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Can Marketing Make Three Times a Charm?

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Can Marketing Make Three Times a Charm?
Can Marketing Make Three Times a Charm?

I'm fairly expert at being a customer. So I can tell you that, for me, it's always better when direct marketing is targeted and relevant. That can't always happen with the first communication, or maybe even the second; but customers' actions—or lack thereof—are vital pieces of data that marketers can use to improve the customer experience and, as important, their results. Consider:

A while back I received a catalog from J. Crew with a cover that said, “Nice to Meet You.” I thought it was really cool because I had made a gift purchase there, so I surmised that the retailer followed up with a catalog to entice me back. The catalog came with an offer to purchase online. It's exceptionally rare that I'll purchase clothes or accessories online, so I didn't bite.

Fast forward a couple of months and as I open the mailbox I see the edge of a shiny, mustard yellow catalog. J. Crew, I thought. Cool. But then I saw the full cover: “Nice to Meet You.” You already said it was nice to meet me, I said aloud to the catalog. Better would have been: “Now That We've Met…” with an enticement below or inside to get to know J. Crew better. So catalog #2...not so cool after all. The retailer started the conversation, and then repeated itself when, apparently, it assumed that I didn't “hear” its introduction. I noticed the online discount, thumbed through (the stuff is nice), and tossed the catalog into the bin thinking I'd just pop into the store on my next mall visit.

Yesterday, you guessed it, another catalog from J. Crew with “Nice to Meet You” on the cover. Haven't we done this twice before, I asked myself. How about, “Will Three Times Be a Charm?” instead. And since I didn't purchase online from the first two catalogs, perhaps extend the offer to the store. Sure, it may not serve the retailer's short-term goal of driving an online purchase, but it will give them valuable information about my preferred channel for purchases. And that information could drive sales in the long term.

And this is not just about me, mind you. If J. Crew—or any company, for that matter—were to add some rules to its marketing automation system to make the same “online or in-store” offer for all the initial non-responders to that catalog mailing, it could learn the purchase preferences of a whole segment of customers. UK retailer Office Shoes did this with a series of email campaigns and open rates skyrocketed, according to Scott Taylor, its CRM manager.

So if you really want to start a conversation with me, don't just repeat yourself ad nauseum. Change the messages based on my responses. You may just be surprised to find that I start listening a bit closer.

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Note: Buried in fine print in the address box of catalog #3 was the clever invitation, “Now that we've been to your home, we'd love it if you'd visit ours” and it noted the addresses of two local stores. Again, it would have been very cool if it had been made to stand out at all. It probably said the same on the other two, but I didn't notice. I noticed this completely by accident—when I picked up the catalog after dropping it cover down. But there were several large, clear calls to action to visit jcrew.com; really, this catalog was all about driving online traffic and sales. So the “visit us at [store X or Y]” note was more like an acquaintance who says, “Let's get together soon,” when they really mean, “Maybe down the road if you're doing something I really want to do.”

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