The bell curve of marketing

Especially over the last five to ten years, most companies have tried to pursue customer centric marketing in some form.  They understand that it is no longer good enough to view their customers and prospects only by what their (economic) value is to them.

Because they are customers themselves, the leaders of these companies know when an interaction is relevant to them.  They also know when an interaction is not relevant.  They especially know the difference in how it feels.

In this pursuit of relevancy-driven marketing, many have fallen down because they have tried to do too much.  They want to be the perfect customer centric organization, especially in their marketing.  Put another way, they’ve tried to be too comprehensive.  They’ve been wooed by customer journey mapping and end-to-end marketing technology that seamlessly connects all channels and interactions.

While the customer journey maps are good thought exercises, they are simply not reality.  What percentage of your customers follow a strictly defined decision path?  If you mapped reality, it would look more like a whirlwind.

The end-to-end marketing technology solution is ideal (but must be backed by a customer centric strategy and organizational commitment), but is likely a long way from your fragmented systems and processes.  While you should strive to progress towards an integrated experience, you need to be pragmatic to get results in the near-term.

To help in your evolution, I have a new paradigm to offer.  It is the “Bell Curve of Marketing”:


The Bell Curve of Marketing - 1I believe all customer interactions fall within the area under the curve.  The objective is to evolve your marketing/customer interactions into the right segments.  Let’s start from the left.  By the way, the percentages are based on my personal experience working in data-driven marketing for the last 20+ years.  So I’d call it “semi-scientific”.

Attrition – I believe that ~5 percent of marketing communications result in attrition.  The offer is so off the mark that the customer says “no more!”  Maybe it is a marketing offer while they are in the midst of a service issue?  Maybe it is the 20th time you have offered something and they are just tired of seeing it.  The customer could even become a detractor and influence their network against you.

Tolerated – I believe that ~85 percent of marketing is just tolerated.  It is ignored.  It is wallpaper.  It is not clear to the customer how it is relevant to them.  Each interaction that is tolerated inches the customer towards attrition.

Trying – I believe that ~7.5 percent of marketing is trying.  The customer sees the effort.  They see that you are trying to be relevant.  “I can see why they are offering me this.”  While they do not accept the offer, it was relevant.  They will likely pay more attention to your interactions in the future.

Loyalty – I believe that ~2.5 percent of marketing drives loyalty.  The customer sees the relevance and accepts the offer.  You have fulfilled the customer’s needs.  If the offer is really relevant and/or the subsequent relationship is satisfying, the customer could even be an advocate for you to their network.

I think the paradigm is pretty straightforward, but what’s the point?

Where do your customer interactions fall under the curve?  The more interactions that are in the tolerated segment, the closer they are to attrition.  The more customer interactions that are in the trying segment, the closer they are to loyalty.

Ask a simple question: in your push interactions (email, direct mail) and when you are arming your pull interactions (site, social, physical location, call center), are you trying to be relevant?  If you are offering any product or service they are eligible for, you are not trying.  You are mostly being tolerated and you are likely driving attrition.