Busy business people are opting out of email lists at a frightening clip! Overwhelmed by the volume of non-vital email flooding their inboxes, many customers have pruned their opt-in email relationships to the bare minimum. This presents a daunting challenge to email marketers.
Let Your PRODUCTS Do Your Direct Marketing. There is a bright side, however. E-enabled products--from ink jet printers to automotive diagnostic tools to chemical analysis systems to computer servers--are increasingly “phoning home” to get updates, add-ons, and renewals. So, if your customers won’t let you market to them, their products may!
Here are a few examples. If you’re using an antivirus software product on your computer, you may have noticed that this tool automatically sends updates whenever new threats occur. When you obtained your antivirus software, you may not have realized that it included a subscription to those updates. But what happens when your subscription expires? Your software will alert you that its subscription needs to be renewed. You (or the person in charge of your firm’s software) can renew that subscription directly from the product’s virus alert notification.
When your HP printer runs low on ink, the error message now makes an offer: sign up for our automatic replenishment service--Ink Me!
Many computer systems now automatically register themselves every time they’re moved, so that they’re still eligible for entitled technical support. When the equipment is turned on in the new location, there’s an opportunity for the entitlement registration process to recommend additional support coverage and/or add-ons.
Professional lawnmowers, irrigation systems, shipping containers, cargo ships and trucks, delivery vehicles, and airplanes all are equipped with sensors that allow customers and suppliers to monitor their locations and their operating status in real time. Each time these devices check in for maintenance or diagnostics, there’s an opportunity to alert the end user that an upgrade is available.
Snap-on’s hand-held diagnostic tools are used to troubleshoot car and airplane engines all over the world. At Snap-on’s Diagnostics division in San Jose, experienced mechanics arrive every afternoon to turn what they’ve learned on the job into new troubleshooting routines. Out in the field, customers’ handheld devices can be updated each time they’re docked--providing countless opportunities to offer upgrades or related tools.
Chemical analysis systems--the ones you see being used to analyze blood, fibers, and hair follicles on TV crime shows--can be monitored remotely to ensure that each instrument’s analysis falls within appropriate quality standards, providing the supplier with a great opportunity to recommend a tune-up and/or to sell proactive maintenance services.
Taking Advantage of E-Enabled Products. What can you do to make sure you’re not missing this opportunity to get your marketing message to the person who really needs to see it through the product he or she is using?
First, work closely with your product development team to help it e-enable your company’s products and services. The chances are good that remote diagnostics, updating, and other “phone home” capabilities are already being designed into your firm’s next-generation offerings. Yet, it will take an experienced direct marketer to define the appropriate offers and to determine the contexts in which such offers will be welcomed.
Second, co-design new offerings with the end users of your products and services. Invite a group of your most insightful and passionate customers--the ones I refer to as your “lead customers”--to co-design their ideal scenarios with you. These experienced users know exactly where they have problems using your solutions to accomplish their tasks. If you give them the freedom to co-design the best ways to get their jobs done using your products and services, you’ll uncover dozens of overlooked opportunities to interact with these customers as they do their jobs.
Third, be sure to build instrumentation into your e-enabled products that will allow you to monitor the conversion rates for each offer in each context, and for each group of customers in similar roles. You want to be able to monitor and to improve both the quality of the customer’s experience with your products as well as your share of her wallet.
So, the next time your company develops a new product, make sure that it can phone home!