March 1, 2016

How about this goal = Don’t do Stupid Things?

By Ben Salmon

Don't do stupid thingsHow annoyed do you get when companies, who should know you better, do stupid things?

To share his advice on that topic, I’m delighted to welcome a new guest blogger to our community. Ben Salmon is founder of Attributely & has spent his career in data & analytics.

Here is his first guest post, with this simple but still needed advice for marketers; to ‘stop doing stupid things‘:

As consumers we are continually frustrated with organisations who don’t meet our expectations. They ask us to repeat ourselves as we are passed from one call-centre to another; they try to sell us things at inappropriate times; and they offer us products which we already have or could never afford.

Don't do stupid things 1

What is happening out there?
So why are organisations doing stupid things in the first place? Why not simply look at your customers and meet their needs based on their immediate requirements and stop doing things which will annoy them. Sometimes that means doing nothing at all.

Is this something we can really do? Absolutely. The first thing we need to understand are the principles of not doing stupid things. The image below outlines the four basic principles.

By thinking about these every time we interact with a customer or prospect we are able to take the first step. However these principles alone do not allow us to always meet the need of the customer or prospect.

The Elements Of Getting It Right
We need to put in place the elements which we can use to filter the things we want to talk to a customer about.


Context comes first. It can mean many different things, which are illustrated below.

Don't do stupid things context

Some of these needs will be implicit (not expressed by the consumer) and some of these will be explicit. The one question which context answers is: “is this appropriate for my customer right now?”.

Context means we are looking to remove anything which is not appropriate. For example if someone is making a complaint, it’s not worth trying to sell them something. If they are looking to make a change to their insurance policy it’s not worth asking them if they would like to enrol into online banking.

Business Rules

Once we have determined the most appropriate thing to say we need to move onto the business rules.

The business rules allow us to answer the question “does the customer qualify for this offer or message?” I experienced a good example of this from my insurance company. They offered me breakdown cover when I was renewing my car insurance policy. I thought it was great value and having both with one provider made things more convenient. I accepted their offer and the paperwork arrived in the post that week. I read through the paperwork (having been caught out in the past) and saw my car was not covered for the breakdown cover, as it was over ten years old.

So I was offered breakdown cover by a company who knew how old my car was, yet they went to the effort of offering me breakdown cover, only to have a dissatisfied customer and the cost of not doing business due to the paperwork and refund. Thank goodness I checked the fine print!


The final piece illustrated below is analytics. It may be surprising to see analytics as the last thing we look at, but we really don’t need to know the most relevant thing to offer a customer if they are ringing up to make a complaint. Deal with the complaint first.

Analytics allow us to rank the remaining offers to present or communicate an offer based on relevancy.

don't do stupid things analytics

Putting All Three Together
A customer rings up to tell their bank they’ve bought a new house and they want to update their contact details.

The context would mean I could talk to a customer about home moving-related offers only.

Business rules would remove anything about mortgages (as they are already moving and are already with someone) and we would remove home insurance offers as they already have home insurance with us too.

Analytics then highlights three things. A question on the age of the home, a short-term loan, or premium banking which includes mobile phone insurance at home and free accident cover in the home.

The call-centre agent then asks how old the house is to determine the best offer. The customer tells the agent it is a new build. Therefore a loan might not be relevant given the age of the property. The agent then offers the customer the premium banking service which covers accidental breakages at home and mobile phone cover at home.

Now this is probably not an atypical event, but think of all the stupid things which could have occurred. We could have offered a mortgage quote, home insurance or a loan for home improvements.

Stupid Re-targeting
One of the worst examples of doing stupid things is re-targeting display adverts.

I recently went online to buy a new fridge. I did the usual research on a couple of review sites and then went onto a few retailer sites to find the fridge I wanted at a competitive price and availability.

I bought the fridge from one of the retailers and I then proceeded to receive banners for the following week asking me if I wanted to buy a fridge. Unfortunately there was no “stupid things call to action”. I didn’t need another fridge. One of the adverts was even from the retailer I purchased the fridge from!

You would think stopping offers of something I bought from them only in the past week wouldn’t be that hard!

What To Do Next
If we want to stop doing stupid things firstly we need to identify things we can stop doing. These are usually the easiest things to achieve as it means switching things off rather than creating something new. To do this we need to recognise the needs of the customer at the time they are interacting with us. That means using context to determine what is appropriate. Secondly not offering customers products they already have or wouldn’t qualify for. Finally it means analysing customers to present them with relevant offers, based on their behaviour or value.

Credit: Alistair Ewing for the “Don’t do Stupid Things” New Year’s resolution and concept 2012.