Our E-mail Addiction - 1
I don't have a BlackBerry. But when working in the home office, I'm addicted to e-mail, sometimes checking my inbox every 10 or 15 minutes.
In his PC World blog, JR Raphael implies that I may be a sicko.
The reason I check e-mail so frequently is that if a reader takes the time to write, I want to post the comment right away so this new--and potentially valuable--addition to the story content can be seen by other readers.
Otherwise, I'm ruthless with e-mail. My motto: Scan the inbox and delete. I don't save e-mails, although I do save some of their contents in a WORD filing system. If I'm flying overseas and don't get to my inbox for 24 hours, e-mail builds up, as it does overnight. But I never have more than 30 or 40 e-mails to scroll through, and 90% are instantly deleted without reading them.
If I accidentally delete an important e-mail, the sender didn't spend time on the subject line. If it's really important, it will be resent. If it's really, really important, it will be sent by certified or registered mail (signature required), or by FedEx.
How can a perfect stranger get my attention--persuade me to open an e-mail rather than delete it?
F.Y.I. Regarding E-mail Comments on a Column or Issue
1. Reader comments go to a completely different system outside of my personal e-mail, which I'm allowed to access and act on. I shouldn't miss any. I will post your comment immediately whether it's pro, con or outright angry. The only exceptions: anonymous, duplicate or potentially libelous remarks. All comments are lightly edited by me for spelling or typos. If a comment is too long (more than 1,500 characters), I sometimes run it if it makes sense, or I write the reader and ask them to do some judicious cutting to fit.
2. Every reader who writes receives a personal answer from me. If a comment comes directly to me, I personally reply and sometimes urge the reader to go to www.businesscommonsense.com to paste the letter into the Reader Comments section so it can be shared with others.
The column that's generated the most reader comments so far:
"Should Congress Shut Down eBay?"
Columns that have been most e-mailed by readers to others:
* "Old Media Becoming Vestigial at Warp Speed"
* "Is It Time to Stop Doing Business with China?"
* "The Incompetence of General Ad Agencies"
* "The Book Business: An Industry of Whiners"
* "Search Engine Optimization/Search Engine Marketing"
The most prolific commenter: Wash Phillips with 43 approved comments. (Always love hearing from you, Wash!)
About Direct Mail
"All direct mail is opened over the wastebasket," wrote Chicago copywriter Lea Pierce. With direct mail, you have, at best, three to five seconds to get the reader's attention.
Freelancer Pat Friesen of Kansas City, Kan., has identified the six outer-envelope "hot spots"--the elements that scream for attention:
1. Corner-card/return address Who is it from? Do I know the person or company?
2. Addressing Window or label? Computer or handwritten? Is my name spelled correctly?
3. Postage Live stamp? Metered indicia? Printed indicia?
4. Teaser copy Is it relevant to me?
5. Back envelope flap Is it blank? Is it relevant to me?
6. Back teaser copy Is it relevant to me?
Unlike a direct mail envelope that has Friesen's six elements, e-mail has just two elements: "From" and the subject line. This means the decision-making process to open or delete takes one second or less. The ideal subject line should be no more than 30-35 characters. For example, the following 11 e-mails arrived in my Yahoo inbox on Sept. 13 and 14:
From -- Subject
AcaiPure -- Dennis Detoxify Yourself with Acai Berry Boom!
Snoring Solution -- Dennis REUTERS: Can Snoring Kill? Surgeons ...
Online Surveys -- Dennis Be rewarded for taking surveys
123everythingabout -- Dennis Meet African American Singles in Your Area
First Universal -- Dennis Build a positive credit report with ...
DebtClear -- Dennis Legally Erase Your Credit Card
Financing Approval -- Dennis Debt Consultations available now
Digital TV for PC -- Dennis Introducing Digital TV for PC
Financial solutions -- Dennis Are you in financial trouble
Freequotes -- Dennis Affordable Automobile Insurance ...
Fight Foreclosure -- Dennis Fight foreclosure
In direct mail and e-mail, personalization can work. We all like to see our name in print.
However, my given name is Denison. I go by Denny. In my 73-plus years on this planet, only one person has ever called me Dennis on a regular basis: my actor friend William Bogert, whom I've known since fourth grade. And Bill has neither computer or e-mail, so this clumsy attempt at personalization was a failure. Every one was deleted instantly. (When I decided on this column, I dumpster-dove into my Yahoo trash and brought them back to life, although I haven't read any of them.)
How about this one?
From -- Subject
Sylvia Hatch -- In need of assistance
A cousin? I opened it. Here was the letter:
I am Miss Sylvia Hatch, the only Daughter of late Mr. Hassan Hatch. My father was a very wealthy Gold and Cocoa Merchant, my father was poisoned by his business associates on one of their outings on a business trip which he died after a brief illness in the hospital. Before the death of my father he secretly called me to his bedside and told me that he has the sum of US$8.5Million deposited in one of the prime Banks, he gave me the Deposit Receipt which he used to deposit the fund together with the full contact information of the bank where the fund is deposited and adviced me to search for a reliable person who will help me for the investment of the fund. Please I am honourably seeking your assistance to help me transfer ...
I could have deleted when I got to the name of her father, Hassan, which would make Sylvia a very unlikely cousin. But I got hooked on the copy.
This Got My Attention
From -- Subject
Jeff Crider -- Story idea re: new option in camping
If you're looking for an interesting story, check out the 40th annual Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show this week in Hershey, Pa. The show runs through Sunday. Details are available at www.prvca.org.
In addition to towable and motorized RVs, the Hershey show features the nation's largest selection of "park models," a little known but increasingly popular cottage-type trailer product that people use as low cost vacation homes.
These upscale trailers are too big to tow. These 400-square-foot units come equipped with bay windows and lofts, which are popular for families with children or grandchildren. Many of them look like cabins, complete with log or cedar siding.
People can purchase park models for $40,000 or more and then have them professionally moved to leased sites in campgrounds or RV resorts, where they are permanently hooked up to water and power connections.
The Christian Science Monitor published a story this week on the growing popularity of park models:
You should also check out www.rptia.com, the website of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association. I can also give you consumer and industry sources if you're interested in developing a story.
Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association
When my wife, Peggy, and I ran the junk mail newsletter WHO'S MAILING WHAT!, we knew all our subscribers by name and were in touch and on the phone with many of them. With this e-zine and 30,000 subscribers, my regular contacts are with readers who submit comments. I didn't recognize Jeff Crider's name, but he addressed me as "Denny," which means he may know me, even though I don't know him. I kept reading.
I'm interested in hearing from PR people for possible stories, and I've always loved trailers and RVs.
I read Crider's e-mail, clicked on the Christian Science Monitor hyperlink, read that story and followed the reference to Cavco, the folks that make these park models. This came hot on the heels of a New York Times story of Sept. 11, "The Next Little Thing?" about the new fad of tiny homes.
Crider's was a thoroughly professional effort--literate, helpful, complete and to the point, with no self-indulgent BS. I went through my archive of stories on houseboats, modular homes, cabins and Sears Kits (offered in the catalog from 1908-1940), and consolidated them all into one file. This may be a story. I wrote Crider and thanked him for the heads-up. His name is on file if I ever do a story on small homes.
If Crider came to me looking for a PR job--and I had an opening--I'd hire him in a Philadelphia minute.
Coming Up: Our E-Mail Addiction - 2: The Letter, HTML and Automatic Replies