Stop Marketing! Here's How Smart Companies Are Engaging Customers

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The best marketers and senior leaders know this, but not everyone does: No one wants to be marketed to. No one.

For proof, all we need to do is look in the mirror.

Do you enjoy the pop ups and solicitations that appear when you visit a website? Or those ads that follow you around the internet, based on nothing more than something you searched for on Google once? How about the advertisements that clutter up a potentially interesting web page or the ads that have nothing to do with your personal preferences, and—to make things worse—cover up content you’d like to read? Do you look forward to spam cluttering up your inbox? (You’ve blocked countless senders, yet you never seem to make a dent.) How about the constant, relentless messages from a retailer you once bought something from months (or years) ago? Then there are the telemarketer calls on Saturday morning…

Is this the kind of marketing anyone wants?

I don’t. You don’t. And neither do your prospects and customers.

No marketer dare address publicly, but it’s the truth: no one wants to be “marketed to.” No one. At least certainly not in the ways I outlined. I mean, how does it even sound remotely interesting? Who among us wakes up in the morning and says, "I want to be marketed to today?"

However, if I asked, "Do you want to be understood and listened to,” you are probably going to respond “yes.” Yes, I do want to feel that my opinion matters. I want to feel wanted and see the fact that I am valued reflected not only in the way I am treated, but in the products and services I buy from you.”

This is not just me talking. The data backs me up.

Wunderman, a leading digital agency that is part of the huge global communications company WPP, recently did an extensive survey of consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. Here is their big takeaway:

“Brands must demonstrate at every step in the customer journey that they understand what consumers need and want. Some 79 percent in the U.S. and 72 percent in the U.K. said they would only consider brands that show they understand and care about me.”

That’s an amazing statement. More than seven in ten people surveyed said they will only consider brands that understand and care about them.

That insight was confirmed by consumer and business purchase data. Wunderman found that 89 percent of U.S. customers and 84 percent in the U.K., “are loyal to brands that share their values.” If you wanted proof of the power of engagement, you don’t have to look any further.

There are two other things that jump out from the Wunderman research. The first: 88 percent of people in the U.S. and 90 percent in the U.K. “want to engage with brands that are setting new standards.” So, you can’t rest on your laurels.

There is one huge final takeaway: 87 percent of people in the U.S. and 85 percent in the U.K. said they don’t measure brands against their peers. Rather, they compare them to superior companies such as Amazon, Netflix, and Starbucks.

As Wunderman put it, “You aren’t just measured against your direct competitors anymore. You’re stacked up against the best, regardless of industry.”

So, what does this mean for you?

  1. Stop bothering people. As of today, stop sending one-size-fits-all messages to people. Show people you understand their values. TOMS appeals to customers who care about the less fortunate. (The company donates a pair of shoes every time a customer buys one. TOMS has built a movement and invited its customers to be a part of it. As a result, it has created an unpaid army of tens-of-thousands of brand advocates who spread the word about the company to their friends and followers on social media.)
  2. Show your customers you understand what they value. A huge reason Amazon, one of the companies Wunderman identified as exemplary, is successful is that they know their customers want convenience (one-click checkout; Amazon Prime’s two-day delivery) as well as low prices.


Let me end where I started. No one wants to be marketed to. In subsequent posts, I’ll share what your company needs to do to engage successfully with customers.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com on September 14, 2017.

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Steve Lucas

Chief Executive Officer, Marketo

Steve joined Marketo as chief executive officer in November 2016. He is an experienced executive with more than 25 years of experience in enterprise software. Prior to Marketo, Steve served as president of SAP’s Platform Solutions, where he led the company’s multi-billion-dollar growth and expansion into a range of technology markets. Steve joined SAP from Salesforce, where he led the expansion of the company into cloud-based enterprise application development.

Steve has held senior leadership positions at a number of leading enterprise, cloud, and analytics technology companies, including Microsoft, BusinessObjects, and Crystal Decisions. He has co-chaired various government technology leadership initiatives, including the TechAmerica BigData committee.

Steve is currently a member of the board of directors of TiVo and the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Steve holds a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Colorado and is a published co-author of several books on business intelligence software.

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