Famous Last Words: 'Stop Touching Me!'
Back when I was running the Target Marketing Group, I would get approximately two calls a month from readers who wanted the magic formula for the ideal number of times a customer should be contacted.
As I recall, several software programs were for sale that had the answer and would give you an electronic goose if you missed the programmer's schedule.
Joe Queenan's Screed
What triggered this column was a think piece in The Wall Street Journal, "Dear Retailer: I Bought It. Now Go Away" by Joe Queenan. He writes:
Last month I went online and ordered 12 tins of Twining's English Breakfast Tea. No special reason. Seconds later, I received an email confirming my purchase. A few minutes later, I received detailed information about how my order would be shipped. Shortly after that, I received an email from UPS explaining how I could track my order. The tea was definitely, definitely on its way.
Much as I appreciate these gestures, I have not reached the point in my life where I need to track my tea order, not for English Breakfast, not for Earl Grey, not for crème de menthe lavender daiquiri camomile … I don't need to know where it's coming from, and I don't need to know when it's getting here.
I was first aware of the instant email acknowledgment when I became a customer of a funky little e-bookseller that soon became great big Amazon.com. I liked how I was treated. Unlike sending an order via snail mail off into the giant USPS maw, Jeff Bezos came up with immediate feedback that assured me my order was in the works.
I don't know when various follow-ups came into the picture—the tracking number and the shipping advice from UPS. But I don't mind these "touches" from a supplier. When I order special dog food from PetFoodDirect.com for my 15-year-old Auggie or hulled sunflower seeds for my winter bird feeder from ebirdseed.com, I am comforted to know that my little four-legged and feathered friends will definitely be seen to in a timely manner.
These purveyors want me to know that they really, really care, and I appreciate that.
How Often Should You 'Touch' a Customer or Prospect?
The obvious eight word answer: Only when you have something meaningful to say—something beneficial, such as a terrific offer or, if you are a fundraiser, an overpowering need.
For example, in his WSJ piece, Queenan railed against an enterprising woman in his town "… who runs a business where entrepreneurs share office space. She sends me two or three emails a week, sometimes more than one in a single day, telling me about don't-miss workshops, don't-miss artists' receptions, don't-miss open houses."
Hey, Joe, quit whining. Hit the spam button and get on with your life!
What you do not want is for your customers and prospects to be so fed up with your intrusions that they do a Joe Queenan—tell their friends what a pain in the ass you are and put you into their spam filters. Here is a short checklist to think about before bothering a customer:
• "The prospect or customer doesn't give a damn about you, your company or your product. All that matters is, 'What's in it for me'?" —Bob Hacker
• Make an offer or give a good reason to respond. The exception: The Twining's Tea example of Joe Queenan. These are informational follow-ups where you emphatically do not want to hear from the customer.
• If you don't get any responses, you have no idea whether the message was read.
• No responses mean no way of measuring the success or failure of your effort.
• "The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say no." —Claude Hopkins
• "Give the reader a chance to make a deal with you—not tomorrow or next week, but RIGHT AWAY." —Maxwell Sackheim
• "Make it easier to say yes than to say no." —Maxwell Sackheim
• "It must be a bargain in one form or another." —Maxwell Sackheim
• Ruthlessly self-edit.
• "You cannot bore people into buying. The average family is now exposed to more than 1,500 advertisements a day. No wonder they have acquired a talent for skipping the advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and going to the bathroom during television commercials." —David Ogilvy