The Social and Business Costs of Marketing

Writing exclusively for Talk Business, Gope Walker, CEO of Data Kraken explores the social and business costs of marketing:

Can Marketing Ever Harm Your Business?

It depends on what type of marketing you mean. Marketing has existed, in one form or another, for millennia. Businesses have always used marketing to boost their sales and sing the praises of their products, but in the past couple of decades, advertising has become increasingly ubiquitous. Today, it’s an inescapable fact of life: banner ads that hide the text on news sites, messages from companies you don’t recall giving your details to, and fifty-eight emails a day thundering uninvited into your inbox.

business marketing

As businesses, we rely on marketing to find new customers and grow. But what is the real impact of overzealous marketing? How much time is wasted – at home and at work – reading and deleting irrelevant emails? The cost isn’t just financial or damage to brand, but also environmental and social. This isn’t an insignificant problem as there are 17.5 billion pieces of junk mail that are sent and received in the UK every single year. That’s 262 per person in the UK population. It’s time to consider the costs of intrusive marketing and seek a better solution.

When Does Marketing Become Intrusive?

 As a business owner, you are naturally excited about your business: it’s your project, your passion. You’ve put thousands of hours into it. It’s only natural that you want to shout about it from the rooftops and jump into action finding new customers via every conceivable avenue. Sometimes, however, this enthusiasm and drive to succeed can cause us to make a fundamental error in marketing: annoying potential or existing customers.

When a customer spends more time deleting your CRM emails and shredding your send-outs than they spend actually using your product, it’s time to make a change. For example, if a customer barely uses your app or has bought from your ecommerce platform once, does that warrant emails fortnightly or more frequently? You don’t want anybody to read your business name on yet another email subject line and feel a burst of anger rather than excitement. Multiply this by other businesses that the consumer has registered/bought from before/had personal details sold to. Consumers today are being overwhelmed by marketing from multiple businesses as email is quick and relatively cheap so their inboxes are a preferable method of contact.

Why Intrusive Marketing Fails

‘No Cold Calling’ signs are a common sight around the UK today. While this was a common tactic in the last century, the prevalence of cold calling led to an intense reaction from the public. Only 2% of door-to-door sales today generate a sale, and as the return on investment diminishes, it’s seen a demise as a marketing practice.

Paper mail still remains prevalent, though on a steady decline each year. Each household in the UK receives on average 650 pieces of junk mail per year – almost two a day. The vast majority of these are never opened, but instead picked up off the floor and dropped into the bin with a sigh. Again: not exactly the reaction to your brand that you want from a potential customer.

Every day, 347 billion emails are sent around the world, and around half of these are marketing emails: offers, new product launches, campaigns, updates and invitations to upgrade. Most of these emails will never see the light of day: either they’ll sail straight past the Inbox and into Junk, or they’ll simply be deleted without a second glance.

 The Social Cost of Junk Mail

Clearing inboxes of junk mail takes time, every day. On a single day, this might take only 10  minutes. Over a week, it’s an hour. In a year, that’s a whole working week spent deleting junk emails. Across the whole working population, that’s 32 million weeks a year spent actioning (i.e. deleting/reading/unsubscribing/replying) emails. Rather than being a welcome distraction, this is an unwanted chore that none of us signed up to.

This time is time that could be spent with loved ones, on hobbies, or on holiday. It’s not hard to see why people find the marketing of this kind such a nuisance. To waste time on such a scale is invasive as it is impolite.

The Cost to Your Brand

For marketing to work, it needs to be timely and relevant. If it isn’t, you risk irritating your customer base and damaging your brand image. Interrupt a customer’s day too often, and you’ll push them to unsubscribe – and once that happens, you’ve lost their interest for good. That’s the whole lifetime value of a customer lost, simply because you pushed your business onto them at the wrong time and in an irrelevant way.

READ MORE: 88% of UK Businesses Don’t Use PR in Their Marketing

The Environmental Cost

Aside from the social and business costs, there’s also the environmental cost to consider. In a time when many businesses are striving to build a reputation as carbon neutral and environmentally-friendly (an issue that many customers will give or withdraw their custom over), CRM send-outs can rack up a high carbon footprint. Obviously, email has a significantly better carbon footprint than paper mail, however, one email still produces on average 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide. Globally, per year, 62 trillion spam emails were sent. This equates to 1.86 million tonnes of CO2 each year. This is not an insignificant issue from an environmental perspective.

So – What’s The Solution?

A question to ask yourself as a business owner is, ‘What does an existing customer have to do for you to actively not message them?’ If they buy every day and recommend new customers to your business, what do you need to contact them about? The idea of ‘Next Best Action’ in CRM rarely has ‘do nothing’.

In an era where we have more data on our customers than ever, the typical decisions we make to market to our prospective customers are antiquated. Understanding why you want to contact your customers is paramount. If governments charged a green tax on marketing emails or texts, we’d all be rethinking our CRM send-outs within a week.

Instead of overloading customers with irrelevant emails, take the time to look deeper into the data you have about who they are, how they buy, and what they want. If it’s not timely and relevant to the customer then ask what is the purpose of the email. If the message is met by an Unsubscribe request, the cost to speak to this customer via a different channel will increase substantially. That is the cost that a lot of businesses are ignoring with their email marketing strategy.

By taking a little extra time to understand these things, we can avoid deluging the public with spam and instead offer them insightful, unique, and above all, relevant marketing material. A customer allowing themselves to be marketed to is an honour, please don’t abuse it.

Gope Walker, CEO of Data Kraken

After working for blue chip companies for 16 years, Gope was disheartened by the lack of innovation in the analytics arm of most businesses. The desire to innovate in order to optimise and improve businesses using data-driven techniques was rarely seen at the level Gope deemed appropriate – hence the birth of Data Kraken.

Today, the Data Kraken team are working with clients across multiple continents, offering data-driven insights that allow companies to manage their business as effectively and efficiently as possible.