Targeted Marketing Gone Wrong: No, I Didn’t Just Have a Baby

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Targeted Marketing Gone Wrong: No, I Didn’t Just Have a Baby

Shutterfly EmailI got the nicest email from today congratulating me on my newborn baby:

“Congratulations on your new arrival,” said the subject line. “There’s nothing more amazing than bringing a new life into the world,” read the copy.

It’s a thoughtful message. There’s only one problem: I didn’t just have a baby.

In fact, it turns out that many of the recipients of this message hadn’t recently given birth. Shutterfly is apologizing profusely for the error.

Obviously, Shutterfly made a mistake. But this misdirected email serves as a classic reminder of the most fundamental rule of effective direct marketing: It’s all about the list.

Here are some tips from Shutterfly’s example for your smart marketing strategy.

Bad Data = Bad Marketing

When targeted, data-driven marketing is done right, it’s very powerful. Smart direct marketers use data to direct their messages to carefully pinpointed individuals who are most likely to be potential buyers.

But when it’s wrong, it can get ugly. Prospects get annoyed. Money is wasted. The marketer looks clueless. Just look at the PR fallout Shutterfly is experiencing because of this error.

It’s especially costly for B2B marketers who send high-end dimensional direct mail to the wrong C-suite executives. Is there any worse way to introduce your business to a potential prospect?

I’ve had a Shutterfly account since 2010, though I haven’t used it in years. Even though it was a mistake, Shutterfly’s email delivered a loud and clear message: “We don’t really know you but we hope you’ll send us some money.” That’s definitely not the way to rekindle a dormant customer relationship.

3 Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy

Marketing is like medicine: One of the main rules is “do no harm” with your marketing campaigns. While Shutterfly apologizes all over social media, follow these tips to avoid making a similar error in your marketing strategy:

1. The list is always the most important element of a targeted marketing campaign. You can spend weeks developing the perfect creative approach but it’s all for naught if you send it to the wrong people. This rule will never change.

2. Version your messaging only if you’re sure of the prospect’s interests. Unless you’re certain about your data, tread carefully when making assumptions about the prospect’s needs. It may be better to try a more general message showcasing products for many different uses than a narrowly targeted promotion that may miss the mark.

3. Be extremely careful about targeted marketing for specific life stages. Have you ever asked a woman when her baby is due only to find out she’s not pregnant? That’s how it feels to get marketing messages related to the wrong stage of life. There are excellent mailing lists available that verify demographic and life stage data. Be sure you’re using a qualified list broker and selecting only data you can trust for accuracy.


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