Shut Up, Already: How Over-Marketing Kills Relationships

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Shut Up, Already: How Over-Marketing Kills Relationships

Permission-based marketing is now at the heart of relationships between companies and their customers and prospects. People opt-in to receive your emails, like your company on Facebook, subscribe to your website’s RSS feed or your YouTube channel, or follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn.

But having permission to market to someone isn’t a license to bombard them with marketing messages. In fact, not knowing when to shut up is a classic marketing mistake.

Here’s how over-marketing can kill a customer or prospect relationship and 7 ways to avoid this costly error in your smart marketing strategy.

We’re Not Friends Any More

If marketing is about building relationships with customers, over-marketing is the best way to kill the relationship and send the customer or prospect heading for the door.

The Social Break-Up, a fascinating study by ExactTarget, provides clear evidence of what happens to customer relationships when the marketer comes on too strong:

  • 91% of consumers have unsubscribed from permission-based marketing emails;
  • 81% of consumers have either “unliked” or removed a company’s posts from their Facebook news feed.

The biggest reason people break up with companies? Too much marketing. The study showed that:

  • 54% of consumers unsubscribe when emails come too frequently;
  • 63% of customers have “unliked” a company on Facebook due to excessive postings.

The Cookies are Great, But Enough

I often send gifts to colleagues and clients of my marketing consulting business in Cleveland, including Cheryl’s Cookies. Cheryl’s is an Ohio firm and their cookies are great, so I’ve been a repeat, though not a frequent, customer.

But last week, I blocked their emails. I was fed up with receiving promotional emails multiple times a week, even though I only order a few times a year. The messaging was out of proportion with the relationship.

7 Ways to Avoid Over-Marketing in Your Smart Marketing Strategy

How do you know when you’re marketing too much? It can be a fine line, but here are some principles to guide your marketing planning:

  1. Ask your customers. The best way to understand how customers and prospects feel about the frequency of your promotions is to ask them. If most tell you the frequency is “about right,” you’re on target.
  2. Measure your opt-outs. Count the number of people who are cutting off their dialogue with you by unsubscribing to emails, unfollowing you on Twitter, and unliking you on Facebook. If the numbers are escalating, over-marketing could be why.
  3. Understand your customer relationships. A customer who orders rarely or sporadically has a different relationship with your business than one who orders all the time. Regular customers might welcome frequent promotional emails with special deals, but sporadic customers are more likely to be turned off by too much marketing.
  4. Follow your own firm and see how it feels. Opt-in to your own promotions to put yourself in the customer’s or prospect’s shoes and find out what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your promotional messages. If even you get tired of hearing from your company, you’ll know it’s time to turn down the volume.
  5. Deliver more value and less promotion. People may opt-in in hopes of getting deals from you, but a lasting relationship between a brand and a customer goes beyond special promotions. When you deliver content, insights, access, and other exclusive advantages that only those who have opted-in can receive, you create real reasons for the relationship to flourish.
  6. Coordinate your efforts. If you have multiple units in your company sending emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts to customers and prospects, lack of internal coordination can create permission-based chaos. Set some boundaries and coordinate your efforts to avoid over-promoting.
  7. Compare your permission-based marketing to your competitors’. Review the marketplace to gauge the pace of permission-based marketing in your industry. If you’re marketing much more frequently than your competitors, you could be the smartest marketer in the bunch or the one people hesitate to start a relationship with because you talk too much.

The Bottom Line: Treat Permission to Market as a Gift

People opt in because they want to hear from you. But if you disrespect the relationship by coming on too strong, customers and prospects will flee. Treating your customers and prospects well is common courtesy; treating their permission to market to them as a gift is a smart marketing strategy.

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