Marketers, I really am not your Valentine

Dorie Greenspan, special to The Washington Post.
Dorie Greenspan, special to The Washington Post.

I  got a Valentine at work a couple weeks ago — from a committee. They wanted me to feel appreciated, special, maybe even loved. It was handwritten and topped with a chocolate, a flourish that would usually deflect my skepticism about receiving a Valentine from a group of people.

But did I feel the love?

Nope. Not this time. Not only did it feel a little silly for a workplace to try to hijack Valentine’s Day, they didn’t even get my name right. To Mary, it said — my given name that no one but the government, my doctor’s office and lazy marketers use. It wasn’t personal.

Fragile Relationships

So what does this have to do with digital marketing? Poor personalization can lead to hostility and cynicism, regardless of the channel. As the sophistication of data mining increases and the sheer volume of information explodes, the opportunity to overwhelm our prospects with unsolicited “personal messages” increases.

From the ads that follow you around the Internet to email spam addressed to phony names scraped from Internet forms (Dear Mark Eter ring a bell, anyone?) disingenuous marketing is a relationship killer.

Another colleague recently told a story of some late-night browsing he was doing for a new car. Just a little light bedtime shopping (yep, it’s a brave new digital world).

In less than 12 hours, he got a phone call from a car salesman he dealt with one time, three years ago, asking if he was in the market for a new car. One random search evoked an almost immediate and most definitely unsolicited sales call.

Role of Automation and Personalization

Like it or not, marketers gather a bit of information about users with every online search and transaction. This information is the currency of the Internet. In large part, it’s what helps keep the Internet “free.”


Consumer profiles are compiled based on past purchase information, account profiles, digital downloads, search history, abandoned electronic shopping carts, studied preferences, aggregate personal information and more.

Effective marketing campaigns use this information carefully to provide relevant, useful messages at the right time, in the right format, at the appropriate point in the buyer’s journey.

Marketing Strategy

Data-driven marketing has amazing potential to connect businesses and customers who actually want to be together. But businesses must woo potential leads carefully.

Not every indication of customer interest should immediately result in a hard sales pitch. Better to connect with customers in a personal way that’s relevant to their stage of interest.

In the case of the nocturnal car shopper, a less intrusive contact at that point in his search, such as an email, display ad or social media post, would have kept the car dealership’s name top of mind and perhaps nudged him into visiting the dealership’s website or even making the call himself.

There’s nothing automatic about marketing automation and there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. In the case of my car-shopping co-worker, perhaps if his search had been repeated a certain number of times, coupled with a website visit or interest in related topics, then he may have been ripe for a phone call.

This is a time of increasing opportunity to influence and connect with shoppers. Are you only there at the bottom of the funnel, when people are in a buying mode, or are you there across the full range of consumer needs, wants and investigations with personal, relevant message?

That’s how I want my chocolate.

• Regina Gilloon-Meyer is a content marketing specialist for Fusionfarm, a division of The Gazette Company; (319) 368-8530,, @Regiimary



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