When is Enough Multi-Channel Communication Too Much!

There is a fine line between giving someone all the information they need or want and crossing over that line to the annoying realm. As marketers, we need to be able to identify that threshold. The difficulty is finding the threshold, it can vary form group to group which makes it finding it all the more difficult to pin down.

There was a recent study that looked at this in regard to multi-channel communications. What was interesting about the study was not how much people would tolerate, but what they would tolerate. As it turns out Direct Mail or Junk Mail that we have complained about for years, is what bothers us the least. We perceive postal mail as less intrusive than emails or phone calls.

People who are overwhelmed with marketing intrusions will eventually turn negative toward the company that is considered to be intruding. And it seems we turn negative quicker with increased phone calls and email as opposed to direct mail. One thing the study did uncover was that if a person gets to choose how they are marketed to, the negative effects can be minimized.

The research found that people were willing to accept about twice as much direct mail as email or phone calls. The theory being that people can view printed pieces when they choose, but that email and phone calls had to be read or listened to immediately. The researchers found that during a three month period people were willing to accept about 3 phone calls, 3 to 4 emails, and about 9 or 10 direct mail pieces. They also noted that overloading one channel of communication had a negative effect on the other channels. They further noted that groups can have varying thresholds and may react differently.

The results of this research highlights the importance of considering the impact of all of your marketing channels, individually and collectively. The evidence suggests that multi-channel communication must be managed carefully to avoid a negative impact. In the end the old standards were proven to be true, a balanced approach is always best, direct mail is still accepted, trying to find your customers threshold will still be done by trial and error, and letting them choose how you communicate with them is a big key to acceptance.

Compiled from a study by:
Andrea Godfrey, Kathleen Seiders, & Glenn B. Voss
Source:  Journal of Marketing, Vol. 75 (July 2011), 94 –109.

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