How much respect do you give your customer’s inbox?

It’s an easy trap to fall into.

Because the digital world involves so much technology, the fundamental application for the technology can often be overshadowed by new and sexy features and functionality.

That’s just one reason why that old mainstay of direct marketing, plain old email, gets so little coverage in the technology media.

It’s just so old hat.

I mean what technology writer or blogger worth their salt would waste their readers/followers time on something that was invented 30 years ago and has hardly changed since?


Technology trash, marketing treasure


In the meantime, if you turn to the marketing pages of your favourite business magazine or website you will find that humble old email marketing is hailed as the greatest thing since, well the internet itself.

Because since all of the various interruptive media of SMS, messaging and to some degree social networking have all come along to add yet another distraction to your already bombarded information world, the inbox has become something of a fortress of solitude against petty distractions.

Yes, as our brainspace becomes more and more valuable, so to does our inbox, which is almost a last vestige of information which is genuinely important to you.


A privileged communications position

Subsequently, people or organisations with access to your inbox become members of a chosen few who are allowed access to this private and personal vestibule of communication.

In turn, marketers face the increasing challenge of creating information that is so valuable to its recipient that the notion of unsubscribing represents a reasonable loss to them.

So, in other words, our email content has to be so good, recipients don’t even think of unsubscribing.

The real advantage of email lies in its low invasiveness and recipient-control compared to other communications media.


Customers in control

Compared to the invasiveness of a phone call or even text message, email politely joins the queue for your attention along with the other entrants to your inbox.

Recipients like email because they are in control of your message.  They can address it or delete it in their own time or if really motivated, unsubscribe from your list altogether.

It takes literally a few seconds for the recipient to understand the contents of your email and action it accordingly.

If you have done your job well, they will open it, read it and ideally use it to engage with you.  They might even forward it to an interested friend.

A hierarchy of client contact methods and their intimacy levels


Staying relevant and valued

If you can persuade your recipient to stay subscribed to your list, you enjoy an increasingly rare and privileged position.

In the above diagram, the various communications media have been ranked in terms of the strength of the relationship with the message recipient.

The strength of your relationship with the message recipient will be determined by just how valid you are to them at any given time.

The relationship is strongest when you have permission to engage with them by phone – typically because they are in the process of buying or having the product/service delivered to them.


Valuable and intimate

On really rare occasions, your relationship with the customer is so strong that you have permission to call them by phone when you aren’t in this high engagement territory.

The best salespeople pride themselves on having such a strong relationship with the customer that they can and do call them at pretty much any reasonable time.

Conversely, unsolicited or ‘junk’ mail is the ‘untouchable’ caste of communications media.  Your relationship with the junk mailer is pretty much non-existent.


An ever-changing relationship

Typically though, your relationship with the customer will move somewhere along the relationship scale depending on how relevant your product is to the recipient at any given time.

If yours is not a repeat purchase, it’s possible to go from junk mail status to phone status within the space of a week or even day.

Our goal as marketers then is to ensure that we are so valuable to our customer, that we have soundest possible relationship with them at the time of purchase or at least purchase consideration.

In this way, they need only go to their inbox when they are ready to buy instead of bypassing you to go find a competitor elsewhere.

How high up your customer’s contact method hierarchy are you?


In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.


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