It might be raining, but my teeth are sunny

At some point during my glorious ten-day raincation in England, I received a voicemail on my cell phone from an Ohio dental company regarding open enrollment. After 15 minutes of dumb jokes to my wife about how ironic it was to get a call from a dental practice while I was in Britain, something struck me as odd. The call came from a North Carolina phone number, and it came to my cell phone that has a Cleveland area code. In other words, it violated the FTC’s Do Not Call policies because it clearly came from an autodialer hitting up all phone numbers by area code without any intelligence backing it. Naughty!

Now, next to clean teeth, nothing makes me smile more than when I don’t get unwanted solicitations on my cell phone. That said, the prospect of traveling over 700 miles for dental care is a little excessive, even for a sparkling smile. The call was annoying, but frankly I’m probably not going to report it to the FTC. What really stuck in my craw, or got my goat, or even shimmied my scarecrow, is that they assumed my interest in their offering was based solely on the area code of my phone and not my physical location—but more on that later.

Maybe I could head over to Cleveland to get my teeth cleaned before I hit up a Browns game. Then at least I could take advantage of the season ticket offer my wife got by phone a while back. She had purchased tickets to a Cleveland Browns game (I have the best wife ever) when we traveled home for Thanksgiving, which put us on the call list for season ticket campaigns even though we live in Minnesota. Now I love the Browns like Charlie Brown loves trying to kick a football, but I can’t afford to purchase season tickets and fly to every Browns game. I mean, I’m doing okay, but I’m no Mitt Romney. All of these instances exemplify the fact that these organizations failed to use geographic data from a prospect or customer’s address to refine their target audience.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, our historical assumptions about where someone may live are not necessarily still valid. I can call my parents on a phone with the same area code as theirs while no longer living close enough for surprise visits. I can also have four email addresses (or more depending on how many Facebook wants to give me without asking first) that are likely tied to my home address (or at least zip code) in some fashion – from buying things online to signing up for the Chicago Tribune so I can read Rex Huppke, America’s most beloved workplace columnist. With my cellphone, my physical address is even more intimately tied to my home address. The reality is that no matter where I am, if someone wants to market to me, there should be a home or business address associated with my account even if they aren’t going to send mail to me.

Reputable email marketing compilers, as well as telemarketing firms, typically have more than an email address or phone number when selling their services. It’s essential to include geography when determining who to call or email. We tend to think that because email is “cheap,” you can just send out a message to anyone and everyone and see what sticks. For some services that’s great, but if you want me to go see a Pixies concert in Toledo, you are wasting my time and your goodwill, and if you want me to see Nickelback anywhere, don’t hold your breath.

It’s important to think through a campaign and make sure you are reaching not only the right people, but the right people in the right location.  It isn’t hard to make that assumption and then you don’t end up trying to sell Chargers tickets to a Chiefs blogger who lives in Brooklyn.  I can’t think of any marketer that wants to see their multi-billion dollar organization making it into a blog because they failed to do the simple things during a marketing campaign.  Every marketing campaign needs to respect the importance of geographic data to be a success, or at least to ensure examples like this don’t end up being an educational tool for the rest of us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take advantage of this great deal on a haircut and manicure in Peoria.

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