Nudge Factor

Yet another unrepeatable offer! Bang, Flash!! 25% off today only!!! Ugh. We recently lost a pitch. Not a huge one, but the client was nice, the brand was fascinating and the task was really quite challenging. The client didn’t go for us. Or rather they liked us and loved our work but were sold by another agency who offered them a whopping great discount on an email marketing campaign based on some hard-hitting promotions. Which sort of goes to show that on occasion, when you’ve got one chance at a sale, making the Big Offer is often the best course of action.

Being bitter of course rarely gets you where you want to go. It does make for a very excellent basis for an article which is all about what not to do if you have a marketing, rather than a selling, job to do. And you’re reading this because you’re in marketing, after all. You may even run email marketing campaigns. I am sincerely hoping you may actually run eCRM programmes, or even better, want to transform email marketing into eCRM and then evolve that into multichannel eCRM. Which is about more than just a series of offers – it’s about building relationships around value exchanges that are mutual, and which actually lead somewhere.

Let’s start at the beginning for a minute, if you’ll indulge me. ECRM is about the journey you take your customers on. Segmentation allows you to create a meaningful, relevant journey for each distinct customer type. In my own business we focus on what we call 3D segmentation – who, what and why, with the “effectiveness” dimension having been beautifully articulated as far back as 1972 when ‘need states’ were beginning to be discussed seriously as a component of marketing. (If your agency produces personas, they’re probably at about 1983, a terrible year for music.) This customer journey takes the form of a series of incremental steps from the first moment they self-identify to the moment they stop ever being a customer, prospect or advocate. Put yourself now in the customer’s shoes on this journey. How many times in a row will you want, or tolerate, a 25% off offer? And how many times will you see one before you start to think that’s the normal price?

Imagine you’re a brand like Domestos (forgive me Unilever, I plucked it out of thin air). You can hit your potential customers with offers all day every day, and quite a lot of them will work – or at least when Joe has already decided they need a bottle of cleaner an offer might either sway them from own-brand, or reduce the margin from someone who would otherwise pay full price. But Domestos is a premium brand. Discounting is not the way to become successful. Discounting is the way that economies rebalance themselves, it’s not the way companies make money because it’s much more about fundamental survival. Domestos must look to other ways to engage with customers. ECRM with its customer journey and relevance and, ideally, with an understanding of what makes the customer tick, provides this opportunity.

Because really an offer on its own does not make Domestos interesting or engaging, it just makes it cheaper.

We create customer journeys on the basis of the nudge. The nudge says to a customer, because we understand something of the considerations in your life, here’s something of a little value, in exchange for a few moments of your attention. If we can do this with some charm, a modicum of relevance and a dash of intelligence, we might get to engage their attention… and if we can get it really right, this may snowball into increased consideration, purchase frequency and even – gasp! – loyalty.

Imagine you’re, say, a cleaning brand(!). How about singling out mums with young children. With permission to contact mum, perhaps obtained (and here I may sound a little hypocritical) through some kind of one-off promotion, we could use this demographic insight to plot some engagement. In Keystages 1 and 2 (and later) kids start to learn about hygiene. Perhaps over the course of three months we could send mum on a journey where our value exchange is all about providing her with a heads up about what her kids will be learning, followed by some materials so she can support the learning they do at school when they get home, with some fun activities (preferably not ones which increase her workload, and especially ones which involve creating a mess the kids might run away from!). Follow-the-curriculum, colouring-in activities, downloadables, uploadables, word games – I’m sure you can think of a whole string of things you can give mum which will help her help her kids keep healthy. Not to mention having a cleaner house as a bonus…

It’s a series of nudges along a journey to brand loyalty. And you don’t really ever need to do any selling. You don’t need to say ‘Domestos keeps your house safe’ out loud, it’s implicit in the exchanges of value and values you’ve transacted with your customer along the way. At some point, one of the little nudges may even involve a voucher or a promotion, just to cement the relationship. You may give them a social space they can meet other mums in too, so long as you listen to their advice to you and you respond in a manner consistent with your brand’s values.

ECRM is, or at least never ever should be, about banging on about buy buy buy (I was going to say “Harpic on” but that would have been a bad pun too far). It’s about nudging, gently, so your customer wants to go on your journey with you. Because if you can take customers on your journey, while the discount merchants may sacrifice margin for survival, you’ll have loyalty delivering straight to the bottom line.