Who do you think you are talking to?

“People want to buy from you, but they don’t want you to sell to them” – it’s an old saying, but often true. Today’s customers are tech-savvy, time poor and filtering a thousand competing messages, every day. But they still need stuff, as they always have. The question is, are today’s marketers a match for them?

Is it me you’re looking for?

Research suggests that too often the people selling do not understand the people they are trying to sell to. One recent survey concluded that, while 37% of customers rank e-mail as the most important source of information before purchase and 52% rate e-mail as the most useful form of communication after purchase, a large majority of marketers (68%) do not use e-mail marketing. So there’s a bit of a gap there. To make matters worse, the marketers who didn’t use e-mail marketing, didn’t understand e-mail best practice, either.

What is all the noise about?

Any lack of connection between marketers and their prospects is only exacerbated by the sheer volume of messages that are sent and received each day. In other words, while you are trying to communicate with a prospect, you are competing with a cacophony of other voices and messages. A study of 1,000 employees of top American companies discovered that workers send and receive just under 2000 messages a day, in a range of forms. That’s a lot of competition. It is no wonder that many consumers declare themselves so swamped with personalised messages that they simply do not notice them anymore. What they actually want is customisation, not personalisation. It is the content that matters, not the form of address. But how do marketers respond to this?

The old ways are the best

The answer lies in a phrase that might sound dated in today’s digital world – market segmentation. Yes, even in 2013 there really is no substitute for knowing who you are talking to and tailoring your conversation to suit them. It’s the commercial equivalent of social skills and the benefits can be huge. Good customer engagement creates customer loyalty and (hopefully) leads to your name being spread in glowing terms across social media. This is in sharp contrast to the terms in which you will be described if you just spam everybody who seems vaguely suitable. Effective customer engagement means you provide what is needed efficiently, which is time- and money-saving once you get the hang of it.

There is a catch, of course. You have to do your research, there is no way around that. You must make sure your targets are genuinely the people you need to talk to and your marketing information (including your contact lists) must be refreshed regularly. You need to comply with relevant rules, such as those around telephone contact and the Telephone Preference Service. The good news is that there are companies, such as Refreshed Direct, who can do the hard work for you. Knowing your market, however, is entirely down to you.

Lucy Blake is a writer interested in traditional and digital marketing techniques, such as those found at #Space & Time.

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