Friday, October 19, 2007

Return to sender: why I may not be reading the mail you send me, e- or otherwise.

I get a lot of e-mail and snail mail, mostly from organizations trying to sell me something, or trying to get me to make a donation to them.

Some I open and read; most I don't.

Leaving the non-profits looking for my check (or credit card number) out of the mix, what makes me open the e-mail or the envelope and actually take a look inside?

  • I have a real relationship with you. Admittedly, we're stretching the word "relationship" pretty thin here, but in thin-speak, this will generally mean that I've purchased some product or service from you.
  • There's something in it for me.Which I can tell from looking at the e-mail header (30% off coupon!) or from the outside of the envelope (30% off coupon!) And remember, I'm only going to know if there's something in it for me if I can tell without opening whatever it is you're trying to send me.
  • There's something that I might want to know about. And please define 'something that I might want to know about' very narrowly. Everything in your catalog does not constitute something I might want to know about. Here's what I might want to know about:
    • Peripheral products: If I bought the duvet cover, I might want to know about the pillow shams or sheets. If I bought the laptop, I might want to know about the mega-memory spare battery or traveling power adapter. For the most part, what I don't want to know about is the same damned product - or sort of product - I just purchased. Realistically speaking, just how many different duvet covers do you think I'm going to buy in a year?
    • Product recalls/defects: Please do let me know if that duvet cover is going to burst into flames if I fall asleep reading a book while under it. Ditto for the laptop.
    • Something interesting related to the product I bought: By all means tell me if that particular duvet cover won "Duvet Cover of the Year", or is going to make a guest appearance in The Office. I like fun facts as much as the next guy.
    • Something I might find interesting based on other things I've bought. Or magazines I read. Or donations I've made. Or my zip code. Go ahead. Make an educated guess. I'm all for it. But in this day and age of micro-marketing, how is it that the Republican Party can't figure out that I'm not a Republican? (Although, in truth, I don't mind seeing them spending their money on me - plus I get to see what they tell insiders about evil, amoral, corrupt, weak-kneed, pro-terror, tax-and-spend Democrats.)

 And as with the "what's in it for me", give me some clue on the outside of the e-mail or the envelope about why I should want to open it.

Also keep in mind that no body likes to feel suckered. For years, I got a big, important looking letter from a car dealership where I had my car serviced a couple of times. On the outside of the envelope, there was an important sounding message letting me know that someone important sounding was looking to buy 1998 Beetles. I thought, hey, maybe someone's making a movie and really needs my car so the hero can careen around Haymarket knocking over fruit carts.... Of course, what they really wanted me to do was trade-in and trade-up. No thanks.

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