E-Mail Communications: We Are Family

  |  May 1, 2008   |  Comments

When it comes to e-mail communications, technology isn't the problem. You are.

When you fly as much as I do, you spend a great deal of time on planes catching up on work, reading, and thinking. There's nothing like a 20-hour flight to India to stir up thoughts about virtually every topic in the modern consciousness. I spent a good deal of my recent trip reading several books on leadership and leading. I find it mandatory in my line of work to be in a constant state of discovery and learning. Despite the expert status here at ClickZ, we writers must all be committed to learning.

On the second leg of my trip, I had an epiphany about e-communications and the marketplace we live in. Countless experts have written thousands of words and spoken at hundreds of conferences trying to give marketers answers for their specific challenges. And we've looked at the technology to solve our problems. It started with CRM (define). Remember that? Install millions of dollars of hardware and load this magic software on those boxes and Presto! all your customer problems are cured. The roads are littered with executives who bought deeply into this idea and the commensurate expense, only to find out that without changing their attitudes toward their customers, without changing the way in which they communicated, no amount of hardware or software would solve anything.

Technology isn't the problem. You are the problem. The problem around not leveraging e-mail technology in this marketplace isn't the hardware; it isn't the 157 features in your platform; it isn't deliverability or spam filters. It's you...and I include myself in this group. There's a lot of great technology in our marketplace today, but none of it can solve your problem.

What is your problem? Your attitude toward your customers and how you communicate with them.

So many discussions focus on the customer's importance. And e-mail as an incredible tool to build ongoing relationship with customers. I have agonized for years over ways to convey the importance of this dialogue with your customers and how many of you are blowing it. You leave your customers and their relationships wide open for a smarter marketer to come in and take their business, do a better job of building a solid relationship. So try this one: we are family.

We all have a family: a mom and dad, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, crazy cousins, and so on. Most of us work really hard to build solid relationships with family. We are blood, after all. We may argue and fight at times, have our share of disagreements, but we always find a way to move forward and stay close with, if not all, some of our family.

See your customers as family members, as individuals you want to have close relationships with. See e-mail as the way in which you stay in touch with them, ask them questions, understand what's going on in their world, comprehend their struggles, figure out how you can help them. Never abandon them or see them as a nuisance or burden. They want to have you in their lives. You can bring them joy and meaning, a sense of connectedness.

Some of you are saying, "DiGuido, you've lost it. There are all kinds of broken families in the real world." You're right. But the root of all disagreements and confusion in families centers on communication and the lack thereof. Signals are sent out and not retrieved; warning signs are blinking, "You aren't listening; you aren't listening," then it's too late. There's a separation, then loss.

As you plan your customer/family communications, focus on all that you know about your family members: their likes, dislikes, preferences, peculiarities, and passions. Some of these family members have been with you for a very long time. They've been very loyal through challenging times, times when they felt the communication was spotty or irrelevant. We've all had the experience of being at a family gathering when good old Aunt Lou spouts off about something totally irrelevant to anything being discussed. Doesn't feel good, does it?

You need to start understanding the family members on your list. Don't see them as the 50 first cousins you have. See them as unique individuals, just like yourself, who have limited time in their lives and are desperate for connection with you and your company. If you start thinking that way, you'll take the actions that leverage today's e-mail technology to build more relevant communications to each and every family member.

Your family members don't want to see themselves as a segment or target. They want communications that are personalized, relevant, and meaningful to them as individuals. Your failure to address their needs separates them from your company and puts them on a mission to find another home to call their own.

The bad news is you are the problem. The good news is that you can solve your problem by taking the appropriate actions. If you need help reconnecting with your family of customers, drop me a line. I'm here to help.

It's time to wake up.

Al D.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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