Attention Must Be Paid

stick_fig_w_megaphonev2Hearing is to listening as looking is to seeing: the difference within each autonomic-conscious pair is attention. For marketers trying to get customers to listen to their message, to see their offer, to act on their direct marketing communications, the first step is to get that customer to pay attention. In today’s attention economy, that’s not an easy task.

It’s not like attention is something new. My regular readers know I spend time training and competing with our poodle Charley. The key to competition success is getting Charley to pay close attention to my commands, to keep his eyes on my face and ignore the smells on the ground. When I get his full, undivided attention we come home with blue ribbons.

Or think back to Arthur Miller’s great play, Death of a Salesman. Biff’s mother chastises her son’s disregard for the father who has worked his life out for them with the famous line celebrating her husband, “Attention must be paid.”

Well, for marketing success too, attention must be paid. Communications must overcome the spam and clutter in email inboxes and the torrent of postal pieces to win that attention. With attention comes the listening and seeing necessary to getting our customers to act on our offers.  And now finally there is growing recognition that the winning strategy to get attention is relevance.  We know this at Loyalty Builders; our mantra is the 4R’s—Relevance Raises Response Rates.

However the acceptance of relevance as a strategy is not matched by any consensus around how to be relevant. Here are three ways to do it:


The first tactic some marketers use is personalization, as in “Hey Mark, today we’re offering you free shipping on all orders over $100.” Just because you use my name doesn’t mean you know anything about the product and service offers to which I’ll respond. Personalization is good, but by itself is often merely a gimmick to capture attention.


The next step up the relevance ladder is customization, where the communication is somehow adapted to the recipient or a group of recipients.  For example, on their periodic postcards a multi-state chain of automotive repair shops features a photo of the branch manager of the location where the recipient goes for service. The chain’s strategy is to make the branch manager the ‘trusted advisor’. The photo supports this strategy and brings some localized context to the messaging, increasing its relevance. Of course all the customers patronizing a given branch get the same photo of that branch manager.


The most powerful technique to get relevance is individualization, where each communications piece is uniquely tailored to the recipient. When your company has a million customers, generating a million different emails or postcards is not a trivial task. If your company knows how to do this, congratulations, because these highly individualized campaigns yield significantly more revenue than spray-and-pray or segmentation-based alternatives.

The secret to individualization, and thus to relevance and increased revenues, is to offer each customer those products which customer analytics reveals they are likely to buy. The analytics needs to happen at the customer or account level, not the segment level.  The up-sell and cross-sell predictions need to be accurate. These conditions can be met today, and many printers and email service providers can handle this variable data.

With true relevance, attention will be paid and marketing success will follow.

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