Why Don't You Know Me?

Dear Email Diva,

I just received an email from my credit card company, encouraging me to pay my bill online. I'm sure this cuts down on costs, paper waste, etc. The reason I have an issue with this particular email is that since I opened this credit card almost 2 years ago, I have never once NOT paid online.

I would think that companies would do a little more homework to refine their email lists to ensure that the emails are targeted at the right people. I feel that by sending me useless emails like this, the credit card company makes me more apt to overlook a compelling offer that I may actually be interested in.

I also feel that if they took a little more time to organize their email lists, they could open up new possibilities -- for instance, sending an email for those who already pay online, stating that if they pay their monthly bill early, they could waive that month's interest, or possibly some other opportunity to engage with their consumers. I think that companies too often overlook opportunities, even small ones, to increase their customer service and customer appreciation.

Matt Rainone
AMP Agency

Dear Matt,

You are 100% correct on all counts: this company should know that you already pay online, should send you relevant offers, and is damaging your email relationship when it ignores your relationship attributes.

The culprit is typically out-of-sync databases. The bill-pay database (DB) is separate from the email database, which isn't surprising when you consider their very different purposes and birth dates. The bill-pay DB is a big, complex, security-driven dinosaur and the email DB is a young upstart. As a result, the bill-pay DB is not likely to hold your email address, and the email DB is not likely to hold your account number(s).

The company could extract all of its online payers and suppress them from the email, but matching them up without these key identifiers is difficult. Then there's the need to get high-level authorization and IT resources for your Rodney Dangerfield of an email program. Suddenly your simple suppression file is a BFD, and marketing says, "If they pay online already, they'll just ignore it."

But you make an excellent point: we expect companies to "know" us, particularly our trackable, reportable behavior. My favorite is the email I get from Travelocity, after I've booked a trip, with a better rate for that sametrip that I didn't/can't get. And, as you point out, sending irrelevant email trains subscribers to ignore future messages, which ultimately leads to declining open and response rates.

The moral of the story is to make friends with the IT department. Understand the legacy database structures and issues and help them to understand yours. Get to know them as people and don't be above a bribe now and then (soda, candy, lunch, beer?). As you have clearly pointed out, great email marketing doesn't exist without great IT support.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva



Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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