Up until recently, I’d been on the hunt for a new car. If you’ve read my blogs, you know that I don’t know much about cars, tires, or anything mechanical. What I do know, however, is how data can be used for more personalized, relevant messaging for direct marketing campaigns. And now, I know how not proofing that place-and-send data can absolutely ruin a personalized email strategy.
After some research, I found a vehicle I was interested in at a dealership not too far from me. I clicked the “Contact an Agent” button, which auto-populated an email message asking for someone to contact me about Vehicle XXXXXXXXX. I filled in my contact information and waited. A day or two later, a response came from… well, let’s call him John Salesman.
“Dear Ashley,” it read. “Thank you for your interest in the Model Unknown.”
Okay, first off, I’m not interested in “Model Unknown,” I’m interested in Vehicle XXXXXXXXX. That’s why I contacted you about Vehicle XXXXXXXXX. Second, how hard is it to proofread your emails? One quick scan of what you were sending would have caught that error.
Make Sure Personalized Email Meets Its Objective
Hey, I get it—you’re busy, Mr. Salesman. You send out hundreds of emails a day to potential customers. In fact, I’m sure the entire email you sent was a generic email that goes out to everyone who contacts you. I bet a computer fills in the information I provided and shoots it off in what is supposed to be a personalized email. But maybe you should start rethinking that strategy, especially when the rest of your email talks about how you’re going to give me personal, one-on-one attention. If you’re not even going to take the time to make sure your first impression to me is free of errors, you should definitely not talk about how you’re going to handle all the little details of car buying for me; it just undermines your credibility.
Car shopping is hard and stressful, and I was pretty annoyed at John. I responded to his email, although it was probably a tinge snarkier than a standard business email.
I don’t know if you just have a template email that you fill with data gained from your website and don’t proof it, or if you no longer have the car I was looking at…”
He responded a few days later saying he was sorry he missed my email and asked me what the stock number was.
Buddy, you didn’t miss my email, you flat-out ignored it. Your first email was a response to mine; that’s how you got my email address. The stock number is in that email. This isn’t a case of emails crossing in the digital ether, it’s you being lazy and not caring enough about me as a customer to look at what you’re sending me. Why would I ever want to do business with someone like that?
I didn’t respond to John. The next week, he sent me an email asking if he offended me. I told him that, yup, he did, and I was no longer interested in the car. He called me later, and I tried not to make him cry. Call me dramatic, but I don’t have time for people who don’t have time for me.
John’s manager called me later and tried to smooth things over and assure me this wasn’t how they do business—they really care about their customers and he would personally see to it that I was given a salesperson who would be able to manage my account without me seeing red, but the damage was done.
I later vented about the experience to my co-workers, and Debora Haskel sent me another example of a so-called personalized email she recently received from someone looking to publish some of their content on our site:
“I was reading one of your articles today, specifically “Article Topic”, and found it to be very well-written…”
Debora’s article “Article Topic” wasn’t very well-written. In fact, it wasn’t written at all. Needless to say, we didn’t take up their offer to publish their content. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m flattering someone in order to butter them up so they consider doing me a favor, I tend to not fictionalize the thing I’m flattering. I also tend to proof what I’m sending so I don’t sound like an idiot. No one wants to do favors for an idiot, especially one who doesn’t seem to care that they’re an idiot.
These are cautionary tales. Like any good story, they have a moral. Please, I’m begging you—if you’re going to use data to cultivate personalized email and other messaging, give it the once (or better yet, twice!) over before sending it out. It will only take you a minute or two, and it’s worth every second.
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