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The Shocking Way You Are Alienating Your Customers

Have you ever been a loyal customer? Sure you have. Have you ever been put off by something by something that the brand you have been so loyal to has done? Of course you have. Sometimes it is something so innocent that they that don’t even know that they have done it. Nonetheless, while innocent, it is a shocking way to alienate customers.

Shocking Way to Alienate Customers, heatherannemaclean.wordpress.com, taylormade solutions

Image courtesy of www.rajrupagupta.com

This past weekend I was flipping through one of my favourite magazines “House and Home” when I came across an article, and specifically the image to introduce the piece, that just stopped me in my tracks. But let me back up a bit before sharing with you my gut reaction to what I was seeing. I love House and Home for its simply beautiful pictures and stories about homes with good design. They are wonderful at curating a story and helping people visualize what is possible within their own homes. Page after page is a visual delight of gorgeous places decorated in a simply stunning way.

The magazine has wonderful pictures of beautiful, and most often, very expensive homes, cottages and cabins. Gorgeous! A lot of these featured abodes are located in Ontario, Quebec and the Western Provinces of Canada. Hopefully, I have painted a picture for you. Occasionally they will feature a location in Atlantic Canada, but not very often. In fact, they do feature a Nova Scotia home in this very feature…but and there is a big but here…and this is where I feel that they failed and did somewhat alienate me, and I am sure others. They succumbed to stereotyping. Yes..yes they did. The article which was focusing on seafood, certainly stereotyped Atlantic Canadians, and particularly fishermen as living in much, much, much more humble abodes than our neighbours to the west of us. While I did not grow up in a family of fishermen, I did get to meet and know a few over the years and none lived in a house remotely close to what was pictured.

But here is really the crux of the matter, stereotyping is dangerous in marketing/selling. It is a very easy way to alienate your customers and your prospects. I know that, in this case, they were attempting to paint this quaint lifestyle, but it is not accurate. It was innocent enough, but it does demonstrate that the editors likely have a picture of what most Atlantic Canadians do and how we live. Now, they might not be impacted by this at all since they also featured another piece on a lovely Nova Scotia property, but not all businesses would be this lucky.

Depending on your business, you might not even realize that you have alienated people. You just might notice that some customers have retreated. For a restaurant, coffee shop or another such business where you get to know your regulars, you would actually notice that some customers have disappeared; but for utilities, magazines, airlines, etc. you likely wouldn’t notice. Depending on how serious the alienation is, it could really hurt your bottom line. It is very easy for stereotyping to become a social media crisis, which impacts your reputation and trust that you have built. A brand can take a real hit when this occurs.

Key takeaway: This one is such an easy fix. Throw out stereotypes. The risk is just too high.

If you like this post, feel free to connect on Twitter: @MacLeanHeather

 

7 Ways to Creep Out Your Customers with Direct Marketing Campaigns

As a professional marketer, I thought that I had seen it all when it comes to the good, the bad and the ugly of direct mail campaigns.  I was wrong.  Last week my husband received a letter from a vendor, who shall remain nameless, that left both of us scratching our heads.  We thought it was a hoax to make this vendor look bad.  However, after speaking with a representative on the phone, sadly, we learned that it was a real marketing campaign.  In my opinion, it was an epic failure.  It was such a bad piece of marketing I just had to write this blog post outlining the 7 ways they failed using this Direct Mail Campaign.

Now, before I get to my list I want to qualify why I am writing this post.  This letter was so out of character.  It just does not meet the established brand that this company has built.  In trying to figure out what was going on, we thought for certain that it was someone who was trying to embarrass the company.  The other thought we had – honestly – was that someone had too much to drink, had what he or she thought was a brilliant idea, then wrote a letter to execute on said brilliant idea.  I don’t want to embarrass this company.  I believe that they are a good company.  I believe that they just don’t understand marketing and what works and what freaks people out.  We are a customer and aside from this bizarre twist, have been very impressed with them.  That being said, if this was an authentic campaign, there are a few lessons learned.  So, let’s get to the list:

1.  Always Use Letterhead 

When sending out a promotion to your customers, always use company stationary.  Using your name and your spouse’s name for the return address versus the company information is not a best practice and, it is confusing.

The same goes for the actual letter.  To help people understand where in fact the letter has originated, using letterhead makes it clear from the get-go.  I shouldn’t have to read a three-page letter to get to the end to figure out who sent it to me.

2.  Properly Address Letters

Since I am a customer having my name, or in this case my husband’s full name on the letter is a good idea.  The same goes for having our full civic address.  Addressing a letter with only a person’s first name and a number missing off of the civic address is kinda weird if done intentionally.  The Post Office put a question mark on the letter.  Even they were confused and took a guess.

As customers, don’t you know our name and address?  After all, it was on the bills that you sent us and the service technicians made it to our house o.k.

3.  State the offer up front and be clear about what you are offering 

This isn’t a nice to have in business communications. It is a must.  Both my husband and I read the letter numerous times and we still didn’t know what was what.  The tone and language was so odd that it sounded like the sender of the letter didn’t realize that we were already customers.  Instead, it sounded like if became a customer now, we would get a envelope of cash!  Seriously…the letter said this.

Image courtesy of waterschurch.org

Image courtesy of waterschurch.org

Even after calling and speaking to an employee, we were confused.  After telling the representative what work they executed for us, I asked point blank, “what is the offer.  I don’t understand.”  The response:  if we needed anymore work that we would get what was offered in the letter.  It made no sense.

4. Have Your Letter Proofread

We all make mistakes.  I have read textbooks, marketing materials, blogs and letters with a typo.  It happens. It’s embarrassing. We hate it when it happens,right!  However, when the letter is filled with grammatical errors and it rambles on without purpose or real coherence, it kinda leads the reader to the conclusion that someone really was drinking when they wrote the letter.  Not the right impression to be making.

5.  Use the Right Tone 

Using threatening, or what can be perceived as threatening language, when trying to sell is not exactly a Best Practice.  Saying things like “I must give you  this WARNING…” and “This Time You have NO Excuse!” would not be a recommended approach. Kinda left me feeling like I should run for the hills.

6.  Use Capital Letters Judiciously

Using capital letters according to the grammar rules is cool.  Using them repeatedly for entire sentences or words means that you are yelling at me.  Again, not exactly the experience I want from someone trying to sell me something.  I personally shy away from people yelling at me.

7.  Never, ever, ever start a letter like this: 

“It’s 1:43 am and I can’t sleep…Alright, let me give you something no one else will.”    For the love of all that is good and pure in this world, please, please don’t start any letter…ever like this.    Talk about starting out on the wrong foot.  Think about it for a second.  No letterhead, the envelope wasn’t properly addressed and the return address was from people I don’t know.  Holy $#!+.

So, now that I have gotten this off my chest and on paper I feel a little better.  I hope that others will take this advice and use it.  I hope that I never ever see another letter like this.  How about you?  Have you ever received something like this in the mail from someone trying to woo you and get your business?  Do tell!