Can You Walk And Chew Gum?

Does anything we do today get 100% of our attention? Not likely. Let's take me, for example: I am a mother of three, a four-year-old daughter and two year-old twin boys. My husband and I own a bar, we have a home and I have a full-time email strategy gig. Not to mention dance classes for my daughter, preschool, travel for work...  you catch my drift. 

I half-joke that having twins has been the ultimate lesson in multitasking. I have never before done more things simultaneously than I do today. I'm taking a conference call with a client with one baby on my lap, getting gum out of my daughter's hair, responding to an IM and wondering where my other kid toddled off to.  But I am not unique; people everywhere are stretched thin. As email marketers, we look at many aspects of our customers to best identify the most relevant email experience we can deliver -- but do we ever take life into consideration?

I work in the email channel, so sometimes I think my perspective on personal interaction with email marketing messages may be a little skewed. I tend to pay closer attention to some of the things that hit my inbox, as I am always looking for inspiration or a great idea. But if I look at my email behavior with the brands that I personally interact with, interesting observations begin to bubble to the top. So as email marketers look to get more relevant, here are five considerations that influence email interaction that have little to do with email and more to do with life:



Life happens. Life is unexpected -- that's what makes it fun, or so I am told (as a consummate planner, I may disagree.) But as much as you would like to, you cannot predict the unpredictable. You could have the best-laid email marketing strategy, with the most relevant content, going to the most targeted and engaged list of email recipients and it will still fall flat. Why? Don't know for sure, but sometimes we need to consider that it could just be circumstances outside of our control.

You've been triaged. With the continued adaption of PDAs, more and more consumers are reading email on handheld devices -- and there is no indication this trend will change. The added challenge here is not how to make the message render properly on the device; it is, rather, how do you convey enough information that a recipient on a handheld device would need to decide whether or not to convert against your message at a later time (when they log on to their computer, for example)? Let's face it; I am not going to order a new couch from my cell phone, but if I get a compelling offer on my handheld from a furniture company, I may save it for later and spend some more time with it when I am back at my desk.  or...I may delete it.

You're not multitaskable.
At least your message isn't. You've probably heard others talk about the fact that you have 3-5 seconds to really grab an email recipients attention-like driving by a billboard at 65mph. It's not because recipients only glance that quickly at a message - it is because your message is only getting a fraction of the recipients' attention - limiting the ability to completely comprehend what you are saying (much like when I ask my husband to wash dishes for me). And if your message isn't designed and written in such a way that is easily scannable - you are not multitaskable.

There is always family. As much as I would love to believe that recipients are sitting with bated breath awaiting the next email from one of my clients, let's face it - that just ain't happening. You are competing with email from other marketers in the inbox, as well as newsletters from the local Gymnastics Center, electronic statements from the bank and the occasional request from Mom to help her figure out how to download photos off her newfangled digital camera. Just be sure to keep in mind that you aren't necessarily competing with your biggest competitor in the inbox. Rather, you may be in competition with Aunt Tilley -- so you better have something important to say.

Squeezing the most out of every moment. Your budgets are shrinking, headcount is being slashed and you are trying to get the most out of each message you send. We've all seen newsletters riddled with banner ads, offers, product announcements, an overwhelming amount of content. But if your message isn't focused in its objective, then, given the innate multitasking that the reader is no doubt doing -- there is little chance that anything you're saying is being digested.

And on that note, I am going to finish watching "Top Chef," get the laundry folded and see what's interesting in my inbox!

3 comments about "Can You Walk And Chew Gum?".
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  1. Kelly Wenzel from Centro, August 20, 2009 at 3:30 p.m.

    Kara, great note. Love the real-world perspective and your tone, it's very engaging. What caught my eye was not the article title, but the fact that in the preview pane, I saw the word "twins" -- and since I'm expecting a pair myself, I hit Open. Which only reinforces your point about message (in this case, relevance!)

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 20, 2009 at 3:48 p.m.

    Kara, please take care. It is terrific that you are someone who has the ability to very quickly move from one focus to another, but ... even you cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. While you have one kid on your lap, make sure he is secure while you are taking care of the other's hair and iming. The combined time for doing both has not decreased, but may actually increased because you are jumping around. And it only takes one eye off the ball at the wrong time for an unhappy outcome. There is a great old saying that still applies: Go slower. You'll go faster.

  3. Kara Trivunovic, August 20, 2009 at 8:31 p.m.

    I want to thank everyone for the feedback I've received on this post - both here and in the social-sphere. Kelly-congrats on the twins - feel free to get me on LinkedIn if you have questions - it can be a little overwhelming to anticipate. Paula - thank you for your note as well. While I definitely pride myself in trying to "pace" properly, sometimes it just isn't possible. We all wear many hats in life and sometimes you have to wear them at the same time.

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