Business Articles

Email Insanity

Several years ago, I ordered an inversion table online. Part of the ordering process was to give them my email address.

Once they had my email address, they did the logical thing and began sending me email messages. One or two of them were offers for complementary health devices and exercise equipment, but most were for inversion tables. 

In case you are wondering what an inversion table is, it is essentially a device that allows you to hang upside down. That might cause you to wonder why anyone would want two.  It sure makes me wonder. 

Maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps my enjoyment would be doubled if I had two.  Could it be that other purchasers of inversion tables turn around a buy a second one a couple of weeks later? I think not.

Apparently, their marketing department wasn’t thinking either. Why else would they insist on trying to sell me something I had already bought from them?

Likely they reasoned that it costs next to nothing to send an email to me—no matter how nonsensical. After all, I might decide that I need two: one for the basement and a second one for the living room.  Yeah, right!

Their logic is shortsighted, however, because it will cost them something—my business. You see, in exasperation for their thoughtless barrage of messages, I opted out.

Now, because of an ill-conceived email strategy, they have forever lost the opportunity to sell me something else.

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Stop Selling and Start Serving

Once when I needed to order some ink cartridges for my printer—the kind I can only buy directly from the vendor. There was a problem with the website, so I picked up the phone to place my order.

I told the agent I wanted to order two black ink cartridges.

Not surprisingly, she suggested I buy a package that included two color cartridges as well. “No thank you, just black.”

Upon discovering the age of my printer, she tried to sell me a new printer. “No thank you—I just need ink.”

When I acknowledged that I own several computers from her company, she asked if they were working okay and did I… “No, I just want to buy ink.”

Then she offered me a special price on anti-virus software for only…, “No, I only want ink!”

Next, she inquired if I was interested in a maintenance plan to… “NO, just ink!”

Perhaps she was supposed to try to upsell me five times or maybe she was on commission. I don’t know. What I do know is when the call took twice as long as it needed to, I became irritated, and the likelihood of me buying another printer from them is highly unlikely.

Business Articles

The Side Effects of Discounts

I recently shared my experience with my office supply chain’s enticing coupon offers. The result was a short-term increase in my buying habits, followed by a prolonged lull.

In like manner, years ago, my Internet hosting company embarked on a similar strategy. Their approach was offering discounts. Depending on the offer, it would be 10 to 30% off for a specific product purchase or for a certain level of spending. Each discount offer was time-sensitive, lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks.

They had sent me 10 such offers for four weeks; that averages one discount about every three days. Whenever I needed to buy something from them, I know there was a discount that would apply.  I simply picked the best, most applicable one, and saved money—on every purchase.

Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money, as I would had made every purchase anyway.

While I was enjoying the savings, I was left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

Business Articles

The Side Effects of Coupons

A couple of years ago my preferred office supply store embarked on a creative strategy to sell me more stuff. And it worked—for a while.

They started emailing me coupons that offered nice discountsif I spent about 50% more than what had been my typical historical purchase. Not wanting to pass up a good deal, I used their coupons, buying what I needed now and stocking up for the future. If anyone were tracking the results of their marketing efforts on me, they would have been pleased; there was at least a 50% boost in my spending with them, likely more.

The problem was that my growing stock of office supplies would already cover me for the next several years. Aside from ink cartridges and batteries, I’m nicely provisioned. I had enough printer paper, file folders, highlighters, paperclips, staplers, rubber bands, pens, and what not to last me a good long time. In fact, I don’t think I would needed to buy file folders or paperclips for the rest of my life.

So, after enticing me to increase my purchasing for a couple years, they were paying the price of that short-term gain. I was buying next to nothing.

When I received my $15 reward certificate, I had trouble finding anything I neededeven though it would be free! Of course, that just further forestalled me from actually buying something from them.

If you multiply my experience by the thousands of others who received similar coupon promotions, I suspect that corporate was scratching their collective heads over what happened; it wouldn’t surprise me if careers where made and lost over this whole ordeal.

The lesson to be learned is that a coupon today could result in a no-sale tomorrow.

Business Articles

Opt-in Email Marketing: Proceed with Caution

Companies that use opt-in email marketing need to do so carefully. Years ago, two companies that I “opted in” to receive messages did it wrong—so I voted with the cancel link and opted out!

I had happily bought from both and eagerly accepted their requests to opt-in to receive promotional emails. I don’t know how often they were sending messages, but it seemed like a reasonable amount.  If I were to guess, I would say it was once or twice a month.

When Christmas season approached, there was a definite increase in frequency to about once a week. Still, that was okay. One sent a coupon for a 20% discount and the other an offer for free shipping. Using these promotions, I placed orders with each. I was pleased with the results.

As Christmas approached, the flow of messages increased even more, as did the urgency to act. I assumed I would need to tolerate their push for Christmas sales until after December 25th, when things would return to normal.

Things didn’t go back to normal. Soon I was receiving a message every day from both companies. When my irritation hit my breaking point, I opted out. Relief at last.

I would likely have ordered from both in the future, but it might have been months. Enduring an email message everyday, just so I might have a valuable discount in six months is not worth the frustration. Unfortunately for them, they are now off my radar screen, so if a competitor shows up at the right time, I could end up buying from them instead.

I’m sure that each time these companies sent out an email blast, they were rewarded with orders. However, if many otherwise-satisfied customers reacted as I did, the cost of these short-term sales will be a long-term loss of customers.