What a “Boys Night Out” taught me about Inbound Marketing

Boys Night Out
I was once on a Boys Night Out, and my mate, (under the influence) walked up to a girl at the bar, and with underlying amorous intentions, started asking her all sorts of personal questions. She “looked daggers” at him (as we say up North). Abject failure on his part.. The point here is that there is a time and a place for things in a relationship, and he got his timing badly wrong by asking for way too much information “up-front”.

I went to register for a white paper from a very large, well-known global software company. Sadly – I counted 28 (twenty eight) separate pieces of information on the registration page!. It was the equivalent of them saying “Tell me your life story”, on this very first tentative encounter.

Both my mate, and the large software company have forgotten that in any relationship the dynamics build over time:Engagement CurveThe shape of the engagement curve above gives the clue really. We can’t expect people to provide their life story right at the start. By capturing information piece by piece over time (incrementally), we can ensure that we are aligned with the natural, underlying, human dynamics.  Remember, when someone registers on your web-site, they are actually doing a couple of things (at least):

Clock

Spending some of their valuable time. (Might seem trivial, but on the web, every second counts).

Person With Question Mark Thought Bubble

Taking a risk, because they don’t know whether their registration will just disappear into a black hole.

The key is to start small (softly softly), and ask for more over time:

Incremental Data Capture

Technology can help by automating this process. The first registration page should really ask for the bare minimum: forename, surname, email is usually enough on the first encounter. The other important thing is to try and support the persons own agenda. In a B2B web situation , this usually means giving them something of genuine value (e.g. white paper, hints and tips, etc.) right from the start.

Example Registration Page

This “Give-Get” orientation is important. People come to your web site, not to see how great you are, but because they have their own agenda, such as finding out more about a certain subject area, looking for things to help them justify a proposal to their boss, etc.

By embracing that agenda, and giving something of value, (and a quick Email acknowledgement), you are starting the online relationship off in the right way. Once email address is captured, you can keep those people in the loop, with different announcements, offerings, etc., and when relevant (either after a suitable time delay, or because they’ve acted on something), you can ask for more information.

You could ask them to refine their profile / specify their interests via tick-boxes, or any other information which helps them self-segment, i.e. they can be categorised in certain ways, which then controls which engagement strategy you adopt, and which communications you send them (ideally automatically).

These cycles of data capture are best enabled via a link in an email, which then takes them to a web form where they see their own profile, and add more information accordingly.

Emails to Encourage Engagement

In Summary

  1. Remember our Boys Night Out. Asking for someone’s life story on the first encounter is a sure fire way to make them walk. The same is true on the web
  2. Don’t copy the big organisations. Some of them are dreadful at engaging their customers
  3. Incremental Data Capture allows you to start small, then ask for more and more information over time, in line with the human dynamics
  4. When people sign up, they do it for their reasons. Give them something of genuine value as a tempter for them to sign up.

(Please do feel free to comment,  email me here , or have a look at our website here )

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Blame Data for Bad Customer Service

I recently phoned my mobile operator with a query. I spoke to five different people, all of whom made me  quote my customer account number, and repeat the details of my query, which I can now do in my sleep.. (That was AFTER I’d diligently keyed my account number into their call-handling system.).

A few months earlier, I saw the CEO of the very same company speak, with passion and conviction, about putting the customer first. Sadly my experience was completely at odds with his intent.

But this isn’t about his sincerity, or that of the other people in the organisation.  It’s about disparate systems, processes and databases, each of which is responsible for a different part of the customer relationship.

This can often feel like unco-ordinated mayhem..

In my experience, the organisation in question is actually in the majority. The reality (and it’s a difficult one) is that to be truly ‘customer centric’, you need a single database which feeds all processes. Whilst I would never underestimate how difficult it is to adopt this ideal, it’s worth trying to go as far on the journey as possible, because every step will reduce innefficeincy, improve the customer experience, and so help the bottom line. If you don’t adopt a customer-centric philosophy, processes and systems can proliferate to the point of collapse,

Some call this Customer Data Integration (CDI),  or Master Data Management (MGM). I call it Data Harmonisation, because it involves taking many different  different inputs and orchestraing them towards a single, co-ordinated ensemble.

The nearer you get to a single customer database, the more duplication you drive out, and the more value you add.