Are Consumers Using Silos Against You?

The art of navigating silos and internal politics was a common topic at Mediapost's Email Insider Summit on Captiva Island, Fla. last week. For those who have been around email for a while, we know what we need to do, but figuring out how to actually accomplish it continues to be a challenge.

Brands Lose When Customers Lose

When I think about silos, I think about the disjointed experiences they create for customers. Take preference centers, for example. I spoke with one marketer in Captiva about my experience registering with one of  the company's many sites. After giving my email address to one brand, I started receiving email from some of the company's other entities. Distinct messaging, offers, and creative execution made it clear that these business units operate independently. And so, I tried to update my preferences for what I wanted to receive.

I couldn't.

During this conversation, I confirmed that no central place for updating preferences exists. The person I spoke with was painfully aware of the issue, but politics had stymied progress toward a centralized solution. I could either mark the email as spam, which would stop everything, or I could unsubscribe from emails individually. Even though I love the brand, I'm not willing to take the time to figure it out.



Brands Can Also Lose When Customers Win

The proliferation of new communication channels, such as mobile and social media, is giving savvy consumers new opportunities to take advantage of companies not paying attention.

During a recent series of focus groups we asked consumers about their motivations for registering for email vs. becoming a Fan on Facebook. To our surprise, this led to a lively discussion about where to find the best deals. As one participant stated, "Right now I think Facebook is the best place for deals. A lot of companies are giving away freebies just to get you to become a Fan."

This represents the sentiment of online consumers we have since identified as "Deal Seekers." In a subsequent survey (for which the results will be released next month), we found that 30% of online consumers fall into this group. They don't have a particular preference for how companies send them information. They register for email, check coupon sites, and Fan companies on Facebook more often than other online consumers. Unlike other consumers, their primary interest in becoming a Fan is to get the freebie. Once they get the deal, they un-Fan the company and move on in search of the next deal.

So, is this really a loss to the company? Yes. Companies could easily get just as many new email subscribers if they were offering the same deals for email registration --and these names would be of more value. Deal seekers check email more often, and Facebook less often, than other online consumers.

They have simply learned to use companies' lack of coordination across channel silos to their own advantage.

The Solution? Think Long-Term

I appreciated a comment from FedEx's Drew Bailey on the importance of consistency and longevity in driving large projects. The development of FedEx's global preference center required collaboration across multiple business units, each with distinct operational goals, across every country in which the company operates.

The kicker? It took three years to complete, with much of the effort focused on education about email, the role it plays in customer communication, and how centralizing permission information would benefit all business units and the company at large.

At the end of the day, a company's customers and stockholders have the same interest: a strong relationship that transcends internal politics. As marketers, it is our job to facilitate this without getting in the way. Whether it is driving projects to protect customers from disjointed experiences or working to deliver offers in the way that offers the most long-term benefit to the enterprise, success requires more than channel expertise; it requires a broad perspective and considerable political savvy.

1 comment about "Are Consumers Using Silos Against You?".
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  1. Frances Dugan from Permanent General Companies, Inc., April 28, 2010 at 1:04 p.m.

    Great post Morgan. I went through the same thing you described in the "Brands Lose When Customers Lose" section. It's exhausting! Like you, even though love the brand, I now mark their emails as spam. What a huge disappointment for the company and their email marketing program.

    I think one of the root causes of these problems is that many companies jumped into the email game quickly and without a solid, well-thought-out long-term strategy. Of course, they did get in the game quicker, but was it worth the headaches they have caused themselves, their customers, and their potential customers? I doubt it.

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