Your Outbound Marketing Sucks!

Last week I went to get my hair cut at Supercuts. Do you know why I get my haircuts there? Because it's fast, easy and relatively inexpensive. When I went to pay, they asked me if I had a loyalty card and I told them I didn't have it with me. Why? Three reasons:

  1. I carry a tiny wallet.
  2. I only put really important stuff in it.
  3. I don't care about a free haircut enough to make me put it in my wallet.

Now, I'm sure they're running the program because corporate told them to. The gal who spoke with me didn't really care that I didn't have my card with me.

It's not just about Loyalty Cards

Skip to the BBQ that I went to yesterday. There were a handful of families there that I knew and it was great to see them. To me (and my wife) they're like family. We want to know what's going on. We like them. We ask about their recent vacations and how their kids are doing in school. But there were others there that I didn't know. I smiled. I shook a hand or two. I laughed at the right moments, but when they walked to the other part of the yard, I didn't follow. Why? Three reasons:

  1. I don't really know them.
  2. Our calendars are full with the folks that we call ‘family'.
  3. Even though I see them at functions, I'm not sure we have much in common.

Mind you, I don't feel bad that I didn't connect with some of these folks. They're nice. I'm sure they're great. But their kids are way older than ours, they're in another stage of life, and the things they're into don't match the things I dig. That's fine. They weren't upset (it's not like I walked away from them mid-speech) and neither was I about the state of our non-existent relationship.

Repeat Visits don't Equal Relationships

What do these two stories have to do with each other? They expose three myths that Freemen, Spenner & Bird write about in their HBR article. They write it better than I, so I'll just put it down like this:

Just because I see you often doesn't mean I want a relationship with you.

It's really that simple. Yes, I get my hair cut at Supercuts. But if someplace else were closer, faster or easier (and sometimes that's the case when I'm traveling), I'd pick them just as easily. I don't care enough about my hair to care.  And just because I see some people over and over at functions doesn't make us friends. It's not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It's just the reality that proximity doesn't equal connection.

Outbound Emails meet GMail Filters

I don't know about you but I use GMail for my email and it not only has cool plugins like rapportive (for social media context) and boomerang (for reminders), but also SaneBox (to filter my email for me). So all those outbound daily emails that come my way (because I bought something from you, because I signed up for something in order to get that 20 page report, etc) get filtered for me and I review them when I have free time. So that relationship that you think you're having with me because you keep sending me email – it's not a relationship I'm in.

Here's another thing. Your emails are all about you. What you just did. What you are offering. What you want to tell me. Guess what? That's obnoxious. I don't like you that much. If you were a person, I'd either punch you or (more likely) walk away. [NOTE: If you are the author of such emails, you should read this article on content marketing.]

So how do you make it better?

According to Freemen, Spenner & Bird, find out if you're one of the few brands I do actually want a relationship with. If so, leverage it. Here's one way to do loyalty programs right.

If you're someone I care about, and you're bringing me back to your site, consider personalization. It goes a long way to creating that feeling of relationship that you want. I mean, you know the names of your friends, right? You don't call all of them ‘buddy', do you?

It's the reason why a friend and I have been building this WordPress Plugin: Elegant PURL.

What other things would you suggest for folks who are doing outbound marketing?