When Targeting Turns to Blasting: Answers

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Marketing Challenge: When Targeting Turns to Blasting
Marketing Challenge: When Targeting Turns to Blasting

Recap: Kate Rodgin needed to promote a new product and get adoption—fast. She started by analyzing Daymore Products' customer list to find the right customers for the new product. Then she created two targeted lists, messaging that would resonate, and a multichannel outreach plan. Unfortunately, the product uptake was nil, so Rodgin widened the list of email recipients and included more generic messaging, but still, the needle barely moved.

Then Rodgin blasted the whole customer list and included a discount for trying the product. Each email outreach garnered a small response, and an even smaller percentage of purchases. Rodgin was feeling desperate. She had numbers to hit.

Click here to read the complete challenge.

July winner: Paul Bennett, senior sales executive, AgilOne Inc.

Rodgin's response to her campaign's lackluster performance reminded me of an old golf saying: When you get in trouble, make sure your next shot gets you out of trouble. Unfortunately, by getting less targeted in her second mailing, and then by hitting the discount panic button in the third, Kate managed to chunk it from the long rough into the pond.

I would advise Rodgin to do the following:

1. Reexamine the product-to-product assumptions that support her targeting strategy. Starting with “customers who had purchased similar or complementary products” isn't necessarily wrong, but the initial response clearly suggests that something didn't click. With a new product introduction, it's possible that her target lists might have been focused on exactly the wrong customers. Testing other category buyers and analyzing the small set of converters the campaign brought in might point them in a different direction.

2. Incorporate behavioral email segmentation into her targeting. Perhaps Rodgin actually targeted customer segments with historically low email engagement. She could instead increase selection of more engaged customers, encouraging them to spread the word on the new product through social channels and revising headlines and content to speak more relevantly to the enthusiasts who regularly open and click through Daymore communications.

3. Don't assume that all customers are motivated by discount. It's fair to assume that Rodgin is reluctant to share the poor campaign performance data with her boss—wait until she calculates the margin she threw out the window by giving discounts to high-value segments that are typically full-price buyers. Going forward, she needs to better understand segment-level price elasticity and tailor offer strategies accordingly.

Increasing Daymore's analytic IQ, rather than hitting “send” in the face of campaign challenges, should help turn things around.

Other responses:

John Hennessy, SVP, Mobeam

Based on the scenario, I assume that the initial targeting was thoughtful and probably pretty good. That leaves the messaging and call to action.

Since there is no mention of a testing step, I also assume the copy wasn't sufficient to generate interest and wasn't tested to improve its effectiveness. Since there is no mention of the audience response to the call to action, I assume, again, that there is no call-to-action in the messaging. The “just send it and they will come” approach does not deliver results.

While companies are always in selling mode, prospects need to be activated. But what activates a prospect changes, which is why we need message testing.

Also, what the marketing team thinks it's selling might not be what the customer is looking to buy. A good testing process will reveal this disconnect and help [reframe] the message. The formula is the right audience, the right copy, and the right call-to-action. The correct answer to the question, “Which is most important?” is, all of them. A failure in any one destroys success in the other two.

I would advise a strong, valuable call-to-action and testing both the call-to-action and the copy with small subsets of the target groups in advance of any large mailing. As the scenario demonstrates, poor execution done quickly does not make up for gradual execution done correctly.

Mike Dukes, account representative, Rubinstein's Office Supplies

Rodgin seems well within her expertise when it comes to audience selection. She selected what was a natural audience and even created an additional test segment that would allow for additional potential. Unfortunately, her driving force for “needing adoption” is rarely a formula for success.

The new product clearly lacked appeal. Rodgin then compounded her problem by blasting her entire file before attempting to resolve the issues with the new product. She has now totally exposed the product and has little chance to change the offer or reposition the product. In addition to audience selection,

Rodgin should have focused on why this product would sell and make sure that it was given every opportunity to succeed.

Chris Marentis, CEO and founder, Surefire Social

Before creating a list of target customers based on similar purchasing habits, Daymore could have conducted a pay-per-click campaign incorporating the new product's value proposition to gauge interest from prospects. The response rate and metrics would have helped define and confirm the target buyers. Additionally, Daymore could have used a multichannel marketing approach using other vehicles. This includes social media marketing like Facebook–promoted posts and PPC options like SEM, pay per call, and affiliate marketing. Using these channels could have driven traffic to Daymore's website, once the target had been defined.

Michael Smith, marketing designer, Tri-Win Direct

It sounds like the marketing approach simply doesn't speak to the target audience, but you never know until you test.

You know the customers on your list buy complementary products and they buy from you, so getting them to try a new product after offering an incentive should be simple. In this case three promotions sent to (what should be) a golden list has fizzled. It's time to rethink the creative.

Rodgin needs to return to the marketing director and start talking about an A/B marketing approach. Create two more campaigns based around different benefits and offers, and then split the lists. Track the results and see which one works gets a better response. Take that data, adapt the winning creative and do it again. It may not be the slam dunk Rodgin thought she was going to get, but it's a much better idea than a desperate email blast.

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