Famous Last Words: I’ll Happily Pay for Email!
Recently, one of the greatest direct marketers—former Ogilvy partner Drayton Bird—let it be known that he was unsuccessful in reaching either myself or my wife, Peggy, by email.
The reason is obvious. I signed up for the Drayton Bird Blog that comes many times a week. Sometimes, if I'm not busy, I'll look at it. Usually, I delete it. For example, recently in my Yahoo! inbox was the following message:
From: Drayton Bird
Subject: What a toilet can teach you about copy
Clearly, this was for his e-list. If I get four of these a week from Drayton-including weekends-I delete most or all of them. I am busy and I don't like to put correspondence aside to read later. So how does Drayton reach me? Quite simply, he cannot with any certainty.
Nor can I reach him with any certainty, given the amount of free stuff in everybody's inbox-especially in webmail-based inboxes. Included are blinking ads, news, pop-up messages from strangers who want to connect, and the usual host of distractions that get in the way of finding the important stuff, prioritizing it and acting on it. I want a mailbox that brings me only the mail I care to see.
I'd be glad to let the junk, spam, PR proposals, fundraising efforts and all other miscellaneous crap accumulate in my Yahoo! inbox. Maybe I'll get to it, maybe I won't.
A Proposal to the USPS
Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry, is cornered with two options: execute a bold and successful turnaround or find a willing buyer. Sony also is on the ropes—stock plummeting with thousands of employees to be axed—because it has run out of ideas.
The same thing happened to the Post Office when the Internet started up. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and cashing in, the retro idiots at the USPS ignored it and went on gearing up for more and more snail mail. It's not too late for a USPS email start-up.
If the USPS—with its 275-year reputation for honesty and reliability—announced a paid website for serious correspondence, I would sign up in a nanosecond. Here's a business model example I've pulled together for an exclusive, hack-proof email service:
- Fee: $1 per month or $7.95 per year, plus a $2 revolving fund to cover payments for email.
- Cost for me to send an email: 1 cent.
- Cost for someone to send me an email: 1 cent.
- Cost for guaranteed delivery and return receipt: 2 cents.
- Member services: 1) All sent emails archived; 2) all received emails archived; 3) vast amounts of data can be sent with reasonable fees to be determined; 4) no ads.
- Can a non-member send me email? Yes. But he must open an account and have on deposit a minimum of $1. The instant he sends an email to me at this service, his deposit is docked 1 cent.
- If the message is so unimportant that it's not worth 1 cent to the sender for me to see it, he can send it to my Yahoo! inbox.
I made my bones on snail mail—now 60 cents a pop. Cost is the overarching discipline. It does not take many 60 cent efforts sent to the wrong person to put you out of business.
Under my proposed system, spam would disappear. For example, a 2011 study from a team of computer scientists at the University of California showed that it takes 12.5 million spam messages to sell $100 worth of Viagra. Spammers cannot afford 1 cent per message.
If this concept is too mind-boggling for the USPS, there's always FedEx or UPS.
As it is, every morning when I open my Yahoo! inbox, it's like going into a vast sewer looking for a turd that doesn't smell.
It's a lousy, disjointed way to start the day.
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.