I had an experience this week that made me pause and think about how mechanical we get in creating marketing that doesn’t fit the needs of our prospects and clients. In one respect or another, this undoubtedly applies to all of us.

Early afternoon on Saturday I went to the website of the theater we go to almost every time we see a movie somewhere besides our own family room. There were two movies playing that interested my children.

As I was looking down the listings, I noticed, on the left side of the web page, something I hadn’t seen before (and I consider myself to be quite attentive when surfing). It was an ad offering me the opportunity to get on the theater’s email list to receive weekly updates along with a special coupon for concession treats good only that week. Sounds great! I’m sure we’d frequent that theater more if I didn’t have to think to check and see what is playing. And to get some type of concession deal for being on the list…that’s a no-brainer. So I signed up.

When I was finished, I ended up at a sterile “Thank You” (sort of) page with a couple of paragraphs of legal mumbo-jumbo in eight-point type. That’s it. No mention of when my deal would show up in my email. No notification of when the weekly emails are sent. And, most importantly, NO INSTANT GRATIFICATION.

Let’s think through this for a moment: I was obviously at the site looking at current listings. I’m going to assume that most of the time when someone is doing this, it is because they are ready to make a purchasing decision, as I was. I checked my email for 15 or 20 minutes, curious as to what kind of deal the theater might be offering me. Should I buy my tickets online, or does the “deal” happen some other way? I certainly didn’t want to move forward, then find out I should have waited. Maybe there would be a link in the email. I didn’t know what my next step was.

The short version of the story is that we decided to do something else. I was at the site, ready to buy. And I would have made a purchasing decision without the “deal” ad if it hadn’t been there, just like I have so many times before. But an expectation was set by the ad on the site—one that was, in my mind, going to be a step up from prior experiences. Being taken off my regular course, then let down, led me to abandon my pursuit. We decided to do something else altogether.

We’ve all done this to our clients; unwittingly, of course. Each case will be different as we carefully consider how to avoid stepping in this same mire. In this theater’s case, it would have been as simple as sending me to a landing page that said, “Thank you for joining our weekly email deal club. Here’s your first members-only deal!“ This timely message, followed by a graphic of the coupon I could print out and use RIGHT NOW, would have led me to complete the transaction I went to the site to make in the first place. Clearly, this theater has some thinking to do on the flow of their offer.

I’ll be interested to see when my weekly emails show up. If they show up each week at the same time—which, in Saturday’s case was hours after I had been on the site—they will always arrive after we’ve made our plans. I’m going to assume this won’t be the case. They’ll likely go out Thursday or Friday so I can make weekend plans. Which leads me to my last point: How simple would it have been to have a question as part of my registration asking me when I’d like to receive my weekly deal coupon? If I’m a religious, every-Wednesday-night movie goer, but I’m receiving my email with the deal in it on Friday mornings, the time the strategic gurus at the theater have determined is best to send the email to everyone, I will likely never use the deal because of the time lapse between each Friday and the following Wednesday when I will be going to a movie again. Therefore, I may or may not go to this theater. Their deal will not help retain me as a client.

Neither of the corrections I’ve suggested for this campaign are difficult. It’s just a matter of remembering that we’re serving clients, not marketing campaigns.

Gather your team. Involve your best clients (the ones who will be painfully forthcoming with you). Look at your campaigns. Where is the prospect/client experience getting derailed for those who may otherwise make purchases?

Here’s to thinking through the flow of our marketing campaigns!

Bryan Waldon Pope