Many of the offers I get are pretty useful. I’ll get discount offers from the various office supply stores, offers to open corporate accounts with various B2B suppliers, invitations to trade events and much more. I’ve even responded to some of these communications and have purchased things like conferencing services, credit card accounts and telecom services.
One of the deficiencies I see in direct marketing, especially online, is the failure on the part of some marketers to differentiate prospective customers and their existing customers. Many times, when I sign up for a business service, the company I sign up with still treats me like a prospect. I still get acquisition messages, both online and offline. This is a big problem. From my perspective, the fact that the company’s marketing department doesn’t know that I’m already a customer says to me that they don’t appreciate my business. Also, I get to see all of the new offers that the company is using to attract new customers, and if the deal is sweeter than what I’m currently getting, it makes me feel like I’m getting ripped off.
None of this should be happening on a regular basis. After all, how difficult is it to de-dupe a direct mail or email list? In my dealings with email vendors, I’ve been encouraged several times to run their lists up against my existing email lists to weed out existing customers and make sure they don’t get new acquisition messages. The end result is that I pay less, as duplicate email addresses are removed from the drop and I don’t have to pay for them. As I’ve mentioned before in several columns, I rarely rent email names (only upon client insistence), so I have far less experience with this than many of my readers. Yet, the fact that I know this de-duping service is available and that list brokers and email companies encourage using it makes me wonder why it’s not used more often.
It’s not even such a difficult challenge to execute across multiple DR platforms. When customers sign up for a business service online, they provide a mailing address in almost all cases. That mailing address should go to the folks in charge of offline DM for removal from any lists they might buy. Similarly, offline direct marketers should be asking for email addresses from new customers who respond to mailers, so that they can be removed from future email acquisition efforts.
It doesn’t do a B2B company any good to alienate its existing customers by treating them like prospects. It’s disrespectful, especially if they’re spending quite a bit of money on a recurring basis. Let’s make an effort to use the technology available to us to make sure this doesn’t continue.