How to Avoid Turning Your Relationship with Your Customers Cold

Companies send me messages all of the time, across a wide range of different mediums. An email detailing their latest offer, a flyer boasting about a new product they have just launched, and text messages to remind me to take action.

All of this is fine, up to a point. No one likes spam, but no one minds a well timed targeted piece of information about a product or service they might actually need either.

The rise of ‘big data’ and improvements in ad tracking mean that companies have more information than ever about people and whether or not they have already been exposed to their messages.

So, why am I still receiving the same leaflet for a new currency service in the mail every three weeks? And, why am I still being shown adverts for a stereo system when I just bought one? And if anyone could explain why I received another prompt to book an appointment with a local medical provider, literally 5 minutes after I had just booked an appointment, I would really appreciate it.

Some of this is most likely due to poor linkages between disparate databases. Some of it is probably pure laziness, and some of it is probably due to an ill-informed piece of marketing advice that due to the mere exposure effect, if I see a message/product enough I will like it and buy it.

But the reality, is in fact, the complete opposite. When companies repeatedly send the same message to their customers, it makes the message seem impersonal and damages the relationship between the company and their customer. It’s like constantly introducing yourself to your friend’s new partner when you both know you have met numerous times before.

Behavioural Economists often stress the importance of personalisation. Numerous studies have shown personalisation to be effective in increasing fine repayment, sewer bill payment and charitable donations. One study showed that writing a personalised request for donations to previous charity donors, which included a note about the exact amount they had previously donated, increased repeat donations significantly.

The effects of ‘de-personalisation’ can be just as strong, but in the wrong direction. Businesses should invest time to ensure that they are not undoing their own good work by treating existing customers like strangers.