Now that business owners have so much more information about each client and their habits at our fingertips, one would expect a more targeted approach to engaging with them. But alas, no. At least not yet.

Take, for example, email marketing by companies which have massive amounts of data at their fingertips but choose not to do much useful with it. First up, Delta Airlines.

During a recent trip to California for a funeral for a family member, I visited the airline’s lounge for some peace and quiet during my connection. Access was granted via my American Express card (a built-in perk), which I showed the agent upon entry and who recorded my presence. So Delta knew I was there.

Two days after returning home, I received an email from Delta promoting its lounge with a call to action to sign up and pay the annual subscription fee, despite already having free access with my charge card. This was a pertinence failure in their attempted engagement. More on this later, but next is Banana Republic.

Every day–yes, every day–I receive an email from Banana Republic. The subject line is typically something along the lines of 30-50% off some class of fashion or another. Sometimes the subject line is the more cryptic, “Last chance to see how much you’ll save!” BR knows full well, because it knows my shopping habits with them, that I make 2-3 large purchases a year, with very little activity in between. There are certainly some BR customers who shop there more frequently, weekly even. I am not those people. So BR has a classic timeliness fail and as a result I typically ignore their daily entreaties. Their failure is two-fold: they’re not reaching out to me when I’m most likely to buy, and they’re reaching out far more frequently than is suggested by my buying patterns.

These are classic examples of a low signal-to-noise ratio for the customer. Long gone are the AOL days of excitement upon hearing, “You’ve got mail!” but you wouldn’t know it by how much pointless email consumers receive. Companies run the risk of alienating their customers with communication which has no pertinence or if has pertinence, isn’t made at the right time.

The key to successfully engaging customers via email is two-fold: pertinence and timeliness.

Pertinent engagement is indicated by meaningfulness. Is what you’re offering me something that I care about? Or at least something I’m likely to care about based on your predictions about how I might behave?

Timely engagement occurs only when I need or want to be engaged. Otherwise it’s an interruption, and an unwelcome one at that.

There’s no excuse anymore for any organization, big or small, to fail to better serve their customers’ needs. Right now, many of these companies seem more concerned about making a sale and their quarterly numbers than they are ensuring they have a customer for life by treating them with dignity and respect. It’s a choice, and a fairly simple one. If I give you permission to engage with me, then engage. Stop doing the email equivalent of shouting. It’s no longer working.

NO-011812-112208

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