Our wireless carrier Verizon recently emailed with an offer to upgrade to an iPhone 6s.

Sure, whatever. Companies send upgrade offers and discounts all the time, right? Consider though the fact though that Verizon already knows I own an iPhone 6s. How do they know? Because I bought one from them last December. And a second one for my wife.

Coincidentally, I was on the phone with a Verizon rep a few days after they sent that email, and mentioned it seemed silly to suggest an upgrade to a device I already owned. The rep admitted that they just “send that stuff to everybody”.

So the only thing I can think of for why Verizon sends these emails is to boost their brand awareness, to remind their customers they still exist. They have a funny way of showing this though, and I’d argue the approach is counter-intuitive.

These pointless emails rapidly reduce their signal–to-noise ratio, and in fact are training me to ignore them. More often than not they’re useless (I’ve been a constant iPhone user since buying the original in 2007, so am unlikely to suddenly switch to the latest HTC phone), or redundant based on my relationship with them, or both.

Is our goal to alienate and irritate our users, making them ignore you when we talk to them? Of course not, but the way some companies behave, one would think it were. So how do we respect our customers’ time and effectively ask for their attention? I talked about using what you know three years ago but it apparently bears revisiting.

Don’t Ignore What We Already Know

Use the knowledge we already have about our customers to customize and personalize the relationship we have and what we offer them. The needs of someone buying a Ford F150 are different than those of one buying a Focus, so why would we make identical offers and messages to them? This is what Seth Godin means when he implores us to treat different customers differently.

Make Our Communications Timely and Pertinent

Any time we reach out to a customer we should keep two things in mind:

  1. Is this the right time to contact them? Can or should they use this information right away?
  2. Is my message of value to them? Note this question isn’t, “Is this message of value to me?” We have to ask ourselves honestly, “How does this help my customer?” If we keep that in mind, our sales inevitably increase to their appropriate point.

If the answer to either question is no, don’t reach out. Be of value to your customers, not an annoyance, and they’ll love you forever.