01/20/2011 05:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'List Fatigue'... or Just Strategy Fatigue?

The Problem: My database is delivering steadily declining response rates. How do I overcome "list fatigue"?

The Solution: Take the time to find out what your customers and prospects really want to receive from your organization, and how they want to receive it.

"List fatigue" is often a euphemism for the customer and prospect fatigue that results from marketing that's largely untargeted and undifferentiated. I call this "spray and pray" marketing.

When the same kind of generic message goes out to tens of thousands of people at a time, it's inevitable that interest, and response rates, will drop. When economic times are tough, the decline usually occurs at an accelerated pace.

If customers or prospects feel that your marketing is not relevant or exciting, they are likely to forget that they opted in to your list (a common occurrence), and will consider your emails to be spam. In a recent MarketingSherpa survey, 74 percent of respondents defined "spam" as "e-mail I did not sign-up to receive."

The solution is to stop "spray and pray" and adopt opt-in/preference driven communications.

However, we must explain exactly what information we're asking for, why we're asking for it, and the customer benefit of targeted and relevant communications. When customers have a compelling reason to self-profile and share detailed information, they will opt-in in significant numbers.

Microsoft's online Business Resource Center is a best-in-class example of an opt-in/self-profiling relationship strategy. By creating a Voice-of-Customer driven opt-in relationship marketing program, Microsoft generated opt-in rates that ranged between 45 to 95 percent -- the opposite of "list fatigue"!

Try This:

Learn more about Microsoft's targeted opt-in relationship program. Then conduct research to understand what value proposition would be required to motivate your customers and prospects to self-profile their preferences and opt-in to a deeper relationship with your company.

Have an opinion about "spray and pray" versus opt-in/preference driven marketing? Comment below and share your thoughts on this post! highlighted our article Target That Marketing as posted by Investor's Business Daily.

Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

2010-12-08-ernan.jpgErnan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.

His latest book on marketing best practices was published in October, 2010, and is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.

Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."