Two Kinds of E-Mail
At 3-and-a-half hours a day—plus another half-hour deleting spam—Mark Cuban spends around 1,440 hours a year on e-mail correspondence. That’s the equivalent of 180 eight-hour days.
You can scan an e-mail, which is a lot quicker than a phone call or face time, but Cuban’s workload above is still staggering. When do billionaires have time to think? Maybe the model is Warren Buffett, who does not have a computer on his desk.
The Power of a Letter
What triggered this column was a splendid e-scam letter that I received on Tuesday from Olliver Southgate, Deputy Executive Director of United Nations. (See illustration below.) It almost followed the rules of direct mail.
In my Yahoo! in-box I received the following notice:
SUBJECT: From the Desk of Olliver Southgate, Deputy Executive Director of United Nations
The subject line is the equivalent of teaser copy on an envelope. I was teased into opening this.
I clicked on it and it smelled of officialdom! For an instant I was conned into thinking this guy might be a real U.N. functionary. Seldom is a formal letter like this found in the body of an e-mail, but rather sent as an attachment—something that is perhaps printed out and kept in a file like a contract or agreement.
This was reinforced by the formal signature block that included the guy’s name, title, e-mail, phone and fax numbers. The late master copywriter, Bill Jayme, wrote:
Two basic tenets of selling are that (1) people buy from other people more happily than from faceless corporations, and that (2) in the marketplace as in theater, there is indeed a factor at work called “the willing suspension of disbelief.”
Okay, I’m a sucker. But for a brief instant in time—a nanosecond—this guy made me feel special.
Olliver Southgate’s letter falls apart in a number of ways. For starters, his salutation (“Dear,”) was generic. Had it said “Dear Mr. Hatch” or “Dear Denny Hatch” the personalization would have made me believe that he was talking exclusively to me.