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Michael Casey

Pressing Ahead

By Michael Casey

About Michael

Michael Casey is the founder of Survey Advantage and strategic partner with several printer associations and franchises. By leveraging information from a printer’s estimation and production software, Mike’s business has helped hundreds of printers automate their customer feedback and lead generation process. He may be reached via e-mail or (401) 560-0311 ext. 103. Read printer case studies on the Survey Advantage Website.

Good, Bad and Ugly Customer Contact Practices

After getting my fifth useless e-blast from a vendor partner this week, I started opting out of everything I received from my vendor partners because of pure frustration. I buy from them, but they hit me too hard with thoughtless messages. Sorry, partners, but too much of a good thing poisoned this communication channel with me.

I get the feeling these vendors care more about campaign success than me. They don’t get in the ball park of my needs. I feel the person behind their e-blast program is saying, “More is better. Grab more e-mail addresses, send more messages. Send more and something will stick. Throw in any e-mail address we find on a business card in the rubbish or parking lot, or scraped from the Internet! Throw it into that massive pool of our ever-growing e-mail list, mixing customers with prospects.”

This “blast, blast, blast” mentality is sending a message to me that campaigns are more important than building customer relationships. Cost saving is king and covering everything the company does in one e-mail is efficient, so it is not important to know who the customer is. Companies with this mentality don’t know who the customer is and don’t care, because they just want to sell more stuff.

Seriously, we’ve all made mistakes with e-blasts like the best of them, so I should not throw stones while living in my glass house. But we all need to learn and adjust. It’s challenging, but I believe it is critical to categorize customers when conducting e-blasts and direct mail.

Begin with a defined process—a discipline—and the right customer relationship management (CRM) software. Then get to know your customers and segment appropriately. Don’t forget to train sales reps on the importance of gathering this information and how the information will be used. Don’t go nuts categorizing customers into three or four categories, or you will lose your mind managing who got what e-blast and when.

Simplify the effort based on customer information that will help you send messages that build relationships rather than destroy them. Send information to customers/propsects that they will likely be interested in.

You might want to break down your list by region, industry vertical, networking group, relationship or self-selected interests. Segmenting your customer list is just as important as segmenting prospect lists.

Be careful not to over communicate with e-blasts. Recipients might not opt out because they know you and like you, but instead they will hit “delete” because they are numb and disinterested. Get feedback from customers on what they like. Opt-out stats can be misleading because customers want to be nice to you.

Top 5 “Good” Practices
  1. Take time to map your customer base and figure out how you should segment lists.
  2. Do not segment your list too much, so you can manage frequency of e-blasts at the individual level.
  3. Create a process for segmenting as new customers come online.
  4. Invest in a good CRM solution to support your current and future needs.
  5. Train your staff, explain the benefits and monitor the process.

Top 5 "Bad" Practices
  1. Hacking something together that is not sustainable and falls out of tune quickly.
  2. Not knowing who you’ve blasted to and when, so you have no controls and you over-blast.
  3. Poor staff training, so no one knows what is going on and the segmentation is not working.
  4. No measurements. Getting some results from e-blasting can lead you to think, incorrectly, that you are doing a good job.
  5. Not investing in a good a CRM solution with a mapped-out process, resulting in a poor foundation.

Top 5 "Ugly" Practices
  1. Not e-blasting because you are afraid of over e-blasting.
  2. Thinking e-blasting is a fad.
  3. Saying you will get a handle on your customer e-mails next year.
  4. Sending out dead links or ugly content.
  5. Having your customer e-mail list decentralized in multiple computers, laptops and personal accounts.

It’s not easy, but planning, setting up and managing your customer e-blast process will help cultivate better customer relationships. It all starts with knowing customers at the individual level, respecting each person’s appetite for your information, and sending content of specific interest.

Good luck, and I hope this helps as we all move forward into this continuously evolving e-blast world.

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