If it smells like Spam


Share on LinkedIn

The first thing I notice about an inside-out company is when I experience their CRM practices. The first time I meet them (as a consultant), I’m suddenly getting newsletters every month and one-off pieces telling me why this or that product is great. I’ve gotten so used to deleting emails that it’s hard to stop and read them – even though I have a great deal of interest in just how internally focused the thought is that drives these communications.

But you don’t have to get spammed by a company for them to be inside out. There are some companies out there that still haven’t discovered how easy it is to drive customers away with spam. They still do it the hard way  :)

image Marketing started as a more sophisticated endeavor – well, maybe just smarter. When you have to physically send catalogs to potential buyers, you really need to segment and target a lot better. The cost of sending out catalogs to everyone in the known Universe is simply prohibitive. So, these guys learned,  early on, methods of analyzing the data they had available to optimize the return on selected groups of customers. Even without computers, they had systems (3×5 cards) that helped them do this. Sure, it was hard work. But, the results couldn’t be argued with. They knew their customers and more importantly, they knew who was likely to purchase from them!

I’m not sure how effective other businesses were in this era, but with advent of Television, it became pretty darn simple to target a huge percentage of, say, married women with children. Placing advertisements during prime-time would guarantee you a certain number of eyeballs. However, the advent of cable television boiled this down to size when it became simple to flip to another channel – not to mention the vast array of channels. How many channels would you have to advertise on to reach the same numbers you could in the 1960’s? Infomercials and shopping channels were born and were very successful. The branding exercises seemed to change (have you heard a memorable jingle lately), though, and many business could only afford short sound bites on a vast array of media. This translated well to junk mail which is very much like a crazy lady screaming in a movie theater – during a chick flick.

It keeps getting worse

Junk mail media turned to junk email media – essentially nothing more than “Look at my product – PLEASE! – from an even shriller and crazier lady in the theater.”  Heck email is nearly free to send, and it then became a game of numbers. And far too many companies I’ve seen have fallen into this trap. No, not spammers, per se, but the mentality that if I stay in front of everyone, or basic demographic breakdowns, with same un-thoughtful and impersonal message about my product, over and over again, someone will buy – they just don’t know when. But, there are hidden costs to that. Eye’s begin to glaze over until someone else captures there attention. This is inside-out thinking. It’s easier to care about yourself and never look at it from the vantage point of your audience.

No wonder, most marketing professionals are nothing more than advertisers these days – with a minor in graphic design. Ask the next marketing person you know if they’ve ever heard of RFM. The “no” answer will tell you a lot – they don’t know how to measure. They craft broad based product oriented messages because the only thing they can possibly know is their own product.  And with the advent of Social Media (unfortunately being touted as Social CRM by social media types), this has only become a steeper, slipperier slope. Same strategy, new channel to abuse. I dare you to argue that I’m wrong. Just wait and see folks – it’s in the nature of too many people for some silly reason.

It’s simple and easy to abuse channels like this. But simple is simply not effective.  And since it frees up so much time on the measurement side of the house (not having to measure anything), there’s much more time to spend goobering up what should be really simple – delivering your product or service efficiently, effectively and with a mind toward delivering value the customer deems as valuable. Idle hands and careers built around “that’s the way we’ve always done it”, you know. You can read more about my observations in my recent post about customer-centricity.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Mike,

    You are spot-on in your analysis. But I’m wondering what the better solution is? Let’s take your example of the email marketing “mentality that if I stay in front of everyone, or basic demographic breakdowns, with same un-thoughtful and impersonal message about my product, over and over again, someone will buy – they just don’t know when.” There are costs associated with this – but please elaborate more on what they are. I think most marketing folks with the mentality that you mentioned above do not perceive that there are any real costs to their actions. Sure, someone unsubscribes or continues to delete the message but the thinking among these folks is that these “un-subscribers” were never going to buy anyway. Therefore, they associate no cost to that “unthoughtful and impersonal message” that just got deleted. Your thoughts?

    Patrick Lefler
    The Spruance Group
    Site: http://www.spruancegroup.com
    Blog: http://www.spruancegroup.com/blog
    Newsletter: http://www.spruancequarterly.com

  2. Patrick,

    I would say the costs are related to customer defection and higher acquisition costs – the measurements for this are worthy of a series of additional posts.

    Marketing shouldn’t be about slinging mud against the wall to see what sticks. In my opinion, it really needs to be focused on measuring customer retention (or disengagement as Jim Novo talks about) and extending the life cycle. How many marketing people today, especially in the lower and middle of the market, get this? I don’t meet many in my day to day life.

    I guess I’d like to see the relationship marketing community grow and the new customer marketing grow up a bit. I think the old grizzled veterans get it. I’m worried about the new 20 something social media types that are more excited about their technology than really understanding human behavior.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here