#IronSharpensIron: When Direct Mail Hurts Instead of Helps

We live in an era where environmental impact is on the minds of many people, and every brand should be aware of how their actions are going to be perceived. Companies can’t do things the same way they did them even five years ago; climate change is real, it’s happening around us, and every company needs to be mindful of their environmental impact – especially when it comes to sales materials and direct mail pieces.

The biggest catalog I’ve seen in years.

I thought most companies were aware of the need to not be seen as wasteful, so I was surprised and frankly a bit irked to get this massive 2 pound 3 oz, 787 page catalog from Uline recently (shown above). This wasn’t just any junk mail – it was huge! I didn’t request this catalog, have never purchased anything from them, never gave them my information, and am not part of their customer market. It was addressed to the “shipping department” of an LLC I spun up two years ago for working with one client as a small side gig. This is Uline’s “hello” to a potential new customer, but I don’t have a warehouse or ship anything. This is direct mail marketing without appropriate targeting, and it backfired.

Continue reading #IronSharpensIron: When Direct Mail Hurts Instead of Helps

#IronSharpensIron: Never Waste an Opportunity for Feedback

This has been republished from LinkedIn

Right under the wire (OK, OK, it’s over the wire), here’s my second installment of the #IronSharpensIron series I started two weeks ago. I had intended to write about a masterful gamification program run by a company we all know, but that article will take more effort to pull together that I had time for this week, and a different topic fell into my lap today.

Everyone who sends email knows that depending on the campaign, even a 5% open rate can be seen as an excellent result. So if a customer not only opens your email, but acts on it, you’ve got a great opportunity to to accomplish something with that customer.

Today I received an email from Evernote support after I’d submitted a support request earlier in the week. Evernote is a tool I’ve used for over a decade, and while I generally like it, there’s a fatal product flaw I discovered when I bought my iMac back in 2015: the audio recording quality is horrendously bad (8,000hz mono WAV files if you’re an audio geek). It has nothing to do with the microphone on the device, and everything to do with the poor quality that an Evernote product manager years ago decided was the right setting to use. Compare that with the much better quality of their iOS app recordings – 44,100hz M4A files – and you have a very uneven customer experience where using their app on a desktop is a more compromised experience than mobile. The Evernote community forums have had dozens and dozens of customers complaining about the same issue over the years. Evernote has never committed to fixing this issue; this sets the stage for my Evernote support ticket.

I emailed and expressed my frustration at having audio recordings of such low quality it was difficult to understand what I was saying in them. Their support tech was helpful – at first he said the poor quality was due to the microphone after he did some tests, but after I provided him the sample files above and explained the technical differences between the way each of their apps records audio, he confirmed my findings and filed an internal feature change request to fix this issue. I couldn’t have asked for anything more than an Evernote employee taking my request seriously and acting on it. I know that doesn’t mean the fix will make it into a future release – I’ve gone through the painful process of stack ranking things I want in my product, knowing I can only get some of them – but it’s better than nothing.

Evernote’s support email system sent me an email today asking for my feedback about the product, and my experience with the technician. I act on these types of emails about 50% of the time, but I was so pleased with that the efforts and helpfulness of the support tech I dealt with, I was eager to reply. Here’s the email they sent me:

There’s a clear one-click CTA: give us your feelings about Evernote as a product. Given my frustration with Evernote not fixing this issue for years, I clicked on the number five and it took me to a page that asked three questions: the product rating question again, a rating for the support technician (I gave him a 10), and an open comment field for why I gave the tech that rating. But no field to explain why I gave their product a five out of ten.

If you have a customer who’s willing to explain why they gave you a negative product rating, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that? Why not have a branching survey with a few more questions to understand the nature of the frustration? Heck, take a small percentage of those and offer to let the customer talk directly to a member of the product management team. Far too many product teams hide behind their anonymity and don’t get down into the trenches with the people actually using their products.

Feedback is a gift, and not receiving the full measure of that feedback squanders it.

Settling for a single NPS-style score tells you nothing other than you have an unhappy customer. There’s no greater gift a company can get from their customers than an understanding of what they can improve to make that customer happy with it again.

Have you seen examples lately of companies not taking advantage of feedback from their customers? How does your company treat customer feedback? Let me know in the comments below.

#IronSharpensIron: What can we learn from each other’s digital marketing executions?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

This is being re-published from LinkedIn.

Welcome to the first in what I hope will be a long-running series of articles about effective, and ineffective, real-world strategies and tactics for digital marketing, customer/user experience, gamification, community/advocacy, commerce, and more. I firmly believe some of the best learning experiences come from observing live marketing efforts and learning from your peers. I’m tired of the generic “Top 10 Strategies for Success” type articles that litter the landscape. That’s not to say that you can’t gain insights or ideas from such articles, but the more generic an article is, the harder it is to see how well it might work for you because there’s no benchmark to measure from. Nothing beats the real thing as the saying goes.

Learning from each other – iron sharpening iron – means looking at real-world executions of digital marketing and not being afraid to call out failures along with successes. Being specific in this way has some risk; one digital marketer calling out the efforts of another, even in a generic, way might not always be…appreciated. It’s the biggest reason I was afraid to start this series of articles; I work in this industry and didn’t want to come across as someone who’s armchair quarterbacking the efforts of others. But…

As Seth Godin likes to say, sometimes you just have to leap off the edge.

My hope though is that by being constructive in my criticism we can all learn something – and if someone involved in that marketing wants to publicly respond to my critique, all the better! I’m an outsider looking in and of course only know part of the story. I’m hopeful others will jump in and offer their perspectives as well. The beauty of digital marketing is that we can all move fast; try something, measure the results, adjust, try again, and measure the outcome. There are very few scenarios where there’s not an opportunity to learn from failure, adjust, and give it another shot. The Internet never closes.

Failure comes in a few forms, but there’s no bigger hurdle to overcome than the expectations of your customers. In that vein, I am obsessed with the idea of digital friction. It’s a concept first introduced to me by Jason Goldberg during a (sadly under-promoted) hour-long webinar we did with him when I led the now-defunct Business Circle. Once you start to look at all online interactions through the lens of digital friction, you simply can’t look at things in any other way. It’s a customer-centric perspective that has your desired outcome at the end, and evaluates everything – no matter how seemingly minor – along the way that would interfere with the customer arriving at the outcome you want. It doesn’t matter if it’s a newsletter sign-up, a donation, or buying a pair of shoes.

Every process has friction and eliminating that friction smooths the path to success in our efforts.

As marketers we tell ourselves all manner of myths about why someone didn’t do the thing we wanted them to do; many companies under-invest in real-world user research and resist asking customers themselves about their experiences. Or, if they do, it’s with an irritating pop-up survey window that most of us click close on by instinct because we haven’t actually done anything yet (I’m looking at you Foresee). Customer engagement is often viewed as a support-centric experience ad a cost center. “If we’re hearing from our customers it’s costing us money” is how this thinking tends to go. That’s a tremendously short-sighted way of looking at customer engagement and and is something I plan to focus on.

My goal will be to consistently publish one of these #IronSharpensIron articles bi-weekly, and I hope you’ll comment, share, and give me feedback as this series grows – because I’m always open to some sharpening from a peer!