Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Engaging the Customer in Product Design

Question: How many direct marketers does it take to target the right consumer?

Answer: Just a couple of really smart ones that understand how to take advantage of reaching the most appropriate groups in the best way during tough economic times.

Case in point: credit card marketers. American Banker magazine has reported that Citi Cards definitely sees the need to maintain one steady source of income: the "mass affluent" customer who is willing to pay for a credit card rewards program.

The magazine reports that "Terry O'Neill, executive vice president at Citi Cards, said that 80% of affluent and near-affluent consumers (which he said Citi defines as households making $100,000 or more) use social-networking and peer-review sites, such as My Space, Linked In and Flickr, to review products and to get advice on purchasing and financial decisions. He recommends issuers use such sites to invite consumers in various target groups to help test new card products for several months before issuing the cards to the general public." This is a wonderful way to use social marketing to target those who you are most interested in acquiring as customers, and getting their feedback on how you can make your product more appealing to them so that they buy it. Brilliant!

This also brings home the point we made earlier this month in our post regarding Push versus Pull marketing strategies. According to the American Banker article, "Executives also suggested that in order for marketers to break through the clutter and reach this market, they need to become more relevant and move from pushing marketing messages at the customer through traditional advertising methods to listening to customers through online communications." Citi Cards has gotten the point, and as a matter of fact "listens to its mass affluent customers by closely reading social networking communities and blogs about topics related to its rewards programs, as well as by offering online feedback opportunities and convening more traditional focus groups. "

It's great to see how traditional direct marketers are embracing social marketing and making it a part of their customer acquisition programs. By doing so, they are bringing the potential customer into the product development process and allowing them to design the product that is right for them. Citi Cards has shown that it really does make sense to hang out where your prospects like to hang out -- not to sell to them but to enlist their help in creating a more successful product. Not only are they creating more profitable customer relationships, they are building relationships with those who they hope to keep for both the short- and the long-term.

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