EDITORIAL: Hold the Me-Mail

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Last week, I got another e-mail from a job changer, the third one this month. And to this editor, three makes a trend.


For those who haven't had the good fortune to get on a job changer's e-mail list yet, the messages usually go something like this:


"Hi, Everyone!


After a wonderfully challenging stint at 24By7SaltMines.com, I've accepted a horizon broadening position at Let'sHopeThisCompany'sNotRunBySatan.com. I want to thank all my colleagues for making my last job such a pleasant one, and I hope our careers cross paths again.


My new contact information follows ..."


These e-mails invariably are from people who are complete strangers, barely acquaintances or familiar enough that they should have either picked up the phone or sent a personal e-mail.


Some questions for the job changers: Who are you people, and why do you think we all want to be kept abreast of every minor bend in your career paths? Do you send these e-mails to only the press, or does everyone you've ever swiped a business card from get to share your joy?


Chalk this up as another example of how e-mail lets us annoy others in ways not possible before the electronic communications revolution began.


The problem with e-mail -- as the anti-spam zealots are quick to point out -- is it's just too easy to hit the send button, and it costs the sender nothing. Since there's little or no cost to the sender, there's no thought behind whether the e-mail should be sent or not.


Note to the job changers: Some of those on your list are no doubt vaguely happy for you, but most of us don't even remember meeting you. If the people on your list aren't important enough to warrant a phone call, they probably have about as much interest in your new job as they do in the new crossing guard at their kids' school.


Followers of this column know that anti-spam zealots get no slack here -- too much knee-jerk anti-capitalism thinly veiled by a righteous cause in that group. But marketers must be aware of the conditions under which their e-mails are received. There's way too much nonsense cluttering up people's e-mail boxes.


A better name for most electronic mail today would be "me-mail." The subject lines should read: "Here's a message that has very little to do with you. But it sure says a lot about me."


And make no mistake, the first group that's going to get stung by the backlash over me-mail will be marketers.


Meanwhile, some companies are reportedly thinking of contacting certain segments of their house e-mail lists multiple times per day. Those better be some pretty compelling e-mails to some extremely loyal customers.


Here's a radical thought: Just because you can do something with e-mail doesn't mean you necessarily should.


When crafting an e-mail campaign, consider whether it would be worth risking the money on a telemarketing or postal mail effort pitching the same offer.


If it wouldn't, maybe the e-mail campaign should be reassessed. After all, a dog offer is a dog offer in any medium. And in the land of obscene customer acquisition costs, e-mail efforts should be aimed first and foremost at customer retention -- something me-mail never accomplishes.
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