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Are You Sending Invisible Signals?

Sometimes a business does things that just don’t make sense, particularly when you consider the business they’re in.

Consider every hospital foundation director’s worst nightmare: Sending a donation request addressed to someone who recently died. What could be worse? Sending a donation request addressed to someone who died…. in their hospital. I haven’t personally seen this, but I had a conversation today with a hospital foundation director who knew of such things.

Paying attention

After my dad passed, I setup his email account to echo to mine just in case some last-minute personal business needed to be dealt with or a long-lost friend emailed him. Most of the email I get requires no action and off it goes into the circular file.

And then, there’s

I received this email on my parents’ wedding anniversary. Their first anniversary since my dad’s death.

Ordinarily, I would spend several paragraphs on the email itself.

I might mention things like the lack of the name of a real person as the sender. Or why they didn’t include a “PS: Happy Anniversary” (remember, they have data on marriages and divorces). Or the lack of questions why the renewal never happened after contacting me “several times”, much less the lack of a follow-up offer that repositions the pricing somehow. Or how calling me a “member” in a relatively impersonal email doesn’t make the email more personal. Or how the email is all about the payment and ultimately, all about THEM. Or by not knowing that the addressee has passed that anyone reading this might be considering whether or not to take over management of their genealogy data.

But that isn’t why I’m bothered by this email. It isn’t even about Dad.

It’s about demonstrating competence.

Competence sells data. Data about births, marriages and deaths.

Birth, marriage and death records are public information…and in Ancestry’s case, the delivery and organization of that data is their business.

Yet somehow, they don’t make the effort to figure out that their own customers are no longer alive. Receiving an email like this almost makes you wonder how close they pay attention to the quality of the data they sell.

When you aren’t paying enough attention to the invisible signals your business sends, you risk it all. In Ancestry’s case, they risk giving the impression that they aren’t paying attention to the quality of the product they’re trying to get me to renew.

Now turn this to your own business. Are you sending invisible signals about the quality of what you do?

3 replies on “Are You Sending Invisible Signals?”

[…] Are You Sending Invisible Signals? — Recently Mark received an innocent, but rather inconsiderate email from It’s a great example of how you can be showing your flaws to your audience. Makes you think! […]

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