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Let Customers Choose How You Reach Them

By Garland Coulson
Posted Saturday, September 4, 2004

Does mass marketing still work? Does bombarding us with hundreds of commercial messages each day through television, radio, billboards, mail, newspapers and e-mail make us go out and purchase those products?

More and more companies have become concerned at the high cost and low measurability of mass marketing campaigns. As a result, companies have tried segmenting narrow target markets and finding specialty niches. But these are only a refinement on mass marketing and the assumption is still that you have to bombard the members of this target market with multiple messages to get a small percentage to buy.

So what is the answer? Why not put the people you would like to reach in charge of the marketing channel you use to reach them or even in charge of designing the product?

Technology is already giving your customers more control over what reaches them. Call display means they don’t have to answer your telemarketing calls. E-mail spam filters mean they can keep out your e-mails. The remote control for televisions allows people to visit other channels during your commercials and new television technologies let people skip past commercials completely. More people are receiving their news by e-mail newsletter, bypassing mainstream media. New software lets people disable “pop-up” windows on web sites.

Instead of fighting this trend, why not work with it? Instead of sending out lots of messages in the hopes that a small percentage will buy, why not let your customers and prospects tell you what they are interested in so you can just send them what appeals to them?

For example, let’s look at a large home improvement store. Some of the people they serve might include homebuilders, gardeners, homeowners, tool buyers, wood carvers, plumbers, painters, barbecue enthusiasts, decorators and many more categories. Most flyers sent out by home improvement stores try to include something in each category to appeal to everyone.

Instead, why not let visitors to the store or web site sign up for the information they want? For example, the gardener enthusiasts could sign up for a weekly or monthly newsletter that might include:

[] Garden design tips
[] Suggested dates for planting, fertilizing, pruning, etc.
[] Tips on controlling pests
[] A question and answer section where experts answer the reader’s questions
[] Coupons for money off gardening supplies and plants
[] Tips on maintaining garden implements
[] List of gardening related courses, contests and events
[] Reader’s “garden pictures of the week”
[] Reader’s stories and reviews
[] Reader surveys – find out what they want to see in the newsletter

The barbecue enthusiasts could receive:

[] New recipes each week
[] Entertainment ideas
[] Care and maintenance tips
[] Coupons for special deals on barbecues and barbecue accessories
[] Coupons for special deals on barbecue food by partnering with a local food store or butcher shop
[] Barbecue cooking courses, contests and events
[] Reader’s favorite recipes
[] Readers question and answer section
[] Reader’s best and worst barbecue experiences and stories
[] Latest barbecue equipment news
[] Reader surveys – find out what they want to see in the newsletter

The newsletter could be delivered very cost effectively by e-mail or a print version could be provided by mail or for pickup within the store.

By allowing readers to participate through questions, submitting pictures, stories and reviews, the content is more relevant to readers. It also makes it easier for the home improvement store as they don’t have to develop as much of the content.

You may have heard of the 80:20 rule relating to customers, that suggests that 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your profits. By connecting with the enthusiasts in each category, you are finding and reaching that 20% who bring in higher profits and buy more. The coupons and product news allow you to continually show enthusiasts to products and services they really want instead of wasting your marketing dollars reaching people who aren’t interested.

Over a year, 1,000s of people would go through a store like this. Providing streams of information that people can sign up for allows the store to add value for its clients, keep in regular touch, and continually provide marketing messages and other information that the customers want to receive.

About the Author
Garland Coulson, The E-Business Tutor works with business owners and communities to show them how e-business marketing can transform their business or community. For more information, visit The E-Business Tutor web site at
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