Much has been said about big data and Super Bowl XLVII. Its data-driven ads were the some of the most personalized in history. Oreo used big data (and a big blackout) to score the most successful ad of the night for free. King of data himself Nate Silver finally made a faulty prediction. But what jumped out at me today, now that Super Bowl mania has died down and all the purple and yellow confetti has been swept from the Superdome, was a low-key article on what we can learn about email marketing from the coaches of the big game. This article points out the Harbaugh brothers’ insistence on constantly changing things up and taking bold risks as the key to their success as well as the success of any email marketing campaign. And then I remembered an anecdote Rapleaf’s CEO Phil Davis told me when he came into the office on Monday. Now, Phil tells a lot of stories so I’m often hardpressed to remember them all but he’s been at the Email Evolution conference in Miami all week so this one’s fresh in my mind. Phil said:
You know, my wife and I have very different expectations when it comes to Super Bowl parties. I just want to watch the game. I want a clear view of the screen and I wanna watch the game. In fact, I’d rather just watch at home so nothing gets in the way but my wife loves going to these parties. She could care less about the game. All she wants to do is taste the snacks and chat with her friends. Maybe she glances over at the score from time to time or watches the halftime show but she is not there for the game. She’s there for the party.
Anyways, yesterday, we’re at our friends’ house and I have a prime seat on the couch. The Niners just made a big play and it’s getting good. And then I see my wife just starting a conversation with this guy and, within two seconds, he’s talking about football. That’s all he can talk about, the points, the coaches, the best QB, just football. And she does not care about football. Pretty soon, I see her giving me that “Come save me” look. She needed any way to get out of the football talk. Now, at first, I couldn’t save her because, come on, I had a great seat. But, by the third death stare she gave me, I helped her opt out.
The story of Phil’s wife and Talkative Football Man is a lot like the story of an email marketer and a customer. When Phil’s wife started talking to TFM, she opted in. She was saying, “I agree to listen to you.” Pretty soon, however, she realized that all of his content, every single article in his newsletter, was only about football. She got bored, she wasn’t engaged, and she wanted to opt out, in this case, through passive-aggressive eye contact, not an “Unsubscribe” button. Just like Phil’s wife lost interest in the one-sided conversation TFM was having with her, a customer on the receiving end of an email campaign can zone out and opt out. It’s this sort of Super Bowl party conversation mentality we need to keep in mind when crafting our content and marketing message for the individual customers reading their emails at home. They don’t want to be bombarded by football statistics if they don’t give a flying pigskin about the sport. Their time talking to us at the party, reading our emails, is so valuable and we don’t want to forfeit it by talking third-downs when all they want to do is discuss the latest episode of Nashville and eat some bean dip.
Sending an email to a customer isn’t a right; it’s a privilege and an opportunity. A privilege to be listened to even when there’s fresh bean dip and an opportunity to engage, be it about Ray Lewis or Rayna James.