2014.01 | email offers have become flyers

email-hellDear Valued Retailer,

It isn’t me.  It’s you.  Until you can understand the basic rules of relationship, we need to take a break.

It all started pleasantly enough.  I had admired you from afar.  When I tentatively visited your place, the people there were just like me, and even offered me some useful advice on picking out an outfit that I quite liked.  I truly appreciated the sweet one time deal you offered me to get my email address.  I was a little hesitant, but your brand seems reflective of my personal style, and I didn’t mind having you in my inbox.  The people there said it would not be given to anyone else.  You even said you could send my receipt in email and that’s neat, right? I decided to go for it.

Then it began.

I didn’t notice it at first.  I’ve been getting  so much email lately because, let’s face it, I got overexuberant with all the offers everyone gave me in exchange for my email address.  What could it hurt?  A few extra emails is no big change.   They started to pile up, and I figured I’d just read them when I had a bit of time.  But my personal inbox started to look like my work inbox.

One Saturday morning I had a chance to review my personal email and started scrolling through the pile.  I read your first message updating me on the latest fashions for women this season.  I started wondering what on earth would drive you to send me such a thing.  I’m not a woman.  I don’t buy clothes for women.  Must be a mistake.  I’ll just delete it.  No big deal.  You’re my friend, right?

I opened the next one and it asked me if I had said yes – to getting married – and that if I had, you could help me build the party of my life.  Hmmm.  What is going on here?  Let’s scan through the history.  You sent me – let’s see – emails for 12 days in a row. Hmmm.  Discounts and free shipping are in the title of all of them.  Wow.  Pretty much the same as my entire inbox because of my personal email sharing indiscretions.  Sort by sender, aaaaand Delete.

The next day I got another, and then another.  I’m going to have to end this.  It feels like work.  It’s making me not like you.  I decided to hit the unsubscribe button.  THEN you want to know if I want to just hear from you every week instead of every day.  Hmmm.  We’ve moved on to bargaining.  Give you one more chance?  Well… I didn’t know that was an option, but you’re not offering me anything I want, when I want it, or how I want it, so let’s just end it.

Let’s face it.  You don’t know how to have a relationship.  We just met and you acted too familiarly.  You called every day.  You offered help, but because it was SO much it felt like you wanted something; not like you were offering me something.   You acted like you were the only thing in my life.  I like you but I don’t need new clothing every day.  You said the offer was just for me, but all of my friends asked me if I got it too.  I felt betrayed.

Now I come to you and you say you could just call on me weekly as long as we agree to it?  Why is the onus on me to gear down on the familiarity?  Seems to me that you have more to gain from this relationship at the outset.  Nope.  We’re done.  I don’t feel the love.  When I need something, I’ll just check the website.  Maybe I’ll just stick something in my online cart and wait for you to notice and offer me a discount.

I thought you cared, but it turns out you just want my money.  I know you are going to ask me to join some other club or scheme or something, but you can forget it.  The trust is gone.

Thanks for the laughs.

Your Not So Faithful Shopper.


I jest of course, but this holiday season really brought the current state of email marketing and having an ongoing dialogue with clients.  Let’s be clear.  This is not easy.  In fact, I would argue that for me personally, email offers have basically become the annoying paper flyers that fill your mailbox.  They have become noise instead of a conduit for a personalized ongoing conversation.

Nobody has the magic formula on ongoing communication, however, there are some things I have noticed from my own experience:

  • Frequency – Like a regular relationship, you can’t just assume I love you so much that I want to hear from you every. single. day.  That’s just making it weird.  I don’t need to think about shopping for anything every single day. Don’t fill my inbox.  Start slowly, maybe monthly, and we can move forward from there.  The necessity of your marketing department to look busy does not justify filling my inbox.  Also – think about your target market and your products.  Just because I buy a wallet from a leather goods company doesn’t mean I need to hear from them constantly via email.  The product should stand on its own.  Be intelligent, thoughtful and respectful about how often you contact me.
  • Personalization – If you are saying the deal is just for me, it better be just for me.  This isn’t the first time I’ve shopped.  I have friends online AND in the real world with the same taste.  I know if they get the same deals or not.   99% of the time, the deals are not personalized, or at least – they don’t feel personalized.  Want to blow my mind?  Send me an offer for the pants that go with my new jacket – or the coloured shoelaces that go with my new shoes AND my new shirt.  Let me know that lots of stuff is on sale that is MY SIZE.  Send me an offer on the razor blades I always buy if I buy the shaving cream.  That is a personalized offer.  20% off jackets is NOT a personalized offer.  20 cents off Premium Plus because I bought them in the past is a personalized deal, but it’s not enough to be worth my time.   Use my data well and I’ll welcome you to it.
  • Transparency – I know you you’re selling  stuff, you know you’re selling stuff. Let’s all be up front about it.   If you offer me something, give me the chance to say I don’t want it.  You can be funny about it, but be respectful of my time by letting me get out of this thing easily. If you send me 2 emails and I don’t respond, how about a message that says – seems like you don’t want to hear about this stuff.  If we’re bothering you, we can lay off.  Just hit this button and hit send and we’ll fix it for you.
  • Offer Targeting – Everyone wants the holy grail – if you bought this, you will certainly want that, but it’s difficult.  You will inevitably get it wrong.  First, I’m not a girl.  Don’t forget that.  Basic stuff needs to be sorted NOW.  Once you get past that, you can offer me things I might not want by making offers.  That’s okay, but do me a favour – only show me a few things – not 20 things.  If I see 20 things, I’m not reading it.  If I don’t like your suggestions, let me tell you if I don’t like what you suggested.  Make it easy and fast and I’ll do it.  You’ll learn from it, and I’ll not be bothered any longer.
  • Messaging – There better be something in this message for me if I’m going to even read it – let alone have a dialog with you.  Do you really think I’m going to read a 2 page message about suit jackets- or god forbid, skirts? I’m surprised you’ve read this far – many will not.  ALWAYS have the topic and message be about something I might care about.  Keep it short and to the point.  In business school almost 20 years ago, they gave me half a page.  I’ll give you a couple of sentences.
  • Evernote Camera Roll 20140103 133425Medium Look, I’m sure you have lots of great ideas that add value that aren’t just about discounts.  That’s great and I might like to hear about it, but not in my email.  If you have lots of cool stuff to share on your brand, put it on social media – be it Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – wherever your people are.  Put the ideas in blog posts.  Lookbooks are coming around in many new and novel ways.  Make all of it accessible within your mobile app if you have one.  If I like your brand and what you’re showing me, I’ll follow you and remember you when the time comes. Remind me of that when I leave your email list.  
  • Control – I have a feeling that people at companies of all types constantly have meetings and measure how many subscribers they have and how many people are constantly contacted through these email lists. They are loathe to drop any as it’s seen as a negative.  Here’s the thing.  Hiding that unsubscribe button at the bottom is disingenuous.  Make it obvious.  Make it a big button.  Do you really want me to get messages I don’t want?  No you do not.  It will make me resent you.  Not the feeling you are looking for.
  • Timing – I know everyone thinks that by timing I mean Christmas or Black Thursday, but I don’t.  If you want me to buy something, get the information to me when I’m planning on buying.  I’m not planning on scanning my inbox for goodies.  That’s basically the flyer method moved to an electronic format.  That’s not how my kids are going to shop either.  If you want to get me to buy, get me when I’m shopping.  Hard to do that with email.  In fact, that’s why I suggest the content I get in many emails would be better placed on a blog, twitter feed, or lookbook accessible in an app or online in all manner of ways when I’m at your store or at your website.

The bottom line is that as always, selling is relationships.  Be intelligent about relationships.  Treat people like you would like to be treated.  Be respectful, be up front, and treat them as you would your friends – because they are your friends.  That’s how I’d like to be treated and so would you.  The tools and the media are available, and most of what we need to guide us we use every day with our personal relationships.

Remember your clients and targets are your friends when trying to have a conversation and they will treat you as a friend – oh, and buy more stuff.

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