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by Adam Gray | @AGSocialMedia

I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that digital transformation, Customer Experience (CX), and marketing automation are all the next big challenges that need to be tackled and perhaps they were…once.

But now the landscape has changed markedly.

With the announcement from Wetherspoons last week that they have deleted their 750,000-strong subscriber database this heralds the start of a new chapter in the book of customer communications. Wetherspoons decided that with the advent of GDPR and other data protection legislation that there was less and less that they could do with their database in terms of keeping in touch with their customers and that there really was no point in maintaining it any longer.

Instead, they sent one last email to the entire subscriber list saying, “we’re not emailing you any more, connect with us on social media here”.

This may, on the face of it, seem like a rather foolish move? Surely every business tries to build a base of loyal subscribers that they can market to? Well, suspend your disbelief for a moment and think about how you respond to newsletters and marketing offers from the companies you have given your details to. Before you say “but I read those communications because I subscribed to them”, the truth is that you don’t. You know you don’t. You may read the odd one or two occasionally. But you don’t read them all and the ones you do read you read rarely.

And so do your customers.

The email newsletter is dead. The marketing email is dead.

I know that there are some fantastic marketing automation platforms out there that help deliver much higher efficiencies, that ensure that the journey mapped customer experience is adhered to. That at each of the crucial points in the journey the right answers are provided. And, yes, this does give a higher yield from the subscriber list than traditional newsletters and “sale” emails.

But still they are battling against a fundamental change in behaviours: PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO READ YOUR EMAILS.

Now, this is a scary concept for most marketing professionals and indeed for companies too. They have spent a decade building and refining their databases and honing their marketing skills.  But it has run its course.

As the trend towards ignoring emails continues and the response rates drop still lower, as the legislation becomes more and more restrictive (and costly) I would say to you, what are you going to replace these vehicles with when they finally die? Because, let’s be honest, you have very possibly built a business model on the meagre response rates that are commonplace and you have invested heavily in marketing automation, buying lists, a DMP and a host of other clever tech to hold back the tide. But clearly the tide is turning…or has turned already.

With people consuming information in a different way and when advertising or perhaps marketing as a whole is not delivering what it once did, you need to embrace a new way of “marketing” to your customers and prospects. NOT based on selling them stuff, but based on having a relationship.

I know, you’re saying “we send our targeted emails to our customer base of things that they want, which is why they buy”, but you and I know that this simply isn’t true. You send out emails containing products and offers you think you can sell. You are not trying to help your customers. You are trying to sell stuff. Cut to 2017 and customers can increasingly see through this, that’s why response rates are falling. That’s why there’s legislation to protect customers – to protect them. FROM YOU!

Oh no! What should we do?

You need to build a strategy which really does put the customer first. A strategy where the goal is helping, empowering and guiding the customer is the objective. Because, if you do this right when the customer is ready they will come to you and buy. They will be loyal. They will recommend you. They will become an advocate.

How can you do this?

You know what I’m going to say don’t you!

You know where YOU build friendships. You know where YOU learn things in a safe environment. You know where YOU ask for help and advice. You know where YOU connect to people and brands that matter to you.

You absolutely MUST be the brand that your customers forge that relationship with because if you don’t you’re living on borrowed time. You need to do it and you need to do it NOW, because as your email campaigns gradually wither and die there needs to be something to take this place and it may take a little while to get in to the groove of social.

But, amid all this doom and gloom there is more than a ray of sunshine. There is in fact a whole new dawn and one that you can grasp relatively easily.

In a previous role I engaged with some of the biggest and smartest brands in the world and during my time there I estimate I spoke to 1000 companies. Of that 1000…probably only 100 were using social media in a meaningful way. Of those only 50 were doing it well. And just 1, yes ONE, of those 1000 companies that I spoke to was doing well enough that I couldn’t find a list of things where they could improve.

Given that this is the landscape in which YOU operate, there is an amazing opportunity for a land-grab. Your business can be the leader. Your business can be the famous one. Your business can be the example that competitors look up to. Your business can be the ONE.

But you need to act, and you need to act now, because if you don’t one of your competitors will!

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