Missing The Point

I'm often asked about the downside of being a business writer. People expect me to rant about deadlines, having to take personal time to write outside of work, thinking up column topics and a bunch of other stuff. I really don't. There really isn't much of a downside, IMHO, because I enjoy it. But if I could point to something that's annoying as heck (to me, anyway), it's when readers can't see the forest for the trees. When I write, I tend to use examples - either hypotheticals or particulars (if I can get away with it). Sometimes readers miss the bigger point and concentrate on nitpicking the specifics of a particular example.

Yeah, I suppose I could do a better job of picking examples. But here's an example of what I'm talking about.

Recently, I wrote a piece about levels of engagement. The overarching theme of the piece was that people like to control the commitment that comes along with receiving information from somebody else. The example I used was my own interaction with the music industry. I might not be the world's biggest Springsteen fan, but I sure would like to know when Bruce is playing in my area because I'd like to see one of his live shows. That doesn't mean I necessarily want the real-time updates from the tour as it passes through Austin, TX. I don't need the fanclub newsletter. I just want to know when Bruce is coming to the neighborhood.

Marketers foul this up all the time, and it's often an all-or-nothing proposition with respect to getting information on something that is marketed. Give up your e-mail address and you'll get pounded by e-mails that are more appropriate for hardcore enthusiasts than casual fans. This was the basic point of the piece, and I wanted people to think about whether what they're marketing is an all-or-nothing proposition with respect to engagement and involvement. In a nutshell, we don't want to behave like Aunt Beatrice, who sends you every piece of e-mail glurge she gets her mitts on once you give her your e-mail address. That's annoying. To be fair, lots of people got it. But I received a much greater volume of comments and e-mails from people who completely missed that point and wanted to tell me that I'm a schmuck because there are websites that allow one to see what music acts are coming to a specific venue.

Like I said, maybe I should have used a better example. But then again, it was just an example for illustrative purposes. I was hoping more folks could relate the story back to their own marketing, so they could work on programs that would respect the notion of casual involvement rather than programs that assume everyone is a hardcore loyalist that wants every little bit of information about a brand, product or service. A lot of the e-mail seemed to be nitpicky. [sigh]

Looking back on comments I've posted on the Spin Board, the Spin Blog [sic] and in e-mail, I seem to have started a lot with "You're missing the point..." Oh, well.