Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stop the Interruptions!

Parenting is teaching me a lot about marketing, and how much we as marketers have yet to learn about interrupting our audiences.

Let me set the stage for you:
  • I walk into the house, arms burdened with several bags of heavy groceries. My eight year old son instantly starts to tell me of the Lego spaceship he has just created and wants me to come see it.
  • I have my hand in the toilet, scrubbing and cleaning and my twelve year old daughter asks me if I can log her on to the computer so she can play a game.
  • It is Sunday morning and I am luxuriating in a few precious, extra hours of sleep and one of my kids comes in, wakes me up, and asks if I want to answer the phone (I guess it's ringing).
In each instance -- now as much by habit as by deliberate effort to teach them the importance of time and place -- I say something like, "Hmm, what am I doing right now? Is this the right time to ask me about this? Can this wait until I am done?"

I think we as marketers are doing the same types of things to our target audiences.

This quarter while teaching MBA marketing at Seattle University, I emphasized the importance of ensuring our customer communications meet five critically important criteria in order to be truly effective:
  1. The message being sent must be the right message.
  2. The message must be delivered at the right time.
  3. The message must be delivered to the right place.
  4. The message must be delivered through the right medium.
  5. The message must be delivered to the right person.
In my day job, I tell my own staff the importance of paying attention to these same criteria. It's all to easy to put up another poster, to send out another mailing, or to broadcast another commercial. The challenge for us as marketers is to figure out when our audience is most receptive to our message, and make sure we deliver it in a stand-out way.

Case in point, I remember consulting with a healthcare system that wanted to increase the number of appointments by women for free breast cancer screenings. They had a brochure set to deliver this message. Jokingly, I mentioned that I don't think women are thinking of the health of their breasts when they just come home from work and open the mail. The challenge for us was to think about when women were thinking about their bodies and find a way to introduce our message then and there in a stand-out way. We came up with the idea of shower kits with soaps, a razor, lotions, and a waterproof card on how to do a self exam while in the shower.

Now I am not saying that commercials, direct mail, and posters are bad. They have their place. But the vast majority of these materials are just visual wallpaper to our brains. We must move beyond what's easy to what's effective.

Do you have examples of when you thought through your communications and instead of interrupting your audience you met them in a powerful, integrated, stand-up way?

-- David Kinard, PCM

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