It has been said that only two people will tell you the complete truth, a close friend and a mortal enemy. Chef Ramsay, star of "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," been called rude, brash, abusive, obscene, sexist, and now even his own mother has called him a liar. Commercials mock his obnoxious childhood. So why should I care what Chef Ramsay has to say about anything? Because regardless of how he says it, you can always count on him to provide an honest assessment. Whether friend or enemy, Ramsay doesn't sugar-coat anything -- and I like that.
We (email marketers) need our own dose of Chef Ramsay. Let me suggest the following translation of his advice to restaurateurs to advice for email marketers (minus the obscenities, of course).
1) Always look at the bottom line. You only need to watch a few episodes of "Kitchen Nightmares" to know that one of Ramsay's favorite questions is "how much money are you losing a month?" This is generally the heartfelt part of the show and it demonstrates that he really does care.
Unfortunately, the low cost of email marketing often hides the full impact of poor execution, but it's there. Have you spent money on bad list sources and not realized it for months? Failed to cross-sell additional products or services in confirmation emails? Failed to send a welcome message? Sent a message with bad links? These are all common problems, but they are easily avoidable mistakes. Don't make them!
2) Start with good ingredients and don't [mess] them up. I feel sorry for every chef who tries to impress Chef Ramsay with overly complicated dishes. Instead of being impressed, he humiliates them. The key to success is good, fresh ingredients and skillful preparation. Trying to get too fancy just messes things up.
Chances are you have good content and "other" content -- the content that you include to make sure everyone is happy. If it detracts from the good content, don't add it. Apple does a great job of this. The company's messages are focused on the one thing: excellent products.
3) You can't afford to do bad business. A restaurant's reputation is built on good food and good service. If you serve bad food or the service is poor, customers will not return. Worse still, they will tell their friends. Alternatively, good experiences create repeat customers and drives word of mouth.
It's bad enough to deliver poorly targeted or irrelevant email to your subscribers. If the program stinks, they may unsubscribe (if you are lucky) or they will simply stop reading your messages. Most customers will ignore you at this point, but some will go to the extreme to discredit you. Consider the person who exposed a list of well-known brands sending email to a man who was dead for more than 8 years. Social media takes the ability of consumers to fight back to unprecedented levels, a phenomenon Pete Blackshaw wrote in "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000." Good business takes time to build, while stupid business makes you a target.
4) Don't blame the customer. This really shouldn't require much explanation. If customers don't like what you are serving, it's not their fault. Don't go looking for new customers until you fix the problem.
5) Stop making %*@$ excuses! When Chef Ramsay first arrives at an establishment on "Kitchen Nightmares," the restaurateur usually starts off grateful and agreeable. As the list of changes Ramsay recommends gets longer, the excuses start flowing. And that is when the fireworks start.
Are you making excuses for your program? Are you trying to feed crap to your subscribers, hoping they won't notice? Stop! Don't settle! No, email marketing is not easy, but it really isn't that hard, either. I've been in the industry for about 10 years now. In my experience, I have found there are two types of companies: those who work hard to do things right and those who make excuses. The latter typically say things like, "that makes sense, but we would rather do it this way instead" or "c'mon, it's not that bad" or "we just don't have enough time." Meanwhile, the former are never satisfied. They always look for ways to improve and they put in the hours required to do so.
Your company is unique in the same ways that restaurants are unique -- different cuisine, different décor, or distinct clientele. You may be takeout or dine-in. Regardless, the same basic ingredients apply whether you like it or not. Good content and good service positions your program for success. You can't fool your subscribers for long, so don't waste time fooling yourself.