Each spring, my child’s public elementary school holds an annual auction to raise money for the school and its various programs. This year, I volunteered to help solicit donations of wine from nearby wine producers and, in doing this work, an impromptu research study ensued. Granted, I might not have contacted enough producers to make up a statistically correct sample size (there was about 50-60 in total), but, I believe, my observances and findings hold some merit and can relate and be applied to other companies as well.
To begin this project, I found a list of all wine producers in New York State and segmented the list based on geography. After crafting a simple email, which explained the auction event and the benefits being offered to the wine producer (i.e., tax deduction and a listing of their name, contact details and logo in the event brochure), I sent emails out in batches starting with producers closest to New York City. After waiting a few days to hear back, I changed the email slightly and sent it out again to all target segments. Several days after the second email was sent, I tallied up the number of producers I heard back from and the total was seven. From all of the rest, there was no acknowledgement of my emails – no auto-reply message, no phone call, nothing…just silence.
Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to this than most because I am a marketer but, what do you suppose this silence says to me and, perhaps, to consumers in general? I believe it says a lot. I believe it says, our company has no means (i.e., resources, strategy, etc.) to effectively communicate and interact with people who are actively seeking out our company’s product/service. I believe it says, your opinion, comment, wanting to interact, etc. means very little to us and, therefore, we have no interest and/or intention to respond. I believe it says, our company has too much business to handle, we can’t handle yours, so you might as well call one of our competitors. Does any of this sound positive to you? It certainly doesn’t to me.
It’s important to note, the email addresses I used for this project all came from the companies themselves and are the ones listed on their websites. So, if a company goes to the trouble of setting up a personal or general email address for consumers to contact and promotes it, why is the mechanism to respond broken and or non-existent? The brand/customer experience has failed. Why?
Based on the few responses that I did receive, I can only assume that most wineries are inundated with donation requests and simply cannot fulfill them all. Regardless, this does or should not mean that any and all communications between company and consumer stop or be non-existent. How do any of these wineries know that I might have been receptive to a donation for a wine tour and tasting, which I was, in lieu of bottles? And, if that’s the case, doesn’t the winery realize how much potential wine could be sold as a result of people coming to visit the winery? To carry this scenario even further…what if someone did go to a tasting, liked the venue and wines so much that they then wanted to hold a private function at the winery? Then, how much wine would be sold? Then, how many other people would have been exposed to the brand? It all starts from one point of contact.
As previously written about on this blog, companies, big or small, need to recognize the importance of the customer experience and what it means to the marketing mix, the brand and the overall strategic picture. Good, bad or indifferent, the customer experience will be shared with others, which then has the potential to impact brand equity, as well as the bottom line. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that the customer experience should be managed in as optimal and ideal a way as possible?
In this instance, all of these wine producers should have a mechanism by which to respond to inquires, comments, questions, feedback, etc. that come into the company via the website email address. This is basic lead generation. This is basic marketing.
With so much emphasis on the technology of marketing (e.g., big data, programmatic advertising, mobile, apps, automation dashboards, personalization, etc.), I believe, marketers need to keep the basics in mind. And, what can be more basic in business than a company simply responding to a consumer who has expressed an interest in their product/service? Last I heard (no pun intended), silence is not a marketing strategy or tactic.