Recently, I had occasion to go into my long-abandoned, never-used (but never canceled) AOL account and discovered 9,321 emails waiting for me. I was appalled.
It is unimaginable to me that I never responded to more than 9,000 personalized messages, and yet hundreds of writers continue to this day dumping their work into the sewer that is my old AOL account.
Clearly, these people are using lists that are dirtier than a Pascagoula pelican washed ashore in BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
After 50 years in direct marketing, I still have great reverence for the magic of a letter—one-to-one communication—whether personal correspondence or a sales pitch. You send someone a letter because you want a reply. That can only happen when you keep your lists clean.
'Just Cleaning My List'
What triggered this column was the above subject line of an email from direct marketing guru J.F. (Jim) Straw. His message:
It's that time again … time to refresh and renew ... so, I'm cleaning my list of all the nixies.
If you want to stay on the list, DO NOTHING.
If you DO NOT want to be on my list any more, just hit reply with "Remove" in the subject line.
Either way, I appreciate having had an opportunity to serve you and look forward to serving you many, many more years to come ... good Lord willing.
Keep well ...
Jim Straw is a class act. I like being on his list.
Phone Call From a Professional
Once an aeon, my phone will ring and a P.R. person will ask about a press release she had sent me. We quickly discover it had been sent to my old AOL inbox, and I tell her to re-send it to me at my Yahoo address.
I always read it and send an email reply—thanking her for thinking of me and telling her that this story is not relevant to my beat, but ask her to keep in touch. Occasionally I'll pick up on the story and use it.
As a result, the P.R. rep has my Yahoo address, so she knows her client's information will reach me. From my point of view, I recognize her name, know she is a consummate professional and I will read her press release.
She has a contact; I have a unique source of information.
'Quick Coverage Questions'
This was the headline from Jim Bucci of "BULLDOG REPORTER: News, Issues and Best Practices for PR and Corporate Communications."
As an Editor for the Bulldog Reporter, a media relations trade publication, my job is to help ensure that my readers have accurate info about you and send you the best quality pitches. By taking five minutes or less to answer my questions (pasted below), you'll receive targeted PR pitches from our client base that will match your beat and interests. Any help or direction is appreciated. Here are my questions ...
Of course Bucci never heard from me, because his email was sent to my never-used AOL inbox. And he never bothered to call and ask if I received his survey. No follow-up. He is just another P.R. slob who can boast about his giant list of media contacts when, in fact, we are not contacts at all.
In the halcyon days of snail mail—where you paid big bucks to reach people—the USPS statistics were as follows:
● Consumer lists go out of date at the rate of 2 percent a month—25 percent a year—the result of people moving, getting married or dying. Thus a list not updated in four years was deader than Kelsey's nuts.
● Business lists go bad at the rate of 50 percent a year as people change companies, change addresses or become unemployed.
This is provable. Stand in front of a business gathering and ask how many people have a different business card today than they had one year ago, half the hands in the room will go up.
The numbers for email are less drastic, as email addresses often move with the person.
What in the Hell Is Going On?
"Free is a magic word," said the late guru Dick Benson.
Free is a poison concept in the world of e-commerce. Because email is free, no one has any incentive to keep lists clean. The result: Computers are drowning in lists of e-addresses that are no good. The wrong people are getting the wrong messages at the wrong time, or getting no messages at all. To those writing me at AOL, Hello Slobs.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of the Business Common Sense e-newsletter. Visit him at businesscommonsense.com or dennyhatch.com, or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.