Eating Email's Lunch

Not long after the sugar packet was invented in Brooklyn in 1945, a local restaurant owner discovered this new way to serve the sweetener, and decided to try it out.  So he strolled into his place as staff prepared for lunch, showed them the packets, and told them to set them on the tables. He then stepped out for an hour or so. On his return, he discovered some rather annoyed staff, grumbling as they poured the sugar out of each packet into the sugar bowls on the tables.

That may be a tall tale I heard years ago, but it’s a good example of a menu featuring assumption, miscommunication and frustration: a recipe for disaster.

Recently David Baker wrote a great post here about email marketing clichés. The word “cliché” allegedly derives from the sound of casting a phrase in molten metal for movable type. Printers would often create blocks of recurring text and just drop them in whenever they were needed instead of making new letters from scratch. The whole idea was not to have to think about recurring phrases (clichés), and have them ready to go when required for the sake of time and convenience.

David spoke of the clichés in email marketing that abound. Of course, every industry has them. But I do wonder if we insiders make it harder than we have to for people to learn the lingo and get in the groove.

GetResponse CEO Simon Grabowski has a real pet peeve about “shop talk,” and constantly reminds us that we have to stop using industry jargon and abbreviations under the assumption that clients always know what we are talking about.

I still run into people at events who ask me what kind of work I do -- and when I tell them I’m in community management with an ESP, their faces go blank. I wonder if they’re expecting me to suddenly blurt out their favorite color or some other Kreskin-like revelation.  Until I got into email marketing, I didn’t realize an acronym could also be a double entendre.

One of the most important skills in the ever-changing world of online marketing is the ability to put things in a frame of reference people can relate to. In the past I’ve read smug social media “experts” pontificate that if you’re a 20something social media manager and you can’t get things done, the problem is the 40-year-old in the corner office.

In fact, regardless of the channel, it’s up to you (whatever age you are) -- not the C-suite exec or the client -- to put things in a context folks can not only understand, but relate and warm to. I don’t have to remind you that knowing your clients is every bit as important as knowing the product. Discovering their knowledge and insight, and then using that to create a comfortable frame of reference, makes everyone in the room feel as smart as they actually are.

For years it seems, we’ve tried to encapsulate email marketing wisdom into a kind of box lunch of procedures, calling them “best practices.” There’s nothing wrong with this -- unless the people handing out those lunches forget what it’s like to have to eat one. I often think the food on airlines would be a lot better if the CEOs running them had to eat those same meals daily. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps we get so busy worrying about others eating our lunch that we forget to taste it ourselves.

5 comments about "Eating Email's Lunch".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Frank Gallagher from F. J. Gallagher & Associates, September 16, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.

    You know who has that exact skill set? Reporters. If you need help explaining what you or your clients do, in language that's easy to understand and engaging, hire a reporter - or more likely, a former reporter. After all, it's notice there's a dearth of those folks looking for jobs these days.

  2. David Baker from Cordial, September 16, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.

    Nice Jim! May have to use the lunch box metaphor sometime...

  3. Jim Ducharme from eDataSource, September 16, 2013 at 12:23 p.m.

    Hi Frank,

    That's a good point. As a former broadcaster, I've worked with some great story tellers who had the talent to put things into context for people, but I couldn't say all reporters do. This is a skill you learn in the wild and not in the classroom or newsroom even. The ability to tell a good story seems to be part natural ability and part experience which is why it stands out I suppose. Knowing who you are talking to is as important as knowing what you are talking about. I will never forget sitting with Taylor Parnaby one summer day as he crafted a news report for CFRB into a story that brought the listener inside of it and made it so much more relevant. I learned a lot from just ten minutes of watching this master write. Some write and some craft a story, and those who put the effort into the latter definitely stand out in my opinion.

    Thanks David! That's high praise! I'd be honoured if you stole my lunch box...since it's not high school... ;)


  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 16, 2013 at 1:24 p.m.

    The whipper snappers who can't play nice with everyone need to go back to the sand box. When you skip a step you wind up going back to do it. It will cost more.

  5. Jim Ducharme from eDataSource, September 17, 2013 at 8:19 a.m.

    Hi Paula,

    I suppose it's young lions syndrome. That youthful passionate belief may cause you to have unrealistic expectations that everyone should just get it. That assumption means you miss opportunities to really connect on common ground.


Next story loading loading..