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

We’re going to go on a cruise for my mother’s 85th birthday, although she just celebrated her 86th yesterday, Happy Birthday Mom! 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. I’m not sure if you get more stubborn as you get older or whether you’re just ready to die, but experiencing these stories with my mom is quite edifying. As for my mother… If she’s complaining, it’s the end of the world. She just powers on. And that’s good.

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

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!

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

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? 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.

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, 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.

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. But if you’re just trying to generate sales, trying to stay in your audience’s mind, be careful about how often you intrude. It’s the best way to turn people off. Banging at their door again and again and again.

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.

But that does not mean that the customer is always right. Because of newfound digital access, every complainer is reaching out, trying to make trouble, usually desiring something for free. 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.

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

Don’t be a culprit.

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