My Experience With B2C Communication

I recently received some B2C (Business to Consumer) communication over LinkedIn that prompted me to write about the experience. I would summarise this as a mini critique, but more importantly a refreshing reminder of what it’s like to be on the end of blanket marketing communication.

no message on board

Before I go any further, I would like to point out that no one is perfect. I used the term, ‘mini critique’ because I’m not a fan of pointing and ridiculing people. I’ve seen a lot of people get burnt with this approach, so I’d prefer to keep this post constructive and polite. I will therefore not mention the product or the company that communicated with me, I don’t want to tarnish them and can only hope they might read this post and make some positive changes that could impact their bottom line (in a positive way)! Good luck guys.

Background

So I received a LinkedIn invitation from a company that provided a B2C solution. I accepted the invite thinking that they might be interested in Attacat’s services/knowledge or maybe they just wanted to reach out to someone for a personal insight. You never know!  After the invite was accepted I received a message the next morning from the company thanking me for making contact which was ace. However what followed next can only be described as a marketing-sales punch, right in the kisser. Ouch. The message from the company waited no more than five words to start hard selling me their product, weak.

Jon, what’s your problem?

I never expressed any interest in this product/service. That’s not to say that I never will, but the way the message communicated with me was like I was already at the Awareness/Interest stage of the buying cycle. It had failed to qualify me correctly, and, therefore, the entire communication was disregarded as irrelevant.

I’ll admit that I did continue to read the email out of curiosity as to why they targeted me. Frustratingly the message even suggested that I already had a similar type of product/service to theirs. It felt like a blanket targeting strategy based on job title or businesses in certain locations but didn’t allude to it. Overall, it smelt of intrusive marketing.

Was it all bad?

Of course not.  In fairness to these guys, their message was passionate and enthusiastic and I actually believe that they wanted to build a relationship with me. I can’t knock them for communicating with me, at least they are trying!

So, what’s the solution?

I’ve outlined some of the biggest things that I want to share:

Qualification

It’s a simple yet often overlooked element of any communication. If you have something to say, not everyone is going to be interested or want to listen. Understanding what audiences are going to be receptive to your message, will go a long way to gaining a loyal customer. So, in this scenario I would have tried to use as much existing data as possible to qualify audiences before I reached out to them. That could have simply been location and gender attributes, but it would have helped to narrow down the reach to a more specific audience.

I should note that the company may have done this already, which leads me to my next point.

Opening statement (hook & bait)

In my eyes, the opening communication with a customer can often be equated to speed dating. Imagine you were seated opposite someone and your opening line was:

‘Let’s get married. Now!’

Feels a bit rushed doesn’t it?

I’ve referred to the opening statement as a hook because it’s essentially your opportunity to ‘hook’ the participant into what you’ve got to say. The hook naturally needs to have bait though, and the bait needs to be specific to that individual as not everyone will be receptive to same thing.

Often the bait is focused on addressing a specific problem that the individual might have. But once you’re able to sprinkle some different emotions through this, you’re able to utilise the same message in a variety of different ways. Thus appealing to different audiences i.e

  • <Bait benefit> + <Emotion = Curiorisity)
  • <Bait benefit> + <Emotion = Competitiveness)
  • <Bait benefit> + <Emotion = Delight)

I use the term ’emotion’ loosely. I believe that there are only six basic emotions that you humans have (Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Surprise & Disgust).

emotion
Creepy photo depicting emotion

In my scenario, the hook was there but the bait wasn’t. I knew what they wanted me to do, but ultimately I didn’t want to do it I didn’t bite.

Tailoring for the VIP experience

It seems stupid to say, but almost everyone wants to feel special, so it’s important to tailor all our B2C communication in-light of this. I feel that blanket communication in the form of emails/calls, get so little attention partly due to the fact that they don’t feel personal. I should mention that at this point I’m assuming that at this stage in the funnel you’ve qualified the audience and now got a strong opening statement.

In the communication I received, the company mentioned that they deal with the whole of the UK. This statement presents an opportunity to add in some VIP treatment. I work in Edinburgh, so a simple reference to the city I work in (which is visible within LinkedIn) would make the communication feel more personalised to me.

So what else could you tailor? Gender, location or type of business? Simply tweaking a few points like this can make a really generic email feel personalised to the audience, and really doesn’t take that long (especially if you automate it ;).

Incentivising action

From my experience, the prompt to do something is relative to the relationship held. When the relationship is relatively unknown, the need for a strong incentive is high as there is not much else to base the relationship on.

From the communication I received, the incentive to take them up on the offer was a good start, but not strong enough to motivate me to do anything.  They focused too much on what I would get, but not would it would give me.

Again, thinking in their shoes I would have crafted 2-3 strong UVP (unique Value Proposition) statements.  I would also have tried to provide some level of consumer relevance based on the qualification data I had. This might have meant that I had to create 6+ UVP statements that would be picked to suit the segment.

Closing statement

Another element to the VIP experience is the concept of having a conversation. Tailoring your communication to move away from a broadcast to a conversation is likely to make the recipient feel like they are talking to an actual person! In my example, the owner of the company reached out through a platform that really helped to create the impression of a conversation. Good job!

The parting statement was encouraging me to tell my friends and family about the company. Surely it would have been much stronger to ask me what experience I had with their type of product if any? Or what was my biggest hesitation with their type of product? A simple question at the end of the conversation would provide the company in question with one last chance to reach out to me, personally, and understand what I want.

Please be aware that questions need to be relevant and good enough to solicit a response. But the right question (which could be framed based on internal customer’s initial hesitations) will encourage a conversation and potentially push the audience further down the sales funnel. It’s not a simple job, but it’s something that you can easily start implementing in all your communication. Please be aware that if you’re unable to handle responses, then be selective about how you target (go back to your qualifying task).

Conclusion

wrong way

It’s easy to bash someone for making some mistakes, it happens and we’re all continually learning. I see both sides of the coin here and understand pressures from the business side and concerns from the customer side. What I hope is that next time we think about B2C communication, we consider some of these points and put ourselves in the shoes of our target audience. Would they appreciate this communication? Could you make this better with a few simple tweaks?

What’s your biggest lesson from B2C communication? Any tips that you could share?

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2 thoughts on “My Experience With B2C Communication”

  1. John Woodman says:

    I get frustrated with getting blanket marketing from companies I’m already signed up with or in an agreement with.

    Sky TV are epic at sending me emails with offers that don’t apply to me as an existing customer – only to new customers. And then wonder why I get up set and take to live chat to try and remonstrate with them.

  2. Attacat Jon says:

    Oh, I hear you on that one! It seems bizarre that these massive companies are still churning out blanket communication like you mentioned. They surely have the ability to better integrate their CRM solutions to avoid the anxiety they cause to existing customers.

    Unfortunately, I guess blanket communication still works to some degree. Or at least, people think it does. I believe that it will only stop once the large companies see the correlation between blanket communication and dropping retention and/or acquisition rates.

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