Software – The No Brainer

You may wonder what this article has got to do with writing that sells. I’ll get to the point, way down towards the end of the article. And I think the message is an important one.

But first here’s where it begins. This last Monday and Tuesday I was in LA at the DMA Conference.

This was an important place for me to be. Living in British Columbia, Canada, I am more than a quick cycle ride away from the raging heart of the ecommerce industry. So it was useful not only to meet some new people, but also to get a feel for the whole event, the presenters and the 1,000 or so people who came and paid to listen and learn.

As I roamed the booths and listened to the presentations, I had a thought. Well, to tell the truth, the thought didn’t come until later. But with the benefit of hindsight, I noticed two conflicting and powerful threads.

Looking at all the exhibitors’ booths, it became clear that email marketing is hot, hot, hot. Lots and lots of companies are happy to sell you the very best systems and software to help you make the big bucks.

Bright colors, free mouse pads, clammy handshakes, tired feet and uncertain outcomes.

And these guys make email marketing sound so easy!

“Our point-n-click campaign management environment makes it easy for even a junior marketing specialist to set up, fine tune, customize and deploy even the most sophisticated campaign.”

Well, gosh, thank goodness! Now even really dumb people like me can get rich with email!

I’m ready! What’s my next step?

“By leveraging your existing resources (your customer files and databases) and applying new technologies, you can maximize your direct marketing returns without reinventing the wheel.”

You see, no problem. No assembly or wheels required.

The answer, I’m told, is in the technology. And there are a lot of companies out there that offer high-tech solutions to your email marketing needs.

On Tuesday morning, we all sat down to listen to Ann Winblad, founding partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. In all seriousness, I hung on her every word. Listening to really smart people who speak well is a rare pleasure.

Among many useful things she said, here is one that struck a particular chord with me. Ann said, “We’re not Vulture Capitalists. We’re Intellectual Property Vultures.”

Her point was that her firm views people and what they have in their brains as the most powerful assets in our industry. They go to considerable lengths to find, nurture and profit from these brains.

On the one hand, I have the software vendors telling me that it’s okay to leave my brain at home, if I have one, because even a moron can get it right with their spiffy systems.

On the other hand I have Ann Winblad telling me that intellectual property is the most important asset of all.

I’m going to side with Ann. Because software is just a tool. It’s like a hammer. And without the skill to use it, it means nothing.

So what’s this have to do with writing? If email is so hot, and intellectual property is at such a premium, where is the interest in writers who have the skills to use the tools to make the sales?

I didn’t find a single booth that had anything to say about applying the skills of direct response writers to make email marketing actually bring in the returns you’re looking for.

I didn’t find a single session or presentation that touched on the bottom-line value of the well-written word.

Do we really think that having the right software solutions is going to be enough?

Hasn’t anyone noticed that email is very dependent on the skillful use of words?

Are you ready to put the writing of your email campaigns in the hands of a “junior marketing specialist”?

And finally, does this myopic belief that technology will replace the need for direct response writers upset or distress me?

Ha! Not in the least. I think I’ll create a whole new category to serve this unmet demand in the industry. Come to think of it, Ann Winblad said she loved to invest in new category creators. Maybe she’ll invest in my brain and we’ll write our way to riches.

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