How to Crush a (Potential) Customer?

Editor’s Note: We are very excited to introduce today’s guest blogger, Tim Johnson. Tim has 20-plus years in product marketing and channel sales for systems management, security and SaaS vendors.  Author of the “It’s About Value” product marketing blog.  Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader and sometime maker of sawdust.  You can also find Tim on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Last summer, my son’s Cub Scout pack had a community service activity.  One of the other parents took some pictures and posted them to her Shutterfly account to share with the pack.  Because of BSA rules and parental concerns, the pictures were put into a private folder.  I had to create an account to get access to the pictures.  I don’t use Shutterfly so was a little bugged about having to create yet another account but the boys were really cute so what could I do?

Then the opt-in abuse started.  Shutterfly seems to think I am now their best friend.  Every two to four days I get another email screaming about some free or limited time special offer.  Here is a screen shot of what I got in October and November:


Free prints. Two more days for 40% off. 10 free cards.  Did you get your 10 free cards? Don’t miss out on your 10 free cards. Discounts, discounts DISCOUNTS!!!!

Not only do they not get it, they don’t know who I am and seem to think that carpet bombing me with special offers is going to get me to buy something.  After three months of not even visiting the site (let alone uploading a picture or buying anything), you’d think they’d get an inkling that I’m not a prospect.  All they know about me is my email address.

Short side bar on the “wisdom” of lots of special offers: Don’t do it. You get so many price points that a) nobody knows what they’re going to pay from one day to the next and b) customers will EXPECT a special offer and won’t buy without one – even when they are ready to buy.

Shutterfly’s antics have so alienated me that I went so far as to cancel my account and am recommending people against using it.

Moral of the story?

First and foremost – know your customer.

  • Take the time to understand their motivations for signing up with your company.
  • Take the time to LEARN about your customer by tracking what they do, how often they visit, etc.
  • Don’t make the mistake in thinking that one transaction is the predictor for all future behavior.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking that opening an email (or as in my case, marking it as ‘read’) means true interest.
    Geez, if you use Preview Mode in Outlook, just scrolling through your daily mails transmits that they have been opened.

Second, and just as important – Don’t be afraid to eliminate names/leads from your database.  If people don’t respond to your multiple offers (and you did create them based on well-researched personas, didn’t you?), then they are simply not a prospect and see no value in your offering.  Get over it, move on and stop pestering them.

Taking the time to learn about your prospects results in offers that generate traffic or business and will turn them into fans.  Not taking the time to understand turns prospects into enemies and runs the risk of being made an example (and not the good kind) in more than one Product Marketing blog.

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  • Great guest post. I wish that there were more companies that would eliminate names/leads form their database. Sadly, inertia, and (shortsighted) marketing goals make it well neigh impossible to remove a lead, even a dead, useless, valueless lead. That horse will be whipped, and lead to sales people taking a grim view of the “marketing” lead forwarded to them.nnOnce a lead has been DQ’d, blow it away, or if you are super progressive, start a “do not contact” database for when some overeager junior marketeer stumbles across that lead int he future!

    • Tim Johnson

      Geoff,nnCompletely agree. I recently witnessed a “campaign” that was sent to 20,000 names that generated exactly 3 leads. If that wasn’t bad enough, that same crowd sent another email to the same 20,000 names and got ZERO responses other than about 15 who showed up as opening it. The sales team was instructed to call them as leads: “They must be interested, else why would they open it?” Uh, perhaps they just marked it as read or scrolled over it in Preview mode in Outlook?!nnAn unresponsive name in your db is not totally worthless: it tells you quite clearly that they aren’t a prospect and should be marked as such.nnI guess there is still a massive chasm between the old “demographics” driven marketing styles and persona driven marketing that we all subscribe to.

      • It is really amazing if you stop to look at it. I bought a gift for my brother from Omaha Steak’s in early December (I had not purchased from them before and only did because of a giant sale). nnLooking at my email now, between Dec. 18th and Dec. 31st, I received at least 17 emails from them. nnScreen shot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42505906@N05/5343169543/lightbox/nnThat is crazy! I am sure it was more because I remember deleting a bunch. I have not purchased from them and most likely never will again thanks to this bad taste of spam (instead of steak) in my mouth.nnThanks for the great post and comments!nnJoshnn

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