Not Everyone Is Your Customer

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 19, 2016
As we near the end of 2016, I spent time reflecting on topics I wrote about this year, with a couple of simple conclusions: Your inspiration is contextual to what’s happening now, but without a well-thought-out plan, you will never scale your ideas.  Not everyone is your customer, and the world you know of today is changing so rapidly many are only catching the tail end of trends.

This year I tried to focus on topical themes centered on mobile first, the active generations and the collective views of them versus the household dynamics. I’m still harping on the device/place- and time-shifting consumer, and how important women are to the “she-tail economy.”   

There are some potential major process/technical shifts coming our way that will scale down how to personalize, to what extent and at what expense.  It reminds me of this old Larsen comic.



While I think of personalization more broadly than email or mobile communications, it’s so fundamental to how you should think about your database, and the business value of that asset.

In the email marketing world, we typically see the entire customer universe, or at least the “identified” customer universe. Yet a database of 5 million records may contain only 10%-15% active customers, and may have a relative reach of less than 50% at any one month interval.   We are finding “30 day” engaged audiences can represent as little as 15%-30% of a total mail-able file.  You usually don’t get down to that granular detail until you have deliverability issues.

I used to believe that you can’t possibly address 8 million consumers if you can’t address the 10% that matter the most.   I’ve shifted this thinking over the years to a broader challenge of sustainable communications vs an episodic view of customer engagement.   

Yes, I want to optimize the customer that buys, and increase the frequency and value of that interaction. Yes, I want to retain the customer, so I’m not paying 4X to re-acquire them later.   What gets lost in that rat race is the other 50%-60% of your database, who are subjected to second-level thinking, or “licking stamps.”   

There is vast difference between investing in eye balls and investing in the wallet.  I wrote a piece last year at this time -- “Think Like a Publisher, Act Like a Retailer" -- to drive a bit different perspective.  Not sure how much sunk in.   

Reach is valuable as a means of understanding the market.  It’s a test bed, it’s where you balance risk with growth, it’s an email marketer’s best ability to have a chance at shifting huge acquisition budgets to activation budgets.

I’ve always been fascinated with a few things related to consumer trends and if I had the budget to append my database with three data elements, here is what I’d choose.
-- Age band (disparity in generation’s use of Internet and devices and day part timing is vastly different)
-- Gender (economic indicators of purchase, brand loyalty and house holding)
-- Presence of children (life-stage indicators that affect timing, device shifting and cyclical purchase trends)

I might revise this a bit if I’m Harley Davidson or AARP, but general visibility into these areas tells me far more than open rate trends, click trends or deliverablity inbox trends.

As long as we are dependent on third party ISPs, we continue to acquire subscribers with minimalistic views of data capture. The time- place- and device-shifting consumer will change faster than any behaviorist can optimize.

Marketing and communications is changing, and we live in a world of vast options, but the same amount of time to do things.  Keys to 2017 will be to develop patternistic views of your database that can help you address the importance of speed, prioritization and risk tolerance.  That what informs how you plan, act and adapt in-market.  

1 comment about "Not Everyone Is Your Customer".
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  1. Paul Evans from ChartLocal, December 19, 2016 at 2:05 p.m.

    Larson Comic link not working :(

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