Killing The Killer App

Spend a moment with your mailbox. Your real-life mailbox.

Give it a little hug and consider the relationship you guys have. The box and you, I mean. You and the box.

It brings you Christmas cards and utility bills. It holds your love letters and final demands. There’s an intimacy there. You love it and you hate it. Don’t try to deny this. It’s true.

Think of your great, great grandpa’s mailbox. What a magical connection to the outside world that was. It’s no wonder we’re so attached to these things. It’s almost in our genes.

And now we have a new magic of our own – the emailbox. And for all its technological differences, it’s still our place. It’s where we pick up our personal communications. And, as with our real mailbox, we can trash the junkie stuff as quick as a flash. We don’t even have to recycle it.

This connection and intimacy we have with our mail is why internet marketers love email. It gets right to the heart of us, in our homes and at work. It’s a proactive, low-tech push. Best of all, it’s cheap. So bring on the opt-in lists and roll out the discussion lists and ezines and newsletters and anything else we can cram into that super-stretchy virtual box.

It’s great! There’s no limit to the size of an emailbox! We can fit a thousand messages a day into this sucker.

Trouble is, I can’t read that many messages. And I don’t want to. And like tens of thousands of others, I’m unsubscribing as fast as my little typing fingers will carry me.

Hands up everyone who’s unsubscribed from a list, ezine or newsletter in the last 10 days. Lessee yep, that’s a lot of hands.

So what’s happening here? Information overload. We’re trying to do the job of our web sites in an email message. We can’t trust our web site to attract the people, so we’ll cram the whole freakin’ thing in their mail boxes instead. Nice plan, Stan.

And thus dies the killer app.

So if you’re at the tail end of the email-killer-app-gravy-train, turn around and go home. You’re too late.

Am I exaggerating? Sure I am. But there’s a serious point here. You can’t be cramming half your web site into my emailbox every morning. I don’t have the time to read that much. That’s what your web site is for.

But you can email me some pointers to what’s happening on your site. Coincidentally, that’s just what these friendly people at ClickZ have done. I no longer have to subscribe to three long articles a day. Now they are extending me the courtesy of just sending one, short email with a quick synopsis of each article.

If you ask me (and of course you value my opinion), that’s a more appropriate use of my emailbox. And it shows guts too – because each synopsis has to be good enough to get me to launch my browser and invest the time to find and read the article.

And I appreciate that courtesy because, as you now know, there’s a certain intimacy between my mailbox and me. This means that people who treat us right will receive their reward. We’ll keep reading their email and we’ll just unsubscribe from all the pushy, fat, bloated stuff from the other fellas.

The serious moral here? Don’t kill the golden goose. When you arrive in someone’s mail you arrive in their personal space. Respect that or pay the price.

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