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“The Best Laid Plans” – An Apology for Screwing Up Yesterday

Christopher Tuttle

The power of automation, as most of us have discovered, is a two-edged sword. When set up properly, automation is leverage for the work you already do, multiplying results. When set up incorrectly, it multiplies your mistakes in the same way and occasionally causes you to “auger in.”

So in the interest of honesty, we screwed up pretty bad yesterday.

One of our good, solid marketing vendors sent out an email in the morning of January 6 according to plan . . . except it wasn’t the right content. In fact, it was inviting our friends to join us at Dreamforce ’10 on December 6th, a month after it happened. And though it would be easy to point fingers and blame the vendor, ultimately the fault is ours. It’s our job to make sure we have the right content in place, that it’s clearly marked, and that it’s in the right format—not our vendor’s.

But there are a couple of things our little faux pas reminded me of as well.

One, I can’t help seeing the irony of sending an out-of-date email for salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event that touts our PowerDialer app’s Top 10 position on the Salesforce AppExchange . . . nothing better than shouting, “Hey, look how awesome we are!” when you’re not wearing any pants or our zipper is undone.

But since Marty McFly’s not around to loan you his DeLorean to go back to December 2010, just take it from us that if you have any relation at all to the sales, marketing, or hosted software industries, you should check out Dreamforce next year. You won’t regret it.

The other thing this reminded me of, though, is the need and power of being genuine. One of the reasons, I think, that our little email foul-up got such an interesting response (and yes several associates in the industry let us know what happened) wasn’t just that the content was irrelevant, it was that it was clearly designed as a “marketing piece” (the egregiousness of the error was so bad that one of my good friends, Bill Otteman, Director of Sales Ops at Genius offered (again) to provide his services for future campaigns). Let’s talk Bill!

There’s still room for the occasional, “high concept” marketing email in today’s environment, but that space is getting awfully small. Research has proven time and again that a brief, genuine, “human” email gets a much higher response, and should be the primary focus for sales-targeted email. People want an email from a person, not a marketing department.

And it’s funny, we have touted our internal research that an email from a sales rep, that is written in plain text, quite often doubles the response-rate over a “marketing-ish” email. And a spelling error in the email even drives the response rates up further; because it comes from a “real” person who makes mistakes.

So when we make a mistake, it’s a good time to remember just how human we all are… all the time. And remind ourselves to cut someone else a little slack when it happens to them, even if it goes out to tens of thousands of people!

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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