As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, customers can easily become fatigued by the challenges of always-on, 24/7 digital engagement from home. “Zoom fatigue” has entered the lexicon, being defined as “the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication.”
Customer burnout from constant digital engagement has become a major issue for all marketers since COVID-19 began, especially for B2B marketers who use email as a primary engagement channel (i.e., all B2B marketers). Burned out customers, as we’ll see, typically begin by ignoring your marketing messages, then move to deleting them, and will finally “disappear” altogether by unsubscribing. In responding to this customer fatigue, B2B marketers need to (1) understand the root causes of customer fatigue, (2) have a means of analyzing and categorizing customers based on their level of fatigue, and (3) adapt their marketing approaches to take customer fatigue into consideration.
What NOT to do about customer fatigue
Putting your head in the sand, ostrich-like, and pretending that customer fatigue doesn’t exist or will simply go away is the worst possible approach. Doing more of the same with your B2B marketing, specifically by continuing to send the same volume of messages to all customers no matter how they respond, will lead to even more customer fatigue and a wave of disengagement/unsubs.
“The answer is to stop the batch and blast strategies of yesterday and embrace a more nuanced, targeted approach when marketing,” says Eloqua’s Wren Ludlow in a recent blog post on customer fatigue. The duration and intensity of the pandemic has put customer attention spans under constant strain -- B2B customers have limited time and mental energy to absorb your marketing messages even under the best of circumstances, which the pandemic certainly isn’t. As the saying goes, “less is more.” B2B marketers confronting growing customer fatigue must reject the scattershot, “look-at-me” approach and focus instead on what is most relevant and useful for their customers. Like it or not, there are times when B2B customers want you to go away and leave them alone.
The roots of customer fatigue
The basis of customer fatigue is TMI, or “too much information” and not enough time to absorb it all. How many emails have you received since the pandemic began that say things like, “during these difficult and unprecedented times, [insert name of brand] is here to help you”? Ever opened these emails and noticed how all the brands that care so deeply about you always say the same things? Cue the eye-rolls as another email hits your inbox saying “we at [insert brand] are here for you during these difficult times.”
Message fatigue occurs when customers are subjected to over-messaging that leads to burnout, disengagement, and customer churn, negatively impacting revenue and brand reputation. If less can be more, then (conversely) more can definitely be less. The behavioral pattern from fatigued customers is diminishing engagement and once they unsub, it's very difficult to get them back.
Fatigue analysis 101: Be like Goldilocks
Fatigue Analysis is a tool, offered by Oracle Eloqua as a paid add-on, that provides marketers with a solution for controlling how many campaigns their contacts receive, based on how customers respond to messaging. Fatigue Analysis uses email sends and opens over a 180-day period to identify which of your customers/recipients fall into four distinct categories: (1) under saturated, (2) just right, (3) saturated, and (4) over saturated. You can use these categories to help you determine messaging volume, much in the way Goldilocks found the porridge that was “just right” for her by identifying the porridge that was too hot and too cold.
Recipients who are showing decreased engagement (i.e., the saturated and over saturated) and are at risk of burnout can be either removed from campaign sends or be sent fewer messages. Meanwhile, recipients in the “under saturated“ and “just right” segments can be sent the same volume of (or even more) messaging.
At its most basic level, Fatigue Analysis in Eloqua is an intelligent algorithm that works dynamically to:
Look at each contact;
Analyze the number of emails sent to them and their open engagement over time;
Assign a corresponding fatigue level to each contact based on their responses – i.e., as undersaturated, just right, saturated, or oversaturated.
How to use Fatigue Analysis
Fatigue Analysis should be used to determine your messaging frequency so you can minimize disengagement and unsubs from your list. It helps B2B marketers identify which customers can tolerate more messaging and which would best be left alone (at least for now).
For example, if you’re promoting a B2B webinar via email, you might begin by excluding the saturated and over saturated contacts from your send list. So in terms of campaign orchestration, you’ll generally want to exclude contacts/customers who are burned out and may simply opt-out of this and future campaigns. Like the hot porridge, you’ll want to let them cool off a bit before you reach out to them.
Fatigue analysis, as we’ve said, is dynamic and customers who are oversaturated today might become “just enough” a year from now, depending on how you adjust your messaging frequency. B2B marketers can obviously integrate fatigue analysis into their customer segmentation, their lead scoring, and their personalization efforts, as this Oracle Eloqua blog post explains.
A final word
As in all human interactions, timing is important. You don’t knock on a neighbor’s door at 3 am to ask for a cup of sugar. B2B marketers want to send the right message to the right person at the right time -- and sometimes the customer’s door is closed with a “do not disturb” sign attached. Ignore that sign at your peril.
"Fatigue Analysis can be a real game-changer for B2B marketers, giving them the ability to treat every contact as an individual with their own behavior and unique relationship with your brand,” says Stephen Streich, VP of Product, Oracle Marketing, Eloqua. The B2B marketer who understands and adapts to customer fatigue will deliver the best experiences, which is what B2B marketing is all about.
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