For the sake of the self-imposed-much-ignored-and-barely-meaningful word ‘Transparency,’ I am a lifetime fan of the Post Office. The Post Office provided food and shelter (my father was a mailman) and put me through college (I was an “89-Day Wonder several times). Still, it’s fair to say that the appeal of the stuff that lands in my physical mailbox has slipped over time. But, if I had to compare what’s in my physical mailbox to what’s in my email inbox – it’s the Post Office by a mile. In fact, of all the things that I have to check in a day, where things arrive, email has the lowest satisfaction factor.
Email, at its best was a good substitute for important correspondence, bills and junk mail. Email was never exciting, and it lost its dull appeal as it was taken over to the point of abuse by relentless marketing efforts. The stuff that lands in my inbox has rarely been interesting on its own, and with social media maturing, I fear there is little hope for most email to get my attention. So if you are trying to market to me, consider the following:
I like blogs. Not just in the way a butcher likes meat; I like blogs because I get to “know” the author over time. I might read one of your company newsletters if I really like your company or if you assemble an amazing newsletter, but I am much more likely to read your CEO’s blog often.
I like stories. Almost all of my blogs involve a healthy dose of storytelling, but that’s because I like stories. Who doesn’t like stories? Humankind has been sharing stories for millennia and we have not grown tired of the mechanism. Ask me to choose between a website where a company talks about the features of their products and one where the CEO tells me about a recent success, and I’m all over the latter. Have that CEO tell me about a recent failure – complete with how they solved the problem and how they will never let it happen again – and I am signing-up and coming back for more baby!
I kind of like videos. Actually, I do like videos, but they better be videos that share stories. I hate videos that are just strung together still images of products, PowerPoint slides or collateral material companies used to paste into an email. Show me someone using your product. Show me how easy it is to use, how fast it works and how happy the people are. Don’t show me pretend happy people, clip-art happy people or Microsoft happy people like the insipid threesome on the SharePoint team site – those people are creepy.
But even if you follow my advice, don’t expect to excite me about your products.
For all the wonderful possibilities contained within todays tech-powered marketing, I can honestly say that nothing has ever arrived on my computer that made me as happy as I used to be when I found a Sears Tool Catalog in my real mailbox. Sure today’s pictures are better, I can view them from a variety of perspectives, I can enlarge them, I can zoom in and I can read endless technical specifications and reviews – but it’s not the same.
I consider the day that Sears announced the end of their catalog business as the day shopping died. I still shop, and it might be easier, faster and oh so much better, but it isn’t fun anymore. Shopping on-line is just a thing that we do, like breathing – we do it because we have to, but it isn’t fun. There’s almost no imagination involved in shopping and there’s no anticipation after the sale because I can track the shipment right down to the day it gets put on the truck for delivery. I’m sure that pretty soon, they will add GPS tracking to UPS trucks and I’ll be able to watch my package turn onto my street.
I get emails from Rockler almost every day. I almost never read them. I still get a periodic paper catalog from Rockler and I crawl through it from cover to cover. My wife still gets real paper catalogs from Lee Valley. She gets them because she has bought gifts for me from them for so long – they know where the money is. I sit with those catalogs and circle things, bend pages, stick on Post-it notes and then I leave the catalogs on the kitchen table. Sure I could find something on Amazon, add it to my wish list and let them send 150 emails to my wife, but where’s the fun in that? You might say that “by shopping on-line, you’re saving paper – you’re saving trees.” Well a friend recently pointed out that if you want more trees you should use more paper. An article from IdahoForests.org would support that notion, indicating that 3-5 trees are planted for each one that is harvested.
So it’s up to you Sears – bring back the Wish Books, make me happy and save the planet. And by the way, what happened to Roebuck?