A lot has changed since I founded Alyce in late-2015. But, at the same time, so much has stayed the same.
Marketers are responsible for more of the funnel than ever, but they’re still trying to personalize each interaction. And now, everyone inside your company is a marketer.
Our trusty Outbound channels like email, display, and social are far less effective – and it’s because even as we’ve drastically expanded our use of technology to solve problems, we haven’t maintained focus on what people want from good marketing. Yet, we are pouring more money into them out of necessity because our targets are more ambitious than ever.
The demand for our time and attention is greater than ever, thanks to the ease and cheapness of sending email, texts, calls, voicemail, and social media. But we still crave the real, genuine emotional and psychological connection that those channels often lack.
Where Outbound Started
When we got our start in the back of a bicycle repair shop, we set out to change the world of corporate gifting. It didn’t take long to realize that our customers didn’t need just another channel to use. Instead, we discovered what brands really needed was a better approach to Outbound.
Outbound has been positioned and executed to get as much attention as possible across as many channels as possible. The problem with that approach is that we’re burning through budgets and our pool of potential customers faster than you can say “negative ROI.”
Here’s the thing, Outbound is everywhere. It will always be necessary for marketers to reach out to a pool of potential customers. Outbound strategies work well when they’re about connecting with another person — not a persona. It needs to be about creating moments, not touchpoints. Your entire marketing strategy needs to consider people’s choices and context, not just spray and pray.
Over the years, I’ve observed that the best marketers subscribe to that mentality. No matter what marketing channels they use, how ambitious their targets, or how long their sales cycles are, the best marketers create a customer experience that is personal, relevant, and thoughtful.
Here are just a few examples:
Cameron Mueller, former ABM and Field Marketing Manager at 6sense, came to Alyce because he wanted to create a personal, digital experience that delivered the surprise and delight feeling of direct mail. He knew that was going to be pivotal in the remote-first world. So he combined the insights from the 6sense intent-data platform with the Alyce gifting platform. He said, “We know enough about our buyers and customers to deliver a compelling, relevant experience when we offer a gift.”
Nicole Longo, Digital Marketing Manager at Skillsoft, looked for new ways to make her campaigns stand out. She’s noticed that the campaigns that stood out the most were highly personal. That doesn’t just mean segmenting lists and inserting a name in an email — those are table stakes at this point. It means giving customers an experience that reflects their situation and role (their 9-to-5) and who they are as a person (their #5to9). With Alyce, she enabled her team to insert personal, relevant, and thoughtful gifts at crucial times as part of a sales sequence.
Tara Soles, ABM Manager at Mindbody, sees gifting as a novel way to express customer gratitude. That’s why she uses gifts around customer contract milestones, birthdays, work anniversaries, and more. A recent campaign even included a donation to Girls In Tech in the customer’s name for International Women’s Day, a gesture she says was very well received.
The thing that unifies all these marketers, and the hundreds of others the Alyce team talks to every day, is the desire to give their customers the type of experience that inspires real relationships, not just another forgettable transaction.
Our Roots in Corporate Gifting
We began with the goal of making the process of sending gifts more effective. To change the experience and turn it into the most powerful way to connect people at scale.
As the founder of multiple businesses before, colleagues, vendors, and partners sent me gifts. While I appreciated the gesture, I hated the wasted time, money, and energy spent on gifts that missed the mark.
And to be honest, it was a majority of them, even though I knew them pretty darn well – their kids’ and pets’ names, their hobbies, their #5to9s, and they knew mine. The few times those gifts did land, it moved our relationship forward in a way no other interaction could.
I made it our mission to crack the code.
I wanted to use the power of gifting to bring people in business together in a fundamentally different way. To move from transactional to relational. From thinking about interactions as “touches” to “moments.”
What separated the gifts that made me love a brand more from those that fell flat? What conversations were spurred on that I wouldn’t have had before with my colleague, vendor, or partner? What was something I learned about them that created a shared experience we would share for a lifetime? These questions sparked Alyce and the ones I’ve been talking about ever since.
What We've Learned
I’ve realized something critical along the way: those questions weren’t just about gifting. It wasn’t just about marketing. It’s about how good business is done.From one person to another, not only a value exchange but also an emotional exchange.
It struck me: if we made gifting the foundation and made every single part of our Outbound marketing and sales strategy personal, relevant, and thoughtful, it unlocked the code. And that code is simple: aim to get thanked every time you Outbound to your prospects, customers, partners, and prospective and current employees.
Imagine, for a minute, that instead of cold calling and getting another hang-up, you get a thank you email and a booked meeting from the thoughtful gift you sent?
What if, when you follow up with a relevant gift after a trade show or webinar, you get a heartfelt thank you and a request for more information?
What if, instead of dreading renewal negotiations, customers were excited to sign up for another year because you’ve proven how much you care about their success with personal gifts and interactions?
What if, at every point on the customer journey, you’re consistently personal, relevant, and thoughtful, and it shows not only in your ability to meet and exceed your KPIs but in the feedback you get from your customers?
Outbound ❤️ =
Personal + Relevant + Thoughtful
It may seem like a lofty goal, but we see it happening every day with Alyce customers. Their success lies in their commitment to the three principles I called out in the stories and examples I shared above – making every interaction personal, relevant, and thoughtful.
Let’s go deeper into those principles and how we at Alyce are committed to them:
Connect on the #5to9 for an emotional and psychological bond.
One of the outcomes of 2020 and the rise of work from home is that everyone’s personal and professional lives merged. Long before that, though, our entire Alyce team was championing the concept of the #5to9. We share them when we’re meeting a new team member, talk about them in sales calls, and encourage our customers to adopt the concept.
We often talk about our 9-to-5s and what we do during working hours, but there hasn’t historically been a call to share what goes on outside of those work hours. Getting to know an entire person, not just what they do for their job, unlocks possibilities for connection that didn’t exist before and ultimately leads to better relationships.
Being Personal In Your Outbound
When you ask a customer about their #5to9 in a sales call, and they mention that they’re a proud new puppy parent, you can take a moment to connect with them on the joy/exhaustion that comes along with that. That alone shows you care. But, you can take it a step further and follow up with a helpful gift like a chew toy subscription box.
That one simple action, driven by your desire to be personal, connects you on an emotional and psychological level that you can’t accomplish with just words or emails. This generous act aids in your ability to win a deal, close business faster, and keep customers longer. We see it happen every day.
People buy from people they like and trust, and they buy emotionally first and rationalize later.
Provide perfectly timed value to the right customers.
The principle of relevance is about deeply knowing your customer’s professional joys, goals, and pains, where you are in the relationship, customer, or employee lifecycle, and providing perfectly timed value to them.
There’s nothing more annoying than getting on a call with someone, and you get asked the same question you were asked the call before. Or you get sent information on a product that has nothing to do with your role or goals. It’s a waste of time and not relevant.
In terms of gifting and investing in a relationship, it’s about using data to help you know the right gift or message to send at the exact right time. Using gifting to help amplify your ability to deliver that perfectly timed value.
Adding Relevance to Your Outbound
Use what you already know about your audience for the right timing. For instance, Brandon from 6sense used insights from their intent-data platform to send relevant gifts based on customer profile and the likelihood to be receptive to their outreach. You don’t have to be perfect, but let your data guide your outbound motions. This way, you can optimize the relevance your outreach has over time.
Creating relevant experiences is what all of us are trying to do, and you’d be surprised at how well customers respond to just a bit more relevance from the first conversation with you and every Outbound interaction after that.
Consider customers’ choices, context, and preferences.
Marketers are responsible for more than ever. Over the years, every marketing leader I’ve spoken to has mentioned that they’re taking on more channels, activities, and KPIs and are responsible for influencing more of the customer journey. As a result, they’ve been forced to cast a wider net – doing activities that scale and shying away from those that don’t.
The balance of quantity and quality has tipped too far in the direction of quantity. We’re already seeing diminishing returns based on customers tuning out. Too much scale without thoughtful delivery leads to connections opting out, or worse, creating a horrible brand impression in the market. That is the cliff we are all headed for unless we change our approach.
Being thoughtful may take a bit more time. Still, by choosing the right opportunities to consider how your contact enters the experience, you’ll get much more than you would have by sending out a batch email or sending every prospect a generic gift card.
Proving Thoughtfulness In Your Outbound
To be thoughtful, you need to think about the impact of your outbound motion.
Think about how it makes them feel beyond the context of your relationship. Global audiences expect you to know their local culture and appropriately work with local partners to ensure you choose gifts that resonate and get there on time.
When you’re at an event, it’s creating a marketplace of branded items that customers can choose from and have shipped to their homes, so they’re not lugging around a suitcase full of swag. It’s making providing and verifying addresses easier for both you and your customers.
Thoughtfulness always starts with the recipient first and works backward. A thoughtful approach balances your customer’s wants and needs with the actions you need to take and the goals you’re trying to reach.
Outbound ❤️ = Thanked for Every Outbound Interaction
Magic happens when you combine being personal, relevant, and thoughtful. Relationships grow. Trust grows. Business grows. Actions happen authentically with little friction. That has always been our goal here at Alyce. We want you to get thanked every time you reach out to your prospects, customers, partners, and employees.
One of our core values at Alyce is “Right, Not Easy,” which couldn’t be more appropriate as the world of business changes rapidly and inauthenticity reigns supreme.
We have to use technology to scale the right things – quality first, quantity second, not the other way around.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
As we move into the future, we have a renewed focus on making Outbound ❤️ the new way to conduct business by helping our customers create better experiences on behalf of their brands. Gifting is an incredible amplifier to just about every channel and can add those principles to your strategy if done well.
The truth is, we all need Outbound ❤️. In many ways, we’ve never been closer to one another, and in other ways, we’ve never been further apart. Many of us, including the Alyce team, have transitioned to working solely or mostly from home.
We’re all grappling with our lives becoming more digital and what that means for stronger emotional and psychological bonds. We’re facing big, scary environmental issues, and many of us want to do our part.
Spreading Outbound ❤️ can’t fix it all, but if even one person feels more connected, if even one unused gift is saved from the landfill, if even one part of your marketing strategy starts to feel more authentic, we are on the way to success.
Join us in spreading Outbound ❤️, and let’s all vow to do this together. My inbox and voicemail will surely thank you ;).