Sunday, July 17, 2011

Target Marketing or Personal Invasion?


Implications for Healthcare and the "Loyalty Loop"
It seemed funny at first: An energetic, youthful friend in her early 60s posted on Facebook that she had just earned coupons from a well-known drugstore for products “she may need” – Dulcolax and Depends.

We all had a sarcastic “group laugh” on Facebook. I guess we’ve become almost numb to these highly personal promotions now, and the company probably thought they had hit their target.

I think they actually missed the mark, stepping over a line that we women don’t want crossed, particularly when it comes to our health.

The coupons remind us all that companies know a little too much about our personal lives. As a matter of fact, they think they know us so well that they have earned the right to make intimate suggestions.

Sure, we use the “loyalty cards” to generate discounts in exchange for sharing purchase information. But did this company earn my friend’s loyalty by making presumptions based on her age and trends? Or did they plant a seed of doubt about the wisdom of loyalty cards? Did they annoy rather than delight? Did they invade rather than target?

I’ve benefited – and so have several of my favorite retailers – from this kind of “track and promote” approach. But there’s a difference between a company recommending a pink sweater based on my preferences and telling me it may be time to ask my doctor about a hormone patch. It’s the difference between a targeted message and an invasion of privacy, and in healthcare in particular, we must be vigilant not to step over that all-important boundary.

Especially as we strive to move customers into the “loyalty loop,” we must carefully assess what our customers need and want from us as trusted healthcare providers. We are not selling Capri pants and ruffled blouses. We provide healthcare to people when they are most vulnerable. We must set a high level of customer sensitivity as our guide, seeking feedback from patients and families continually.

It could be the difference between creating a loyal advocate for our own organization and sending a new customer to the competition.

1 comment:

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