Tag Archives: marketing

When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Ten years ago, I have signed up for the “rewards” program at my favorite office supply store. In addition to mailing me coupons and emailing me special offers (which is how I bought a paper shredder for $10), they also keep track of my purchases, which allows me to earn quarterly discounts.When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

Conceptually, this is a great business idea. It promotes store/brand loyalty and gives me an incentive to not consider their competition.

When I was emailed my recent statement of activity, I actually looked at it. I wanted to make sure that the recent ink cartridges that I returned for recycling had been credited to my account. They had not. Nor was the purchase that I made that day. Looking through each statement for this year, they had a record of only one purchase.If rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away. Click To Tweet

Why do they scan my card? Since charges don’t end up in my statement, scanning it seems to be largely an exercise in futility.

It makes me wonder if their competitor—whose store is right across the street from them—has a rewards program that works better and could actually capture all my purchases.

I’m sure that it’s not the goal of their rewards program is to drive customers to their competition, but that could very well be what happens.

Sadly, their rewards program has gone bad—and as a result this customer could go away.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

A Disconnect Between Marketing and Technology

I was a loyal customer of a national office supply chain (they’ll remain nameless to protect their otherwise good image). I was a preferred customer, which entitles me to special discounts and occasional rewards (on those rare quarters when I buy “enough” product.) They also send me an email, seemingly weekly, of sales and special offers.

Ten years ago,  I scanned their latest missive and noticed deals on paper shredders. I’ve been using a light-duty model for years and it’s showing its age as it groans through the documents I feed it. I figured that when it shredded its last page, I would replace it with a heavy-duty model.

Incredibly, they were offering an “on-line only” price of $10 for a light-duty model, similar to, but better than my old faithful.  At $10, there was little to lose; the super-deluxe model could wait.

I went to their website to place my order. I entered my email address only to be informed that they had no record of it in their files.There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT's ability to support them. I wonder how many sales were lost as a result. Click To Tweet

How curious. They had just emailed me that morning; obviously, someone had a record of my email. Unfortunately, the marketing department and the IT (information technology) department were not operating from a common resource.

I was going to abort my order (one explanation why e-commerce shopping charts are abandoned). However, out of a sense of adventure, I forged on. I placed my order without logging in; at it’s conclusion I was asked to sign-up to receive email alerts. I entered my address and they happily took it.

There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT’s ability to support them.  I wonder how many sales were lost as a result.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

Several years ago, as I was mowing my lawn, a stranger pulled into my driveway. He approached with the determined look of a salesman. With no way to make myself scarce, I waited as he approached. He was taking a survey. Suspicious that it was really a guise for a sales pitch, I hesitated, contemplating the most effective way of returning to my lawn-mowing mission.Finally I consented out of a sense of expedience.Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

Question 1: “Do you think that right here today there is air pollution?” Answer: “Yes.”

Question 2: “Do you think the air in your house is better, worse, or the same as the air outside?” Answer: “The same.” (Actually I recall hearing that it is usually worse, but I was taking a calculated middle ground.)

Question 3: “Do you and anyone in your family suffer from asthma or allergies?”  Answer: “No.”  (Real answer: “Some allergies,” but I didn’t want to give Kevin too much encouragement.)Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined. Click To Tweet

Kevin said he would enter me into a drawing, asking for my name, my bride’s name, and my phone number. Knowing that all three pieces of information are readily available, I supplied them, but determined to provide no more. Fortunately that was all he asked. I was now registered to be in a quarterly drawing for 1,000 gallons of gas and a daily drawing for two pizzas and eight movies passes.

Three hours later Meg called from “Southside” to tell me that my name had been drawn—imagine that. This was playing out as I suspected, so I went along. Kevin wanted to personally come out and give me my prize. A time was set and then Meg said that Kevin would get a bonus if I listened to a brief sales presentation about Rainbow products. (Brief, by the way, is “35 minutes—depending on how many questions you ask.”) Pretending to be unaware, I asked what Rainbow was and Meg hesitated, “Well it’s like cleaning the air with water.”

Unfortunately collecting my prize was contingent on spending 35 minutes will Kevin. Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined. “Do you want me to give your prize to someone else?” Meg implored with a feigned incredulity.

“Sure,” I responded, “go ahead.” I wasn’t any closer to my pizzas and movies—but at least I had enough info for my blog.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Responding to Email

My website FindaCallCenter.com features a directory of call centers. All the information listed has all been submitted by the businesses themselves.To ensure the information is current and accurate, I periodically email each call center, asking them to review and confirm their information.Responding to Email

The lack of response—and the slowness of response—to my recent verification effort was appalling. Only 25 percent responded to my first email message, while 11 percent of the addresses generated a failure notice. The majority of those responding did so the first day, but many trickled in over the next week.

For the second email message to the remaining non-responders, 13 percent replied, but only one third did so within one day, with the rest taking up to five days. For the third and final email only 5 percent responded.

Altogether, only 37 percent responded at all; 13 percent had non-working email addresses; 50 percent apparently received but did not bother to reply to any of the three messages. Furthermore, of the minority who responded, only about half did so on the same business day.Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better. Click To Tweet

We live in a world that expects a response and wants it immediately. The above dismal results—which are likely applicable to all industries—suggests that merely responding to email on the same business day would make your organization stand out.

How sad. Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out even more, and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Difference Between Good and Bad Marketing

Several years ago, I setup a Website for a local nonprofit organization that I helped. I registered three domain names for it: the main one, with two alternatives. The first ended with .org (as did one of the alternates). I also registered the .com version of their main domain name in case someone typed .com out of habit or error.  All three pointed to their website.

When the domains were up for renewal and I opted not to renew the one ending with .com. Keeping it seemed like unnecessary overkill.Good marketing produces better results and elevates the industry. Click To Tweet

Then the email solicitations started rolling in. Apparently, there are a number of companies who monitor expiring domain names for one of potential value. Upon seeing that the .com version was available and that I had already registered the .org counterpart, they thought that I might be interested in it, offering to help me buy the exact domain name that I had allowed to lapse. They suggested that I allow them to help me snatch up this great domain name before someone else did, thereby pushing the cost up.

I have to respect their business model that monitored expiring domain names, identified owners of existing domain names with a different extension, and contacted registered the owners via email. Yet why didn’t they take one more step to eliminate contacting the prior owners who had purposely let the domain name expire?

Given the relatively inexpensive nature of email, it’s not a big deal. However, I am much more an admirer of an elegant marketing campaign over a brute force one. After all, it is the marketers that cut corners and execute their craft badly that make it harder for everyone else to be respected and trusted.

Bad marketing might produce results, but it pulls the industry down. Good marketing produces better results and elevates the industry.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

What Does “New and Improved” Mean to You?

When you hear the phrase “new and improved,” what is your first thought?

Being the slightly cynical person that I am, my initial reaction is that someone is trying to dupe me with a marketing tactic. I suspect that nothing substantive has been changed, but lacking anything substantial to proclaim, they fall back on trumpeting that their product is “new and improved.” It must be that some people are sucked into this ruse or else why would marketing folks persist in perpetuating such a ploy?

Therefore, I quickly dismiss all claims of “new and improved”—unless it is for a product that I use—then I panic. When you hear the phrase 'new and improved,' what is your first thought? Click To Tweet

Although “new and improved” sometimes seems to only apply to the packaging, that phrases still produces fear and trepidation in me when referring to products that I use. I worry that “new and improved” actually means “we’ve-changed-this-just-enough-so-that-you’ll-no-longer-like-it.” Unfortunately, personal experience backs up that concern as being a realistic one.

The logic behind “new and improved” probably assumes that existing users will continue to buy it—even if the packaging has changed so much that only the brand name is recognizable. The bonus kicks in from people who never used it, but are predisposed to try anything new, as well as those who didn’t like it before, but will give it a fresh look. Therefore, I guess we are stuck with “new and improved” products.

Still, “new and improved” does nothing for me; I’ll take “tried and true” any day.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Socks?

There’s a certain brand of wool socks that I like. Okay, I really, really like them. I’m wearing a pair right now. I wanted to try a different style, but the local outlets didn’t carry it.

Though I prefer to buy online and bypass the “experience” of going to a store, sometimes I want to check the product in person before making a commitment. You can’t do that in cyberspace.

So I ordered one pair for my tactile evaluation. For some reason I expected free shipping. This was not to be. To unite me and my $13 socks there was a $7 shipping charge. There were no other options.

I placed my order on Friday. Saturday my socks arrived courtesy of FedEx Saturday delivery. Really? It wasn’t like this was a sock emergency. Three-day ground would have been fine, even parcel post would have been acceptable.

I took time to communicate my frustration with the manufacturer, because, well, I’m a bit passionate about their socks and when you care about something, you take time to share concerns. The rep understood my complaint and agreed, saying other customers told her the same thing. She planned to bring this up at their management meeting later that week.

Two months later I placed an order for more socks. There’s still only one shipping option and it’s still $7. Really?

Why Are TV Channels Packaged?

Television providers have packages for various programming levels: basic, deluxe, and premium or by theme: movies, sports, music, and Spanish. This can be frustrating for consumers who may end up buying an entire package just to watch one channel or perhaps even one show.

Why is this? Why can’t we just buy the channels we want a la carte?

Although there’s a historical reason for this, there’s no longer any technical justification for bundling entertainment channels into packages.

With all service providers, every channel is present on the feed (be it cable, fiber optic, or satellite). When the feed reaches our houses, the items we don’t pay for are blocked.

When cable TV first came on the scene, it was analog and electronic devises were inserted to filter out various parts of the feed people weren’t paying for. These filters were imprecise and couldn’t be finely tuned to individual channels but did work okay for groups of adjacent channels. This resulted in the birth of channel packages.

Now we have digital and individual channels can be turned on and off at each house’s receiver. There’s no longer a technical reason to package channels and sell them as a group.

However, cable and satellite TV providers are used to the revenue provided by selling packages and not anxious to change that. Plus it’s easier to track and bill half a dozen packages for each subscriber, rather than hundreds of individual channels.

If entertainment providers were truly focused on their customers, they would allow for individual channel selection, letting us pick and pay for only the channels we want to watch.

How Much Does it Cost?

I’m not one who spends money easily or frivolously. It should surprise no one that at some point in a purchase decision I will deliberate on the cost of the item in question. Can I afford it? Is it within my budget? Is this a wise use of my money? Will I derive sufficient value? Is this an emotional or intellectual decision? If I buy this item now will it preclude a more relevant purchase later? Yeah, I do that.

When I’m at a restaurant I also look at prices. No, I don’t ask all of the above questions, but cost is an important consideration.

For the first part of my life, price was a financially practical contemplation. Did I have enough money to pay the bill? I would only order what I could pay for with cash – be it with bills or coins.

I’m at a different place today. Though I never want to overpay for a meal, the primary reason I look at prices now is that I perceive price as being an indicator of the quantity of food. You see, I was taught to eat everything on my plate and to not waste food, so what the restaurant gives me, I will eat, even if I’m full.

If the portion is too big, I will end up eating too much. So I resort to judging the amount of food by the cost of the meal. Though not an error-free method, it always serves to save me money and often serves to save my waistline.

I Get a Kick Out of Kickstarter

The website Kickstarter is a funding platform to help creative people finance their projects.

I’ve been wondering if Kickstarter might be a viable vehicle to help me self-publish a couple of books I’m pursuing. I’ve also experienced Kickstarter from the other side: providing financial support on two projects.

The first was for a friend, a most talented musician, who wants to take his recording career to the next level. He raised most of the funds himself and then turned to Kickstarter for the final ten grand. He got off to a great start and then donations reached a plateau, with things looking iffy as the 30-day funding window began to close. But a last minute surge put him over the top. He will soon leave for Nashville to record his next album.

More recently I jumped on board a project to help an author who is using Kickstarter as a litmus test to show there is interest for his upcoming book. His goal was more ambitious: 40k. He has a large following of readers and a great social media platform. He didn’t need 30 days to reach his goal; he didn’t even need one; it took about 3 hours. (Presently he is at five times his goal and still has 26 days remaining.)

Regardless if a project is funded quickly or takes a while is not the point. The point is Kickstarter is a viable way for people to support artistic projects they believe in and the creative people behind them who dare to dream big.

When these projects are complete, I will receive a CD and a book (plus some other rewards), along with the knowledge that I helped two creative people advance their careers. And that gives me a real kick.