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Does your small business send personal emails?

Back in January, Denny Hatch was discussing some emails he received: some personalized, some not.

I wanna hold your hand
photo credit: batega

Would you rather receive this (his example):

Date: 14 Jan 2008 03:58:31- 0800
From: â??Ticketmasterâ?
To: xxxxx
Subject: Event Reminder: Young Frankenstein

Ticketmaster Event Reminder
Hello Denison Hatch. Your event is happening soon!
Young Frankenstein.

Friday, January18, 2008

Hilton Theater
213 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Or this:

Dear Valued Customer,

On behalf of the hundreds of Delta Global Sales professionals dedicated to serving you and your travelers worldwide, â??Thank You!â? for choosing Delta as your preferred airline

To Delta’s credit, they no longer send me “Dear Valued Customer” emails, they got a clue sometime after I posted that and started using my name. I don’t know if the blog post had anything to do with it or not. I mean, sure, I know that automated systems sent the email, but someone, somewhere at Delta had to write the template. A real person. Presumably, that person was charged with writing a personal note to a client whose business they appreciate.

However, there are dozens of other businesses that continue to send me “Dear Valued Customer” emails.

Credit card companies. Utility companies. Car dealerships. Clothing and outdoor gear vendors.

The fact that Ticketmaster was smart enough to send a reminder email was pretty cool. People are busy. We need reminders, even if we have a Day-Timer, a PDA, a smart phone, a spouse, Outlook reminders and a personal assistant.

The fact that Ticketmaster made the email timely and personalized made it seem real, as if a person typed it.

Would Denny be as impressed if he received the email after the show? Or if it said “Dear Valued Ticketmaster Customer” or similar?

This doesn’t just extend to emails. Same goes for letters, postcards, phone calls, packaging, shipping info, and so on.

How many contacts in your business touch your customers personally? How many are annoying, impersonal Dear Valued Customer grams?

What would you rather receive from the businesses you frequent?

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Locals grumble about real estate websites too

Several local people mentioned the real estate post from yesterday at last night’s CFHS Speech and Debate State Championship celebration.

People who had never said a word about the blog before. Surprised me a little. Avast mayteys, we’ve got lurkers!! 🙂

Anyhow, I got a lot of “No kidding” and “Why don’t they do this?” sort of comments out of it. I think I hit a nerve with a couple of em. They were downright grumpy about it.

Grumpy attacks
photo credit: Jere Dow

The “Why don’t they” comments were common-sense stuff.

Things like this:

  • Why can’t I search the available listings by school district?
  • Why can’t I search the available listings by subdivision?
  • Why can’t I get new business listings sent by text message to my phone?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

So…what about your web site?

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Twitter for business: Does it make sense, or is it just another time vampire?

Eyes front... photo credit: law_keven

Let’s look at it for a bit.

People are more and more wary of giving out their email address. Many are not clued in to RSS (and don’t want to deal with readers, etc). They want up-to-the-minute info, and email in many cases just isn’t fast enough or dependable enough.

They might be driving, or unable to check that particular personal email address, or they’re in a store, or on the golf course.

Yet they want the info you have, and they want that info to be fresh.

Sure, you might have to sell them on the value of taking the time to create a Twitter account, but the value is the info they want and how fast they want it.

Remember, Twitter messages (“tweets”) can go to SMS-capable cell phones. They also can be read by Smartphone apps like TinyTwitter and by mobile phone RSS readers.

Let’s look at how you might actually make money with what appears to be a colossal time waster at first glance.

What do people want to know about right now? Depends.

  • If you are in the real estate business – In an area where people are in a hurry, or where there is competition for certain types of housing (cheaper homes, or homes with immediate move-in, you know what the niches are).
  • In the mortgage business – clients want to know when an approval has come in, you want to know when other events occur.
  • In retail or service businesses- what about special orders? Special sales? Special hours?
  • Customer service, regardless of your business.

Think about the New York city apartment market. While I’ve never tried to find an apartment there, I hear it takes some serious work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if apartment rental web sites and property managers had a Twitter to monitor? They could have one for each type of apartment, or each part of the city, and combinations of both. IE: Uptown, SOHO, Eastside and then Eastside2Bedroom, SOHO1bedroom, etc.

If you’re a Realtor who specializes in investment property, you could tweet your properties to a private Twitter feed that only your investment clients have access to. Sure, you could email them, but will it be delivered? A stockbroker could do the same.

Information marketers and similar content providers can use Twitter as a replacement for Aweber. Sure, you should be able to convey the value of joining your list for what you will deliver, but a less threatening (is email threatening??) option would be to send the same updates out via a Twitter feed.

Any automated notification that could go to SMS text messaging (which requires that the sender know your phone number) could just as easily go to Twitter (which reveals little or nothing to the sender), with the same result. Net: The privacy that some crave.

On 9/11, when NYC cell phone networks were jammed, outbound messages from the towers could have gone out to relatives outside the city via Twitter. Certainly that’s a need we hope to avoid, but it will work as long as the net is up. In fact, it is common for text messaging to work when a cell signal is too weak to carry a phone call.

Last weekend, I posted a note about a California firefighter who saves lives using Twitter.

It isn’t just for people with nothing to do. Like any other tool, in the right hands, it can do good things. If you listened a while back and setup Google Alerts on your brands, business name and executives, I suggest you do a TweetScan for the same reason.

Other posts on this topic:

How To Use Twitter For Business
Add Twitter to your Reputation Monitoring
How to Get Customer Service via Twitter
Social Media: Is Twitter Right for Your Business?
37signals likes twitter for business

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David Apple wastes no time, passes Goliath Wal-Mart in music sales

Just a few days ago, I was talking about iTunes passing Amazon and Best Buy in 2007 total music sales.

That’s all kinds – CD and downloaded music.

Didn’t take long for that to become old news. On Tuesday, a leaked Apple memo shows that January 2008 music industry numbers from NPD indicates that Apple has now passed Wal-Mart in total music sales (and remember, this includes’s music store).

Goliath has an Achilles heel. You simply have to look a little harder to find it.

Woolworth had one. Sears had one. K-Mart had one. Now, it’s become clear that Wal-Mart has one as well.

How closely have you looked for cracks in the armor of your market’s Goliath?

If YOU are the Goliath in your market – what would you attack, if you were David?

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Amazon launches their weapon of mass destruction, steps on the long tail of independent authors

No Known Restrictions: President Woodrow Wilson Addresses Congress, 1917 (LOC)
photo credit:

People continue to have this idea that companies like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Starbucks and Microsoft are bulletproof.

Folks, it just isn’t so. You might also have thought that UCLA was bulletproof Thursday night against Western Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, except that no one told WKU about it. Top-seeded UCLA pulled it out in the last 4 minutes, after leading 12th seeded WKU by only 4 points with 5 minutes remaining.

David and Goliath plays out every day, if David is clever enough.

These big companies that small business owners love to complain about are great at building giant customer lists and then turning right around and crapping in their corn flakes. They do it everyday. All you have to do is look around (one of the reasons I mentioned the Google Alerts thing yesterday).

It’s Amazon’s turn. They just got punched in the word of mouth.

What am I talking about?

The Amazon print on demand (POD) story at

And the Wall Street Journal, TechDirt, Washington Post, TechCrunch, Computerworld and Publisher’s Weekly. And so on.

Before you think that this only affects big print on demand publishers, don’t forget that little (and some not so little) independent authors sometimes see the bulk of their sales via Amazon and POD.

If there are fewer authors able to sell on Amazon (because of their demands), what happens? Does the record industry try to do this next? They’ve already lost control, but there is leverage out there if they want to use it (movies, for one).

What about your ISP? Perhaps they will require that all websites updated from your DSL account must be hosted with their web hosting services. They can easily control this.

The upside is that the market always has a way of sorting this stuff out. Somewhere out there, there’s a little print on demand house just rubbing their hands together.

Oh yeah, and I just realized that my Google Alerts are not covering enough bases.