Some things about Internet marketing are truly new and different… and then there are some marketing/customer principles that never change.

1. A bad product idea is bad no matter what: no one ever ordered 30 lb. bags of dog food by mail and they didn’t change their behavior once the dog food ordering process took place on the web.

2. Customers like to feel special and, if you make them feel that way, all manner of goodness is likely to befall you.

Let’s talk about #2 a bit in the old and new worlds…

The more customized and personal you can make your widget, your pitch and your customer’s experience, the more likely a consumer will be to see your widget as his. Buy it again. Tell other people about it. Become – eureka! – ‘brand-loyal.”

I frequently explain that an “old school” (like, the early 90’s) background in segmentation, CRM and direct/database marketing was perfect for marketing folk like me who later become involved in creating and promoting brands on the web, because the web is theoretically the perfect platform upon which to create and serve up a custom experience in something close to real-time. It’s all about who the viewer or visitor is, what we know about them and their behavior and then looking like geniuses by pushing content or advertising to them that’s actually relevant. You start with the customer, not the product. Isn’t that the foundation of direct marketing? Why yes it is, and the folks at Tacoda, Visible World, Spot Runner and lots of other fascinating new-world, technology-driven companies are transforming previously mass-market processes into “custom” experiences that can blow you away.

Some marketers are still mastering the basics, like creating modular pieces of content and versioned advertising for outbound email newsletters so that, say, a prospect gets a different experience than a subscriber, or a “high value” client gets more exclusive content than a newbie. That’s ok – everyone’s got to start somewhere! Last week I had the pleasure of participating in an interview for ClickZ (Segmenting and Targeted to Improve the Bottom Line – Sept 10, 2007) on this very topic, including how to get a newsletter recipient to “trade up” to more profitable services.

As a marketer, do whatever you can to make your target customer feel like you do what you do just for her – she’ll come back for more and do the rest of the work for you. Think of it this way: do you remember the last time you were at a dinner or a cocktail party and a friendly stranger took the time to speak to you, really looked at/into you, and made you feel – even if just for a moment – like the only person in the room? You would have followed that person into traffic.

Make your customer feel that way. They’ll follow you anywhere.


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