Pulling the Trigger: Bringing the Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time

Barb Pellow

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

According to ad guru Lester Wunderman, marketers can always figure out what to sell, how to sell, and to whom to sell. What they often can't figure out is when to sell. As consumers become increasingly skilled at filtering out the irrelevant messages that are being delivered to them across more and more marketing channels, the tolerance fuse is getting shorter. Marketers are certainly doing a better job at getting the right message to the right person, but it is becoming increasingly important to send that message at the right time. To send timely messages, marketers must have a clear understanding of the customer’s situation so they can generate the best event-based marketing activity.

Trigger-Based Marketing

This is where something called trigger-based (or event-based) marketing comes into the picture. Trigger-based marketing involves communicating with your customers at the precise time when they have a high propensity to purchase. Trigger-based marketing analyzes customer behavior to identify changes (triggers) that may indicate the need for a new product or service. Cross-sections of industry opinions suggest that those who engage in trigger-based marketing programs can see as much as a 400% improvement in response rates.

While some might link trigger-based marketing to e-mail campaigns, this marketing technique can work just as well in print-based direct mail or in text messaging. All these mechanisms share a direct two-way communication channel between the brand and the individual, maximizing the potential for a one-to-one response. By their very nature, trigger-based campaigns can and should use all types of media—Web, direct mail, SMS—in combination. Once these campaigns are set up, they run themselves. These multi-channel experiences sometimes drive customers and prospects to an interactive Website where customer data can be gathered and used by marketing teams to enhance trigger-oriented data and information.

Triggers Galore

Triggers for effective marketing campaigns can include everything from major life events to external market changes. This section provides some examples of trigger-oriented opportunities that companies should be assessing for creative marketing programs.

Life Events

Consumer life events can have major marketing implications. Such events might include a birthday, the birth of a child, a wedding anniversary, a marriage, the purchase of a new home, or retirement. A simple example exists in the food service market—some restaurants like to track prospective patrons that are new to the area or provide special offers to loyal customers on birthdays or anniversaries. Organizations like Guest Engine (www.guestengine.com) are providing integrated campaigns (print, e-mail, and social) to help restaurant owners drive more business through effective trigger-based campaigns.

Expiration Dates/Reminders

Products and promotions often have expiration dates that can be used to trigger an appropriate marketing action. These might include the maturity of a certificate of deposit, or ongoing and repetitive services that require reminder notices. These range from automotive services to appointment reminders for pets. As an example, Creative Marketing Services (www.cmsintouch.com) provides veterinary offices with personalized reminders that can be printed or sent via e-mail or text. This helps ensure customer loyalty and retention while also providing a secure income stream for the veterinary practice.


Changes in purchasing patterns, spending patterns, or account deposits are also an indicator about consumers’ future buying intentions. A retailer can understand what merchandise to promote next, and when, based on a customer's recent purchases as well as frequent purchase combinations made by other customers in that same demographic. The transaction data for customers that just bought a specific product can be used to determine add-on products for promotion. This data can also show which customers to thank for a recent purchase with a special offer that will prompt them to come back and spend more. Alternatively, if frequent flyers or loyalty program members show a decline in activity, campaigns can help reactivate the relationship.

External Events

There are a number of external factors in today’s dynamic economy and business environment. External triggers are tied to changing market conditions and competitive activities. External (industry-wide) trigger events can include industry-reshaping mergers and acquisitions, regulations, legislation, or any other factors that may change the prospects for an entire industry, region, or category.

Proximity and Time

The combination of proximity and time creates an even greater opportunity for trigger-based solutions. Wikipedia.com defines proximity marketing as "the localized wireless distribution of advertising content associated with a particular place. Transmissions can be received by individuals in that location who wish to receive them and have the necessary equipment to do so." The basic concept is to enable retailers to attract the attention of every potential customer in proximity of their location. If a consumer has opted into a relationship, the retailer could send a business card, advertisement, or special offer directly to his/her mobile phone. The combination of delivering a message at the right time when the consumer is in the right location enables retailers to create a whole new advertising method in the mobile marketplace. This can enable marketers to strengthen their brands and leverage mobile advertising. This technology also gives retailers the ability to monetize a high-traffic area. Businesses can send fully-customized campaigns to consumers when they are within feet of their physical store locations.

Is it Time to Think about Pulling the Trigger?

Time and time again, marketers have determined that trigger-based marketing is highly effective within companies that transact with customers on a very frequent basis. Whether it’s a local restaurant, a retailer, an automotive repair shop, or a bank, there is a requirement to establish a conversation and keep it going. Trigger-based marketing means delivering the right message to the right person with the right content. Even more importantly, though, it means delivering the message at a time when the customer has a high propensity to react. If your customer base is comprised of companies with high customer transactions, it’s time for you to help them pull the trigger!

About Barb Pellow

Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave. She has assisted companies in areas such as creating strategies to launch new products, building strategic marketing plans, and educating their sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. Pellow brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow their business opportunities.