Email Marketing Lesson

Every so often I take time out of my busy Email Marketing Consulting schedule and steal an afternoon just for myself. A few months ago I decided to take one of those days. With five glorious hours ahead of me I pondered how best to enjoy my break. I really wanted to do something memorable, something that would inspire me and something that would last long after my special day was over. So I did what everyone does on an afternoon off – I got a tattoo.
I had never gotten a tattoo before and did not know which shops were the best but I was on an e-newsletter list of a shop called Brave Tattoo. I had joined the list while they were running a contest to win a Harley. I didn’t win but stayed on the email list because I was impressed with how creative the tattoo shop was with their e-zine. There was always two or three professionally written articles about tattoos and a whole bunch of tattoo design suggestions. I really looked forward to their bi-weekly e-zine because their e-newsletter approach really communicated their passion for their product and store. I sort of felt like I already knew the shop because of their e-newsletter. This week’s email special was a little odd but it worked perfect for me and I took it as a sign. 21 characters for the price of 20.
I arrived early for my appointment and got all setup with an artist named BeeBee. She was painted from head to toe and had earrings, nose rings and studs everywhere imaginable (she told me about the ones that were not visible and I took her word for it). We got started right away with the cleaning and stenciling. All those needles looked a little unnerving so I turned away and tried to clear my mind of work and everything else I was thinking about.
Just as my first character was about to be stenciled, a rowdy group moved into the booth next to me. Six people. Three of women and two of the men looked like they had just stepped out of a cloning machine. Same clothes, similar hair and similar gestures. The sixth guy was obviously the leader. Dressed in a William Fioravanti suit, this guy looked like a million-and-a-half bucks. His teeth were bleached white and gleaming. His face looked like he had shaven so close he was glowing. He almost looked too perfect or something. “Probably due to a fake tan,” I thought. I knew I had seen the guy before; he looked really familiar. Oh well, it was my afternoon off and I decided to not waste my time paying attention to Mr. Nice Suit and Super White Teeth. I closed my eyes and let BeeBee go to work.
I must have dozed off because when I came to I already had ‘EMAIL MARKETING FOREVER’ stenciled on my shoulder. It looked pretty good so far. The little flying envelope was really cute too. BeeBee mentioned that the next step was the point of no return. I eagerly nodded and told her to get going with the permanent ink. We started chatting about my tattoo choice and I told her the history of Email Marketing and how I had chosen to have my tattoo done at their store because of their creative e-newsletter. She told me that a fellow name Buzz took care of all the marketing but he was out on an errand right now.
Throughout our conversation BeeBee and I had to talk louder and louder because of the group in the next booth. It sounded like they were having a party. The five clones must have been the guy’s groupies because they weren’t calling him by a name, just his initials. I asked BeeBee who the guy was. Maybe he was a rock star or something and that’s why I recognized him.
“He is the new cat’s meow,” BeeBee said. I thought ‘cats meow’ was code for ‘new lead singer in a rock group’ so I tried to act smart and answered casually, “Oh? What club are they playing at?” I got really excited at the prospect of getting a tattoo AND meeting a rock star all in the same day. What a great way to celebrate my Email Marketing Forever tattoo! Who knows, this guy might be a great performer. The glowing skin was a little too perfect and I’d pass on the groupie thing but who knows where this guy might be in a few years. I got giddy at the thought of meeting Mr. Nice Suit and Super White Teeth and hearing his group.
BeeBee didn’t seem to hear my question about the club and started humming Bob Dylan’s hit “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. I always liked that song. I hummed along too and decided to go introduce myself to the suit and teeth after my tattoo was done. I would find out the address for the club first hand.
I could hear the clones squealing at the suit and teeth’s every word. “He must be something special to get so much attention,” I thought. I closed my eyes and was only half listening but I think they were calling him RSS. I lay there with my eyes closed wondering what RSS stood for.
Ricardo the Super Stud?
Maybe RSS was the short form of his heavy metal band. What could the band be called? All those bands had such weird names. Could it be Rotten Salmon Sushi? Or maybe it was a country band called The Raunchy Smoking Smiths. Who knows. I was only half paying attention because the tattoo needles where starting to sting. I tried to clear my mind and focused on going out clubbing when all this was over.
Suddenly BeeBee stopped humming and looked up from her needles and ink. “Buzz, is back from his errand,” she reported. “You can meet him after he’s done getting the catering set up.” Catering? What kind of a tattoo parlor was this? BeeBee noticed my query and motioned to the group next door. “I think it’s to keep the groupies quiet so RSS can get his tattoo done in peace,” she giggled, earrings swaying to and fro as she laughed.
My mind wandered to thoughts of dancing at the club with my new Email Marketing Forever tattoo permanently sitting on my shoulder. I could hear the clones expressing awe over the tiny sandwiches and little cakes. Then I heard it. There was a lot of sandwich squealing going on but I knew what I heard.
I heard it again. “RSS feed me! RSS feed me!” Seems Mr. Nice Suit and Super White Teeth, or RSS as they called him, was making the rounds with the cloned groupies and aiding them in tasting all the culinary delights. RSS was tossing crackers and caviar into the open mouths of two of the women. I gagged and quickly realized that I did know this guy. He wasn’t a rock star like Bono; he was an Internet rock star! You can’t go anywhere without hearing about this guy. The suit and teeth was none other than RSS Marketing! How could I have not recognized him? I guess my MyYahoo! aggregator would have helped but the perfect good looks and groupies should have been a clue.
I took a deep breath, looked to see where BeeBee was at with the permanent ink and said, “I think you had better stop.”
‘Email Mark’ was as far as BeeBee had gotten.
Great, I was now the only person on the planet with a ‘to do list’ tattooed on my shoulder! Well at least it sort of made sense. My brother’s name is Mark so I thought I could make up some little story about how my brother and I had matching tattoos to remind us to keep in contact with each other.
A vision of Johnny Depp and his ‘Wino Forever’ tattoo raced across my mind. I said a quick prayer to Johnny and asked him if I could join his club of botched tattoos.
I got all bandaged up and went over to the RSS party and introduced myself. The clones looked a little worried but I assured them they could keep all the little sandwiches for themselves. RSS was quite personable and really nice, however I quickly realized the guy had a bit of an identity complex. We were all laughing and joking when RSS whispered in my ear, “They all have so many expectations…” Those bleached white teeth so close to my ear sort of startled me. RSS’s voice sounded like the kid who saw dead people in ‘The Sixth Sense.’
“Who?” I whispered back, surprised I was having a whispering conversation with a person I had just met.
“Everyone.” RSS whispered. He motioned to the clones: “They are all marketing executives eager to dump every other kind of digital marketing and ride my back into the RSS Feed golden sunset.
“First they blogged me and I thought I was stretched with that. Now they want to personalize me and individualize me. Some of them even want me to pretend I’m email and go right into a customer’s email inbox!” RSS sounded a little freaked. I started to think he might need a Valium. “What if I they take me all the way into the bedroom and I can’t perform?” RSS pleaded.
“Cute analogy,” I thought. Forget the Valium, this guy needed some marketing Viagra just to make sure he could go all the way, regardless of who decides to hop into his digital bed with him.
I finally left the tattoo parlor that day only after RSS Marketing made me promise to email him. We meet quite regularly for coffee and I think he is slowly getting more comfortable with his stardom. He realizes that he probably won’t make everyone happy but he is trying his best. Those marketing executives have him going day and night. He was right; some of their expectations are pretty high.
I wonder where RSS Marketing will be a year from now? Will he be washed up with caffeine-stained teeth and a fraying designer suit playing in some Internet bar? Not likely, but will he be around ten years from now with a greatest hits album? Who knows.
I think the bottom line is that personalized digital marketing will progress and RSS Marketing will be part of it just like Email Marketing, Podcasting, Blogging, Text Messaging and everything else savvy marketers are trying. I think most people are being realistic and realizing they have to stock their toolbox with a variety of tools built with their specific customer group in mind. You can’t build a marketing strategy with only one tool and RSS Marketing is not the key to everyone’s fiscal salvation. Should marketers use RSS Marketing? Of course they should. Should marketers dump Email Marketing in the north river with a concrete block around its neck? I guess they can if they want to. But they may find their decision is shortsighted. Just like my Email Mark tattoo, the use of Email is in our bloodstream and getting it out will take more than an RSS Feed transfusion. Why not get smarter and acknowledge the landscape has changed and change Email Marketing accordingly? We did it with TV, magazines and the radio.
“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin
‘Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”
-Bob Dylan
The last time RSS Marketing and I met he was kind of down as he had pulled another all-nighter. He asked me what he should do if his Internet gig didn’t work out. Where would he hide and spend his retirement without living in shame? I told him not to lose another ounce of sleep. If RSS Marketing doesn’t work out according to Internet Marketers’ expectations RSS could fade into the sunset without a care. RSS didn’t seem convinced. I assured RSS he had nothing to worry about. If RSS Marketing doesn’t meet the expectations of corporate marketers everywhere, everybody will be sending the blame up the Pacific Northwest coast into the misty air of Redmond to Bill Gates, to Microsoft and that new browser of theirs.