The Better You Know Me…

I’m a single white female with green eyes, blond hair and a fun-loving nature. I like to read Jane Austen, take long walks on the beach and watch movies with sub-titles.

Well, close enough.

Like many personal ads, this one gives a very limited view of the writer. You can’t get to know anyone from just two or three lines. It’s just a start. The first small step.

It’s the same deal online.

If I buy something at, Frank may have the software necessary to start building a profile on me.

Let’s say I buy my wife some pearl earrings.

Frank now knows where I live, what my email address is and that someone I know likes pearl earrings.

Based on this slim amount of knowledge, he may decide that he could cross-sell me a pearl necklace.

Not interested. Could have been, but I’m not.

However, sells a lot of different gift stuff, including pens.

Frank doesn’t know yet that I have a thing for fountain pens. He just knows about that impulse purchase of the pearl earrings.

Anyway, a week later I do buy a fountain pen from Frank.

Now he knows that I like pearl earrings and fountain pens.

But he has no idea that I love fine wines, travel abroad three times a year, have a dog, collect stamps, have two laptops and read three books a week.

Some of this knowledge may be useful to Frank and some may not.

Frank as well as many others out here in cyberland is constantly making assumptions about customer preferences based on incomplete knowledge.

And this incomplete knowledge usually offers just a very small slice of a person’s actual interests and preferences.

Do you know me based just on what I buy at your site? I don’t think so.

And this is fine if the market you serve is extremely narrow and well-defined.

But if you sell desk lamps as well as pearl earrings and fountain pens, your customer profiles may be excluding you from knowledge of a customer’s broader interests.

Which is why, if you really want to build a long-term relationship with me, you may want to add another layer to your knowledge of who I really am.

Try asking me what my interests are.

I love the way does this on their newsletter sign-up form.

They not only find out a great deal about what interests me, but they also show respect for my time and my inbox by allowing me to choose both the content and frequency of their emails to me.

Now they can build a profile that looks both at what I buy and what I say interests me.

That’s a neat combination. Because those two areas won’t show a perfect overlap. I’ll buy stuff that I haven’t indicated as being of interest to me. And I’ll tell you about broader interests that may not be reflected in my purchasing history.

After all, I’m human. (Unlike your profiling software.)

Add these two approaches together, and you can create enough of a relationship to keep me interested.

If you don’t, I may end up at the virtual bar saying, “My eMerchant just doesn’t understand my needs.” And your competition will be there, ready and waiting to buy me a drink.

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