Wednesday, August 11, 2004
How Not to Sell Stuff to Me
I'm currently in Return Path's Colorado office, finishing up three days of talking, planning, and starting to get to know the people I hadn't met before. Starting tomorrow I've got three days of hiking, climbing, and hanging around Colorado in a non-work capacity, which makes for a really good week all together..
Because I'm in Colorado, and because the creaky old powerbook that I grabbed as I was running out my door has a mysteriously screwed up copy of VNC on it, I'm stuck accessing my company's exchange server via the Web interface, which is kind of like...well, it's kind of like something really irritating. No way to sort messages, no easy way to choose how many messages to view in a window, slow...all the stuff that people always complain about. Net, accessing email is a bit of a chore right now, so I'm not pleased with having unnecessary messages in my inbox.
Into this mood comes a helpful email sent by my company's sales rep at a major computer manufacturer. As usual, it's a notification of the wonderful special offers that they have available now, mailed out to everyone in that rep's address book. These messages irritate me at the best of times: if I wanted ads from them I'd sign up for a newslettter. If the rep notices that I've bought a half dozen of their 2650 servers in the last couple of years and wants to make an effort to sell me some of the new 2850s that they're pushing now, that's fair enough. I expect that a sales rep is going to check in with me periodically and try to convince me to buy things I don't yet know I need...that's their job. I don't, however, expect to get a homemade, multi-colored, big font abomination of an ad for every random little thing that the company has a discount on this week. Not good. Doesn't make me buy things.
Now what made this message even better was that the salesperson accidentally used CC rather than BCC to spam their clients, so I now have a handy dandy list of contacts with purchasing authority at other small to mid-size businesses. This was simple operator error, which I can completely understand, but in this case it just illustrates why this approach to email as a sales tool is a really bad idea. There are lots and lots of tools out there to handle mass email communication that are designed to minimize this sort of error. Many of these tools also allow you to track when you last contacted these people, group and mail to them based on buying habits or other information that you choose...these tools are designed to allow you to use email intelligently, as part of a sales process.
There's a whole other post in the various (mature and otherwise) responses that were then sent via the "reply all" button, but I'm too busy deleting them all (very sloooowly ) to bother right now. Use your imagination. See you all in a few days.