We must better serve customers by delivering value rather than blast people and hope there’s a segment of people who want what we’re blasting.

As long as I have been in marketing and email (and that’s a long, long time), the mantra most thought leaders have repeated is: “Think about your subscribers, and deliver the brand promise that got you the acquisition in the first place.”

That means you’re offering relevant communications every time you send an email.

As an industry, we need to be smarter, to act more strategically instead of relying on tactics to reach our goals.

Sounds good, right? But today, I’m looking at my inbox and deleting every email that doesn’t have anything to do with me. It makes me wonder, “What are we doing here?”

What are you doing, and why are you doing it?

Your job as a marketer is to serve your customers and to advance your brand story. Some might say their job is “I gotta sell my wares. I gotta drive my KPIs.” And I would say, “I have a responsibility to the people who gave me their email addresses because I’m in the inbox they check many times a day.”

I fully realize the challenge of delivering value, telling the brand story and showing customers that you value them is not easy. What I see is people saying they’re committed to customer service, but it’s a commitment to customer service when things go wrong.

Today, we are living in what Forrester calls the Age of the Customer, and the expectations are different.

Here’s what noted Forrester analyst Rusty Warner says about the concept:

“Empowered customers are quickly becoming entitled customers who expect consistent, high-value experiences, regardless of channel. On their own, traditional marketing campaigns are ineffective at meeting these demands.

The challenge is to align deeply personalized outbound communications with customer-driven inbound interactions throughout the customer life cycle. In short, brands must win customers in their moments of need.

And, to ensure the brand’s success, marketers must leverage real-time analytics and insights to orchestrate contextually relevant experiences. While campaigns are not dead, they must evolve to ensure that these experiences are anticipatory, frictionless, and immersive.”

3 constituencies marketers must serve

There are three ways we can be of service to our customers without waiting for something to go wrong:

  1. Marketers must serve their subscribers, customers and fans by using technology and going the extra mile.

Simply put, this means marketers have to think of their customers first, not their marketing objectives. When we talk about putting strategic planning ahead of tactical planning, the strategy should emphasize this question: “What are we doing to help the customer make a choice?”

To achieve their goals, many companies will say, “We need to sell thousands of dollars of crap. How do we get the customer to buy our crap?” The proper response is, “What does the customer need that I have, and can we get sales from it?”

You probably think I’m naïve. But, so many times we blast the heck out of people and hope there’s a segment of people who want the crap we’re blasting. That doesn’t serve our customers.

Use the technology available to you: The last time I got my hair cut, my barber asked me, “What has been the biggest change in marketing?”

I said, “Access to data about our customers, the technology we need to communicate with our customers, and the price of that action, whether in advertising costs, forms or contacts with the customer.”

All three of these things lend themselves to the marketer having access to tools, abilities, strategies and tactics. Saying you don’t want to use those things is an insult to the advancement of marketing technology.

We have an inherent responsibility to use those tools to create and send more relevant messages.

Go the extra mile: Instead of phoning it in, launching a campaign to everyone on the list and hoping some will bite, we try one extra thing. It could be trying a new strategy or carving out time to think about the “why” (the strategy) instead of the “how” (the tactics).

Here’s extra-mile behavior in action:

I bought a product from a seller on Amazon. After it arrived, I found it didn’t work the way I expected. So, I left a review on the seller’s Amazon page. It wasn’t a scathing review (I rated it 4 out of 5 stars), just a comment along the lines of “It’s a good product, but you have to do this to make it work, and that’s annoying.”

Five days later, someone from the company reached out to me, asking how to make it right and offering to send me a new device.

What they sent wasn’t just a replacement. It was an upgraded, costlier device. The company didn’t have to do that. It could have ignored my comment and gone with the natural flow of the business. Its dedication to their customers is what the Age of the Customer is all about.

  1. Marketers must serve their practices by constantly getting smarter about what they do.

This practice is how they do their jobs. Do you get a little smarter about marketing every day you’re on the job? Do you use LinkedIn like Facebook (check-in, like something, check out) or like a source of information that can generate ideas and contacts?

I encourage you to take at least an hour a week to connect more deeply to the marketing universe, whether you read up on marketing news and commentary, listen to podcasts and webinars or attend in-person events. Find something in your email program that you can test, and keep track of your results.

This serves your customers because the smarter we get, the better we can talk to the people who have entrusted their email addresses, Twitter handles or Facebook newsfeeds to us.

If we don’t continue to push ourselves in new directions, we will fail.

  1. Marketers must serve themselves to find fulfillment.

This is an appeal to marketers who tell me they aren’t happy. Folks, life isn’t about being sad and miserable.

If you aren’t happy with your job, you need to do all the things I’ve told you about here. Learn more. Read more. Connect more. Try new things, not just to benefit your job but to improve your self-worth and fulfillment and to vault you somewhere else.

I hire smart people. I don’t hire “doers.” You know the ones. They are the automatons who go through the motions and do what they’re told. I want people who want more, who are willing to question, grow and watch my team’s back. To ask “why?” and “why not?”

All of these questions are aimed at doing better email. That serves our customers better, and that comes back to the company in more sales and less churn.

You need to push yourself constantly to be happy or go somewhere else to find happiness. If you look just for a “doer” job, that’s all you’re ever going to get, and happiness will elude you.

Wrapping it up

The best marketers I know feel a responsibility to each of these constituencies to take advantage of the wealth of opportunity in our industry. They participate in activities because they’re smart. They know their stuff and they participate and teach and learn and grow.

If you can follow their example, you will benefit your company, your customers and – ultimately – yourself.