Bob Lefsetz -02When we last left Bob Lefsetz, he couldn’t believe Fleetwood Mac would go on yet another money-grabbing tour. Now, he’s pissed off that he’s getting e-mails every day from a company he just gave a lot of money to, in the hopes that he’ll give them more money. How will this end, you ask? Well, with Lefsetz, you can bet it will be with self-contradictions and lots of bad advice. Read on…

Don’t e-mail every day unless you have something to say.

This was the second e-mail I got from Bob yesterday. The first was called, “You Might Be A Spammer…” and featured such Foxworthy-esque nuggets as “if you send a holiday e-card,” and “if you send an e-mail saying you love my blog,” and the usual complaints about people sending him social media invites, press releases, and links to videos. It’s Bob’s latest take on his classic “Do-As-I-Say-But-Leave-Me-Alone” schtick.

So naturally, I’m tempted to send him a holiday e-card telling him how much I love his blog, and that he should friend me on Facebook.

We’re going to go on a cruise for my mother’s 85th birthday, although she just celebrated her 86th yesterday, Happy Birthday Mom!

“Don’t e-mail every day unless you have something to say.”

We were catching up on the phone and the conversation veers so frequently to health, as in her buddies are not doing so well. Furthermore, for every hypochondriac there’s another person who refuses to go to the doctor, even if he or she falls down…again and again and again.

Bob can’t stand listening to his mother talk about her friends’ poor health, so he’s paying it forward and telling us all about it.

Anyway, we bought this cruise and now the company who sold it to us e-mails me every day to try and sell me another. As it is, we’re not going to take this cruise until next summer. Do they really think I’m interested in going again before that? And, if I hypothetically was, maybe they could send me a personalized offer that was extremely attractive.

I hate that they’re direct marketing to me and will probably never use them again, but I wish they would make it more personal.

Instead, I just get the generic hype without the ability to unsubscribe.

I’ll call bullshit on the inability to unsubscribe. I’ll bet anything that, when he bought the tickets, he didn’t check off the box that allows him to opt out of future offers, and that there’s a link at the bottom of the e-mail – just like every other business has.  And, if that’s not the case, he could always call them and ask to be removed, but that would violate his anti-phone policy (see #28).

Now I’m not gonna cancel this summer’s cruise, but this company is doing its best to ensure I never use them again. I’m a person, not an e-mail address…dammit!

In case you didn’t click that link and scroll down to #28:

“If you can’t tell me in e-mail, I don’t want to know.”

The best story I ever heard about this was told by Seth Godin.

Why couldn’t you tell the good story before the one about your mother’s sick friends and a cruise you’re dreading?

Once upon a time there was a company called CDNow. It sold CDs over the Internet. You remember CDs, right? Those discs that were supposed to have the ultimate sound and last forever?

“Hey, and remember when MTV used to play videos? What’s that all about? Didn’t the ‘M’ stand for ‘Music?’ And how come the bags of airline peanuts are so tough to open, anyway?”

I’m one of the few people who hasn’t sold my collection… As for perfection… It doesn’t exist and even vinyl sounds better.

“These things suck and I refuse to get rid of them.”

In fairness, that’s kind of how I feel about my subscription to Lefsetz.

Anyway, CDNow put out a newsletter every quarter that generated a ton of dough. Then the company went public and in an effort to boost numbers sent two newsletters a quarter. Both did extremely well.

To make a long story short…

After a diversion about how CDs suck, it’s too late.

…by time they were done, CDNow was sending a newsletter every week. And then they truly were done, the company went into decline and was sold to Bertelsmann. Newsletters were generating almost no sales. The audience tuned out.

Innovative company starts off with a bang, then does what it can to turn the ship around when things go bad. I’m sure this story was much better the way Seth Godin told it.

But let’s do a little research, shall we?

“What ultimately killed CDNow,” says [former CEO and COO Mike] Krupit, who joined the company in 1997 and ran it during its last two years of existence, “was the merger.”

CDNow focused all its resources on a merger with Columbia House, Krupit says. So when the deal fell through in 2000, the company was out of money and out of fundraising options.

Shortly after, German media conglomerate Bertelsmann bought CDNow for $117 million, and two years later, it shut down CDNow’s Philly-area office, ceding most of the business to Amazon.

Right, Bob. It was all because of those goddamn e-newsletters.

If you’ve got something interesting to say and an audience that wants to hear it, by all means reach out as often as you’d like.

The definition of “something interesting to say” is subjective, as proven by the fact that the guy saying this sent me two e-mails yesterday, one of which is stolen from a comedian whose 15 minutes of fame was up 15 years ago, and another that begins with him writing about a bunch of old hypochondriacs.

First you earn the trust.

Then you sell.

If you’re selling first, most people are ignoring you.

Build the relationship.

Nurture the relationship.

And know that everybody on the other end is an individual, with feelings and desires.

All of that is solid advice.

But that does not mean that the customer is always right.

Of course not. You’re the only one who’s always right.

Because of newfound digital access, every complainer is reaching out, trying to make trouble…

Which is exactly what you’re doing by broadcasting your cruise story to all of your readers.

They want a guarantee the product they bought will last forever and be better than anything else forever and even if it cost a dollar, they want to be able to get an instant response from your team. Ignore these people.

“And know that everybody on the other end is an individual, with feelings and desires.”

That’s the flip side of Internet access. The ability to tune out unreasonable spam.

But I enjoy doing these too much!

About the Author

Dave Lifton

The perpetually cranky Dave Lifton produces and co-hosts the Popdose Podcast and contributes an occasional column when he darn well feels like it. But mostly he eats Cheetos and yells at kids to get off his lawn, which is strange because he lives in an apartment. The guiding force behind LifStrong, he can be found on Twitter at @dslifton.

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