Planes, trains and conversations — On my way back from the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week, I was reminded of how many different cultures are in our periphery, everyday. Just walking through the city this past week gave me a new perspective on how communication works within separate cultures. Each cultural entity has its nuances and specific characteristics regarding the norms of that group, especially with relation to inter-personal communication.
What brought all this to my mind initially was while I boarded the plane back home. As I boarded the plane and walked back to my seat, I noticed an older Indian couple that was sitting in the same row as me. Getting closer to the row I look at my pass to see the letter/number for my seat and before I sit down I notice the woman was already in my seat. I politely ask her to move and get no response. I stood there for a minute and asked again – she didn’t speak English. I proceeded to tap her on the shoulder; she looked at me, finally. I then began to ask for her boarding pass so that I could get my seat. To no avail we began to hold a meaningless conversation that included two languages, undecipherable by each party.
Once everything was settled, I began to think how this situation could be applied to email marketing. I thought to myself; why didn’t that work easily, what could have been done to make that a pleasurable experience? After a few minutes of reflecting I came up with two reasons – history and actions.
History – We knew nothing about each other; language, personality, likes, dislikes, current situation, cultural norms, etc. We had no basis on which to relate and communicate.
Actions – She was undeniably foreign – not a lick of English was spoken between her and I or her and her partner. What I thought was a polite way of asking her to check her ticket to find her seat may have been rude from her perspective. My tone and presence could have offended her in the same manner I felt disrespected with her not speaking or acknowledging me. We were disconnected and potentially offensive to one another, I could have killed the conversation before we even started it with my actions.
How is this applicable to email? Well, here’s my thought.
As email marketers this shouldn’t happen, but it does on a regular basis. In order for us to communicate to people we need information and permission to do so – we’re building a history. The amount of information we gather initially may or may not be vast, but it’s usually enough to make an educated and considerate decision to engage our recipients appropriately. In doing so correctly we should be able to gather more info as the communication develops and respond back, which brings us to actions.
Actions are pivotal to fostering the conversation. A single action can spurn or dissolve a conversation immediately. With email we do this by listening to our recipient or by batching them into a list and ‘blasting’ whatever message goes out that day. Knowing how to leverage whatever amount of data is available for the initial and continuing emails can be key in converting prospects into clients and attrition into list growth and activity. Email is the best online retention tool – let’s use it as such, let’s have a conversation.
Takeaway: Frame of reference is everything in communication – how we view the world dictates how we interact with it. Do you know what your subscriber’s frame of reference is and are you relevant? This is especially important if you are marketing globally.
Viva la email!
We’ve probably all had an experience such as this. Share yours or share how your marketing strategy is working to ensure you have a constructive conversation with your subscribers!