News & Articles


Stop the Marketing Waste!

blog post by Ginger Conlon of
October 15, 2010

"One percent isn't a 'success' rate," author Ernan Roman stated emphatically when we talked about marketing strategies last week. "Ninety-nine percent of direct marketing recipients basically saying, 'No thanks,' isn't OK."

According to Roman, founder and principal of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing and author of Voice-of-the-Customer Marketing, today's wasteful marketing practices are a statement of marketers' lack of social responsibility and respect for customers. "A 99 percent waste factor is unsustainable, he said. "We have to wake up as an industry and change our practices."

Roman said that the key to marketing success today is connecting with customers. Data modeling is not enough; neither is throwing more technology at the problem or writing more clever copy. "We can only stop the obscenely wasteful practices of our industry by listening to customers and then changing our practices based on their preferences," he said, adding that he's seen companies achieve consistent double-digit response rates by using the voice of the customer (VoC) to guide their marketing strategies.

"Arrogant marketers say that customers don't know what they want. But if we listen to truly understand customer preferences and go with what they're saying, that's the wise thing to do. Customers can guide us with their preferences."

Companies aren't capable of one-to-one marketing the way most currently market, Roman said. The idea of one-to-one is relevance: right person, timing, message, and medium. To make one-to-one a reality companies need an opt-in database with customers' rules of engagement; they need to use more than modeling, which infers but, considering current response rates, is fairly ineffective, he said. What works is using voice of the customer to find out how customers define their relationship with your company and their preferred depth of relationship (e.g., if they consider you a commodity you'll treat them differently than if they consider you a valued partner).

Marketers also need to understand the progression of the relationship and the appropriate actions at each stage. "You don't propose on the first date," Roman said. The relationship and level of intimacy at each stage within that relationship should be defined by the customer.

"Marketing is an exciting industry; we do so many cool things. But we need to change," Roman said. "Too many marketers are stuck in their old ways. They're afraid to relinquish control. 'I know it all; I have customer intelligence.' But response rates show they don't know it all."

Roman offered five steps that marketers can use to guide them through that change:

  1. Conduct VoC research and apply it to marketing strategies and practices
  2. Use VoC to help devise opt-in relationship strategies
  3. Create a multichannel marketing mix based on customer preferences
  4. Build a social media strategy using VoC-driven preferences as your guide
  5. Deliver an excellent customer experience; this includes investing in post-sales service
"Marketers have no choice but to change," Roman asserted. "We don't drive or command consumers; we have to align with them. It's an exciting place to be."

New Book Release: Voice Of The Customer Marketing
"This is the definitive playbook for this new customer-driven era."
—Frank Eliason
Senior Director, National Customer Operations, Comcast
"Thank you, Ernan, for tuning us in to the inner voice of our customers! A deep understanding of our customers' needs and preferences is essential for our future growth."
—Karen Galley
President, Patient News Publishing