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What Can 3 Little Dogs Teach A Fortune 100 Company

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Marketing & Publicity
You could hear them licking their lips.

But then they made a critical mistake.

Here’s the story of the mistake. But first, did I mention I have 3 Papillons? These are delightful little dogs that warm your heart each and every day. Love these little guys.

But what I did not love was the pet insurance offerings on the market. I wanted well care, routine office visits, preventative care for my pets and coverage for that occasional very expensive Memorial day trip to the local animal hospital because my Vet’s office was closed. None of the products seemed to match my preferences until yesterday.

While at the Vet, I mentioned that perhaps someday I might get a health insurance policy on my precious little Papillons. The Vet was genuinely excited about a new pet insurance offered from a firm that usually covers homes and cars, has a big brand name and a nice little jingle. She said “it doesn’t get any better than this”. Once I heard that, from a person totally in the know, I was sold.

All that was left to do was to sign up.

So I called. The nice rep loved it when I said “no, I don’t have any other insurance with your firm”.

You could almost hear him licking his lips.

Now it would take a lot to get me to move all of my insurance products to this firm, but I knew they were going to try. Offering pet insurance was just a lead in to whole series of sales, they hoped. Brilliant of course. But no problem, I would endure their sure to come constant marketing in my face because why not? Everyone else is doing it and now they would be just another ‘I want all you have’ company.

I just wanted good health insurance for my pets. That’s all.

For the company it was the perfect opportunity to start to build trust with a possible new client for their other services. They were lucky to have me on the phone rather than just watching their ads.

But then came the hidden fees.

The monthly ‘thank you for your payment’ fee. They had a $2 payment fee.

Seriously? I told the guy he should be happy that I was paying. Now I have to pay to pay?

He kinda laughed as it did make sense.

But what is not funny for the company is that we customers are getting very sensitive to being played. We are sick and tired of the silent stalking on the internet, of the knowing of our every thought from following us all over, from having access to our shopping habits to profiling us accordingly to sell us more.

I mean just mention in passing to the person sitting next to you in earshot of a microphone that you might need new tires and what pops up in your inbox about one minute later? A spam email about buying new tires.

We know they are listening, stalking, following – you name it, they are doing it. We think.

Was I surprised that a company that wanted all my business would suddenly have to reveal that they were going to charge me to process my payment? Yes, I was. Surely they could have resisted the $2 processing fee to build trust. But no, they could not resist . . . even the slightest penny.

And then when they asked me my birthday I knew the big sale was ON. Since when does a pet insurance company need to know my birthday? Well, for more sales. I think they wanted to know so they can invade my world like every other marketer with phone calls, emails and ads targeted for what they think someone my age with 3 dogs would like.

I had been data’d. Now they know where I live.

The marketing lesson for companies: Stop trying to sell me at hello.

They would have started earning my trust by not charging me the processing fee and not asking the none of their business birthday question.

Summary: Customers are sensitive to being thought of as a dollar sign. We are noticing who is crossing the line and we are abandoning our shopping carts to send them back a message. If you do this beware that now you will get endless emails that you left something in your cart and are you sure you don’t want to go back and buy it?!

Contributor: Annie Jennings is a national publicist with over 25 years of PR experience. This post is part of Annie’s Observations series where she reports in from real life marketing experiences and how they resonate with customers and clients to help bring together two opposing forces — those that wish to sell and those that wish to buy.

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