to the point of really listening and appropriately responding to my trackable habits. Companies retarget ads, have multiple email lists, and believe they are ‘engaging’ customers with their content, but they haven’t taken their tactics and technology to the next level.

This trend is indicative that brands need to migrate toward real personalization and actually build relationships in order to stay relevant and marketable. In an era when brand loyalty can be hard to come by, companies need to go the extra mile to ensure customers feel valued and understood.

And where do my brand relationships pan out? The ad retargeting is one thing—for the moment it’s a necessary evil and in time, I know brands will learn and evolve. But the pet retailer? I see no excuse. Four years of loyal patronage rewarded with dozens of doggy spam emails, and I’m about ready to call it quits. Monster and I will take our business elsewhere.

Have you seen brands do a good job of establishing personal relationships and encouraging ongoing conversations? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments below.

Published with permission.


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