am outta here.
my winning envelope in the mail today. Says right on it… my name…
winning number… (I’m not sharing the winning number with you.
Not risking it until I pick up my prize.)
it’s right there. My name. Says “winning” right there. Official-looking
font and open immediately notice. It’s all very high quality and
course, I probably should open the envelope up first. I know it’s
a major award. That part is obvious. Nothing to worry about there.
Something amazing and significant and life-changing. But such
a prize could be a new house or might be an expensive car. It’s
possible it’s not money. And if that’s the case, I’ll still have
bills to pay. (Oh crap, what if I’ve won a terrific prize and
have bills to pay? Umm… ok…)
unrelated… just casually mentioning it… have you seen the books
I’ve published? Good batch of material and
all available at terrific prices. Paperback and Kindle. Essays.
Interviews. Sports. Travel. Something for everyone, and they make
reality is, I don’t even need to open the envelope, but you knew
that. I’m not a big winner.
tip that sealed it should have been how it followed the name and
winning number with “…or current resident…” on the label. Would
a company distributing valuable prizes really send an Aston Martin,
Pacific coast ocean-view house, or ten million dollars to the
generic current resident? No. Of course not.
a good one.
you can probably understand without much detail, when you move
into a new house, mail will occasionally show up for previous
occupants. At first, a few pieces a week… then a few pieces a
month… eventually trickling down to one or two pieces a year.
it gets to the point where you start learning more about previous
occupants by the mail that continues to show up years later. Why?
Because the stuff arriving two or three years later generally
isn’t sent frequently enough to switch over to your name, while
being long enough between reasons for contact to have outlasted
a change-of-address filing with the Post Office, and yet meaningful
enough that a company would still send it.
furniture or some home repair. Stuff that comes with a bit of
a price tag, but you don’t need to replace it all the time. A
company knows you won’t be looking for a refrigerator, washing
machine or sofa a year after purchasing a new one. (And, if you
are, chances are very good you have questions about the quality
of what you got and don’t want to hear from them anyway.) But…
three to five years later… you just might be a customer in waiting.
Terry and I moved into the new house, we set up all the usual
necessities. Utilities and so on. Envelopes still arrived for
the previous owners though, as a few of them skipped right past
a change-of-address form. And we did the usual… circled the name,
wrote a note indicating they weren’t at this address, returned
to sender (or whatever our fantastic postal carrier did with them…
and he is a great guy).
several months, envelopes continuously arrived with a company
logo on the envelope and wrong name for the resident. We knew
the company. So, one day, after placing the return-to-sender in
our mailbox, I decided to call them.
conversation was extremely pleasant. I explained that former-resident
wasn’t living at this address these days and wanted them to know
about the mail with their name that was being sent our way. Representative
apologized, likely while pretending to type something meaningful
because I did hear keystrokes but this call did not end the mysterious
mail, and then asked me if I wanted to become a customer and earn
incredible savings as a new member of their family. (Yes, I was
asked to join their family. That felt nice. Especially since…)
I responded by asking if the new customer savings would apply
even though I was already receiving their service.
company logo we recognized was from a company we had signed up
with for a service when setting things up for the house. And somehow,
this company’s incredibly detailed and accurate informational
resources was sending three batches of material to two different
residents at the same address. (Yes, three. (1) The come back
to us, we miss you, please let us provide for you letters to the
former residents that I returned to sender. (2) The you might
want to consider upgrading what you’re getting to our super premium
package marketing materials. (3) The bill.) This level of detailed
record-keeping inspires confidence.
don’t know about you, but virtually every piece of “…or current
resident…” material that arrives at my house is treated as trash.
I barely look at it. And by virtually, I’m only allowing for the
occasional coupons for pizza or other goodies, where I might be
willing to forgive them for not knowing who lives at the house
these days in exchange for $5 off the family meal deal. I have
my principles… but if I’m looking for a decent dinner at an affordable
price, I’m not crazy.
far, I have never been talking with Terry about something, paused
to walk out for the mail, and returned to say something like:
“Hey, you know that shed we were just talking about? You’ll never
guess what’s in today’s mail.” And yet, I can kind of appreciate
the attempt on that one. Because…
issue isn’t really with the shotgun blast approach to sales and
marketing, at least when it shows some form of thought. You’re
in business… you want customers from the community… your primary
goal should be to raise awareness in the community. Street with
houses on it. You sell sheds. They may want sheds. That, and of
the sort nodding in the direction of similar thought, I get.
I don’t understand is the mailings that attempt to get a customer
you already have while demonstrating you’re a bit confused about
that, or, are attempts at bringing in a customer you’ll never
get. Essentially, you know the saying that doing the same thing
over and over while hoping for different results isn’t exactly
a sign of genius? Yeah… ok… since these mailings are showing up
at my house repeatedly, that means:
These companies have some mind-boggling business practices,
which routinely involve throwing dollars into a bowl and flushing.
These actions are getting results.
there’s the confusion. Because the answer needs to be that the
company is getting results. They are getting enough responses
to make the campaign worth the costs, and continuously getting
enough results featuring new customers in each subsequent campaign,
that in the end it makes sense for them to run the effort. And
then, run it again. And then, again.
in turn brings me back to “…or current resident…” on the envelope.
ago, I was outside in the yard doing this or that. A truck stopped
in the road. I’m guessing the brakes were applied when the driver
spotted me. The truck backed up a bit, then pulled into our driveway.
Man got out, came over, reached out his hand and said hello.
over my shoulder and around the property while nodding, then
makes eye contact with a smile on his face.) “Nice lawn
you have here.” (Places one foot on rock, leans against
leg, looks off into distance. I think music began playing softly.)
“You obviously take pride in your home, and I’m like you.
I want to give my family the best, provide good food, and take
care of my home. And that’s why being able to get the best frozen
vegetables and meats and prepared meals delivered right to my
home is such a blessing.” (Straightens up. Looks back at
me.) “You want the best for your family, right?” (Does
not wait for answer.) “Think of the time you could get back
and invest in your family just from the convenience of home
delivery of your food. Can you put a price on that?”
didn’t put a price on that.
of those are my words. After all, it has been twenty-plus years
since I met that driver. But the reality remains, and that reality
is we were not at all like each other. At least not in the way
his scripted approach presented. At least not in a way where exchange
vegetables and meats and prepared meals with taxes and schools,
add a pamphlet with a picture of his kids, then use the same background
music with an eagle soaring overhead so we’d form a political
of a mailer, it was an in-person current resident pitch.
politely declining his offer, I went back to my chores. And yet
then, as now, I do occasionally wonder. Wonder about other people
he has approached. Wonder about the customers of the company.
Wonder when that approach has brought in a new customer.
I couldn’t have been the first stop he had ever made for a cold-call
sale attempt. I couldn’t have been the first person anyone in
that company had ever approached. And while I may not remember
his exact words, I know he didn’t deliver spontaneous and informative
words. It was a beautiful soliloquy. It didn’t connect with me…
but it has to have connected with someone.
there in lies the current resident fun. It connects with someone.
so often, I see one of that company’s trucks on the road. And
usually, I think back to the meeting I had in the driveway of
that old house. He was a nice enough guy. I wonder if he ever
stopped at the house again to talk to the current resident.