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The Net Takeaway: The "ladder" has many rungs... to fall off of.


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The "ladder" has many rungs... to fall off of. · 04/19/2004 10:46 PM, Marketing

Paul Soltoff, a very smart fellow, writes some good columns for ClickZ, but this most recent one was emblematic of the “wave your hands” approach to database marketing.

He posits a hypothetical relevancy chain (which he calls a ladder, same thing) and starts to talk about how email can help push users up the ladder. Now, I know he has a word limits in his article, but take this one for example:

“Through surveys and e-mail messages, I know Allen takes two trips a year, brings three buddies, and travels in June and October.”

Wow, he has an unbelievably responsive and open audience. Through the magic of “surveys”, an anonymous response vehicle, and an uncounted number of undescribed emails, he has created an incredibly detailed profile of a single user.

Its just not that easy. Even with incentives, its difficult to get detailed data such as this from a user. And if its really a survey, it shouldn’t be linked to “Allen” at all. He could say “Allen is in a segment which, on average, goes on 2 trips a year, etc…” but if its linked to Allen, its a profile… and its rare to have this level of detail on any profiles.

In addition, Mr. Soltoff provides these “branching” emails, which provide the equivalent of a forced-choice option. A sample:

“If you’re ready to plan your June trip, I’d love to whip together something exciting for you and your friends. Are you planning to go fishing this June? [Yes] [No]”

Now, this seems all hunky-dory… except that the average click rate on mails is declining… and more importantly, our research shows that users tend to click on far less than 15% of the mails they receive (as a broad, huge average). This means that you would have to send lots of mail to get some of these data points. Mr. Soltoff provides no direction on what to do
a) to get users to have a good reason to respond to the question, and
b) when no one responds.

Again, Mr. Soltoff is no dummy, and all these online marketing sites have word limits (unclear why, its all electronic) so he can’t go into the detail he would want to.

But just once, I would love to see someone reflect the realities behind the ideas, and explain that “these things are great when they work, but the real experts spend much of their time having fallback plans for the people who don’t respond to these tactics… and here are some of our tricks…”

That being said, I read my ClickZ mails every day. As much as I dislike the glossing over of the hard stuff, they intro ideas very nicely…

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