Customers are quick learners. We’ve learned, for example, to ignore subscription renewal letters that come months in advance of our actual expiration date; from experience, we know that there’s no urgency – plenty of other letters will come in the next few months reminding us to renew.
That’s why I’m concerned about a prevailing abuse of the word (or concept), “relationship.” As a pretext for sending me overwhelming amounts of unsolicited email, marketers tell me (in the fine print), that I’m receiving this cascade of irrelevant and irritating material because we have some kind of “relationship.”
Often, I cannot recall what that “relationship” is; when did I give permission for this volume of vacuous nonsense? It turns out that by purchasing a product, I’ve initiated a “relationship.” By downloading a free case study, I’ve initiated a “relationship.” By simply making a request for more information, again, I’ve initiated a “relationship.”
From my perspective, as a consumer, I’ve done no such thing. But from a marketing perspective (especially in the context of cumbersome Do Not Call laws), these are “relationship” opportunities we cannot afford to neglect.
Beware, my marketing colleagues, beware. (Cue in howling sounds.) If we teach consumers/prospects/customers that every interaction with us will result in a barrage of unwanted communications, they will indeed learn. I’ve already begun to hesitate before responding to “free” ebook offers or even asking a question on a live chat forum. And I suspect millions of other consumers are responding (or will respond) similarly. Because we’re learning that every teeny-tiny peep on our part will result in a “relationship” with sales efforts as unwelcome as midnight stalkers.
Real relationships take time. Just because someone thanks you for holding the door open doesn’t mean you’re invited to pack your toothbrush and spend the night. As marketers, we need to be prudent. Don’t punish a modest indication of interest with a painful deluge of solicitations. If we do, we’ll be rewarded with swift kicks to our collective behinds.