The wary reader gets wise

“Courting a Wary Customer” by Sid Liebenson (Deliver Magazine, July 2009). In case you’re not already aware, Deliver is published by USPS. Natrually, it tends to be biased towards the usage of direct mail or other pro-USPS mediums. None the less, there are often pearls of wisdom worth consuming. Unfortunately, Mr. Liebenson’s article is going to be used as a poster child for don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Please pardon the dip into what might be perceived as the negativity pool.

Below is the letter inspired by Sid’s article. I’d like to add that while the overall tone is somewhat off-centre, my intention was not to bully him. There just some obvious holes in this conclusions. I’d also like to mention that in the letter I describe myself as a “punk-ass kid”, which is hardly the case. The phrase was just used for dramatic effect, if not comic relief.

Hello Sid,

As you can see I felll a bit behind on my reading. I just read your article and found it inspiring and enjoyable. Thanks for taking the time to share with the rest of us.

Let me cut to the chase…

I realize you’re the high flyin’, swashbucklin’ marketing exec and I’m just a punk-ass kid trying to grow up to be you :) but there were two points in your article that I would hope you can take a moment and clarify for me. Btw, please pardon my tone if it comes off as a bit “East Coast” but I’m just a straight shooter. I do not mean to offend. In fact, I’m hoping you see the humor in the delivery.

— One —

You said: Your marketing messages need to be not only personalized, but frequent. In a tough economy, it’s common for consumers to question where every penny is going. When they do that, suddenly every relationship is a little at risk. Their question becomes “Am I really getting value from this relationship, or is there something that will satisfy my needs equally for less money?”

— Pardon me for asking but it’s not clear to me how frequency answers that question. More often is not an answer, at least not to the question you suggest they are asking. In fact, if said organization is not delivering value then it’s likely that frequency will only remind the customer of the (failed?) relationship and the brands inability to understand and in turn satisfy them.

If your question is *the* question then it would seem to me that the focus should be on actually delivering value that satisfies and not just delivering more marketing spin more often. Sorry, but I don’t think it’s safe to assume that every company has it’s “stuff” together and should just repeat marketing formula X more often. Maybe it’s just me? It would seem to me that your recommendation might actually be doing quite a few (of those in denials of their flaws) a disservice.

— Two —

You said: From April 2008 to August 2008, there were more than 83,000 visits and 2,357 messages left on the site. This clearly shows the effects of empathizing with consumers.

With all due respect Sid, no that does not clearly show empathizing. It’s a simple statistic – nothing more, nothing less. Now if you supported that conclusion with “as compared to a control group” or made reference to some sort of follow up interview then that stat might hold some water.

As it is, 2,357 out of the universe of all BCBSF customers (or potential customers) doesn’t sound like much of a sample to me. Can it help? I’m sure it can. But a sub 3% “response rate” as a ratio of visits (btw, is that unique visits or just visits?) really isn’t very meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like the client was pleased. It’s just not clear to me how the stat you mention translates into some conclusion about empathy.  Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that someone who should know better tried to pull the wool over our eyes with some old media-esque broad brushed spin.

Again, I hope it did not offend. I look forward to your reply.

Mark Simchock
Chief Alchemist
Alchemy United

Btw, this letter was sent earlier in the week and Sid has yet to reply.

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