10 Tips to Create Relevant (and Avoid Creepy) Marketing #SoLoMo

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Marketing to Today’s Empowered Consumer

It’s no secret that we are increasingly connected. The penetration of smart devices has now reached a tipping point, globally. Surveys continue to reveal significant changes in consumer behavior and expectations.

We have been writing about the evolving Social, Local, Mobile (#SoLoMo) marketing practice requiring a new mindset. Consumers are empowered and socially persisting. In days gone by, relations with friends and even colleagues were paced, constrained by the limitations of antiquated technology; now, technology has made everything instantaneous.

While there are many opportunities for brands to seize, it’s important to recognize boundaries. So, in an effort to help you avoid creepy marketing practices, we’ll jump right out of the gate with the major offenses, so you’ll know where NOT to go with your marketing.

Top 5 Indicators Your Marketing Could Be Classified as Creepy

It can be easy to get sucked into learning the newest social media platforms and basking in the data wonderland created by today’s connected consumer. Make sure you don’t find yourself off track amidst all the new shiny tools and resources.

Time for a check-up? Don’t Violate these top 5 Rules of Relevant Marketing:

1. Location without permission is intrusion.

Have you ever been to a carnival and while walking around there are these folks barking at you, trying to get you to come in and see their show? I am guessing that even if you haven’t, the mental picture of what I just described is annoying.

Let’s bring the analogy into the digital age. I am walking through a mall and start receiving promotions on my phone trying to entice me to visit. This is pure noise in the new marketing landscape, these notices are simply a distraction creating frustration, which leads to overwhelmed, frazzled, hyper-sensitive (and sometimes anti-promotion) consumers.

2. Local marketing does not equal broadcast advertising.

Increasingly local marketing is playing an important role in the marketing mix. Social platforms and apps allow consumers to check in to locations, a process that let’s their friends know where they are and what they are doing.

Popular apps like Foursquare allow businesses to interact with customers with various offerings like discounts or recognition awards often called badges.

As technology evolves, marketers are increasingly able to identify prospects and customers by pinpointing their proximity to a specific location – called geo-fencing.

Too often marketers bring traditional thinking to this new landscape– the result is broadcast advertising. Not differentiating promotions for these premium checked-in customers (the lowest hanging fruit!) is far from customer-centric, in fact, it is careless marketing.

3. Data without insight or connection is creepy.

Just because we have data doesn’t mean we should use it.

Marketers are able to collect information that is both personal and reflects past purchase behavior. We are often tempted to use this information to our advantage. Instead, we should focus first on the customer, then use the data to paint a picture of their needs.

While spam is never a good thing, we tend to have different tolerances for it– e.g. can deal with it on email but not text message. We want to use insight to engage empowered consumers, intruding will send them running to our competitors.

4. Smart Device users are not all the same.

Various audience segments exist, driven by many factors. For example:

Smartphone users are leaning forward. They are on a mission, typically they are out and about needing to accomplish a specific task or objective.

While tablet users are leaning back – meaning they are using the device in conjunction with other devices to find information, research or even purchase.

But marketers must realize there is certainly plenty of overlap between these two segments so a tailored approach is necessary.

The Path to purchase journey is key – what kind of information are they researching? Are they comparing prices? Looking at certain product features? Grouping audience segments according to where they are on the path to purchase cycle will enable marketers to be more relevant and streamline targeted offers.

Targeting is key to relevance.

Smart marketers begin with the customer and work their way back towards a specific product or service offering. Typically the first question should be “How can we help?” not “How can we sell more product to you?”

The answer to the help question will vary depending on the consumer’s position on the path to purchase; however, the answer will be relevant, irrespective of where they are.

5. Creepy Organizational Culture Sticks out Like a Sore Thumb

Disjointed and uninformed reinforces creepy. When a consumer must educate frontline staff, their path to purchase just got harder; this results in lost opportunity to engage and grow the relationship.

Stiff and mechanical are not natural features of healthy relationships. Customers expect seamless interaction with brands and should feel at ease when engaging in a transaction; employees who are empowered feel valued and equipped to serve.

A healthy culture is identified by employees who are busy:

  • Helping to connect with resources/with each other
  • Guiding to appropriate resources
  • Reflecting brand essence, in fact, they are brand ambassadors

Leaders must be the catalyst, removing barriers. Leaders must work to ensure collaboration and engagement across all touch points, resulting in productive conversations. This vital cooperation works to diminish the silos that are part of an unhealthy organizational culture while tapping into the collective experience of all colleagues. Internal Communication: Coping with the Digital Evolution details critical thought processes business leaders should entertain in developing social media strategy.

10 Tips to Create Relevant and Avoid Creepy Marketing

1. Develop strategies. Create a culture of experimentation.

2. Figure out the path to purchase journey mapping all touch points. Ensure these are connected. Promote collaboration by encouraging sharing and feedback.

3. Customer focus– Listen to the conversation and establish a seamless system of internal communications in order to create a differentiating customer experience

4. Permission—marketers choosing to embrace an opt-in mentality, prioritizing communications with customers who are active, engaged and truly interested will achieve higher success rates than those sending communications to old or unscrubbed databases, in hopes that those inactives will begin to pay attention.

5. Relevant content or offer—relevant here is the key word. Flinging out content or offers that are useless to the consumer will get neither of you anywhere.

6. Timing — Timing is critical.

On one hand: Customers make decisions and ask purchase opinions on-the-go, requiring brands to be on their toes, poised to interact in those precious but fleeting moments when they have their target audiences’ attention. On the other hand: Having the capability to communicate instantaneously is one thing, communicating around the clock is quite another.

Constantly strive for proper balance. Assess and reassess.

7. Data — Relevant and accurate data is the foundation of a successful customer relationship marketing effort. Marketing messages that offer helpful reminders, or propose products and services that are beneficial are welcomed by customers because they offer utility that can help simplify life. On the other hand, when data is inaccurate or messages are sent to repeatedly broadcast sales information, well that’s just noise.

8. Insight— If your customer data is accurate, current, comprehensive, descriptive and actionable, there are insights to be gleaned.

Establish metrics and extract insight in order to create helpful content, always aiming to serve the customer (rather than serve yourself).

9. Listening— Listen for complaints, for frustrations, for celebrations. Use these insights to respond by resolving issues, acknowledging compliments, creating content to address frustrations. The key is helping not selling. The more you help the more customers will want to share.

10. Connection— The essence of relevant, effective marketing is a personal or emotional connection to a brand. This connection is centered on trust that is created through the consistent delivery of a product or service that meets or exceeds customer expectations. Ultimately you may be able to turn your best customers into brand ambassadors through long term relationships.

Smart marketers will exercise attention and discipline with their data to avoid being creepy in today’s data-flooded world. By choosing to glean insights, study consumer path to purchase behaviors and put customers’ needs over sales goals, businesses will be able to forge a connection with customers that withstands the bumps and changes that are inevitable in the marketplace.

Can you think of examples where this works well? Or not so well? I would love to hear your stories.

Joe Ruiz
This monthly Social Customer Experience Marketing column is contributed by Joseph Ruiz. Joseph is President of Strategic Marketing Solutions, a full-service marketing and consulting firm specializing in web-based integrated Relationship Marketing. Joseph thrives on the ever-changing nature of marketing in the digital age, embracing interactive opportunities, while applying three decades of hands-on expertise in online and traditional marketing. When he’s not helping business-makers navigate through complex marketing challenges, Joseph enjoys reading, working out and traveling just about anywhere…anywhere you can get a digital signal, that is. +Joseph Ruiz
Joe Ruiz


Integrated Marketing Strategist, Client Engagement Building, Cultivating Thought Leadership, Birdwatching Junkie http://t.co/R5ztPuW5RE
Closing the Customer Experience Gap: 10 Questions to Ask http://t.co/f4sCrstv3g - 12 hours ago
Joe Ruiz


  1. Lore Lapinsky says

    Excellent article, Joe. By the time I finished reading, I felt as though I had attended a well-executed training session on SoLoMo. Thank you! I’m keeping these tips close at hand.

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