Today is the second day on some lessons email marketers can apply from learning some basic emergency medicine. Today’s lesson deals with squeaky wheels, grease, and problem diagnosis.
My sister-in-law is a nurse. She spent several years as a ER nurse and sometimes takes part in emergency preparedness drills at our local hospital. Once, a few years ago, she was participating in such a drill and was assigned to play the part of someone with broken arm.
Now, if you’ve ever broken your arm you know that it hurts. So, she got into the role and screamed. A lot. And loudly. Very loudly, in fact. So much so, that the staff of the hospital treated her before they treated some of the other cases in the ER who were presenting with far more serious, life threatening issues. The squeaky wheel got the grease, but while they were greasing the squeaky wheel, four of their other “patients” died.
That lesson was driven home again last week as I was finishing up my emergency responder course. Sometimes, the patient will complain, loud, hard, and long, about a particular thing, but something else is the far more serious issue.
For instance, let’s say that Joe is working in his shop with an acetylene torch and ends up burning his arm. Now, acetylene burns hot (Wikipedia tells me more than 3600 K (3300 °C, 6000 °F)), so that’s pretty much an instant third-degree burn. And Joe is shocked by what happens, so he drops his torch and knocks over the tanks, which break his leg.
When the first responder arrives, what condition do you think Joe will complain about the most?
If you guessed the broken leg, then you’re probably right. A third-degree burn will generally sear the nerve endings. So, while Joe may thinks it looks ugly, he’s more concerned about the excruciating pain in his leg.
When the first responder arrives, which condition will get treated first?
If you guessed the burn then you would be correct. That third-degree burn is life threatening whereas the broken leg is really painful, but contained.
So, while Joe is complaining of one thing, there is a far worse problem that needs attending to first. That doesn’t mean that the leg should not get treated, just that it shouldn’t be first on the priority list.
So, what does this have to do with email marketing?
The same principles apply there too. Sometimes we treat the squeaky wheel without dealing with the more serious problems.
For instance, mail is getting sent to the bulk folder at AOL and Yahoo. What is the solution? A lot of people consider that it is to get feedback loops and remove the people who are complaining.
That is a good thing to do. But, the far more serious problem is underlying and needs to be fixed. Consider these other problems that need to be examined in such a context:
How was permission gained? Was it taken, or freely offered?
Did the recipient know what to expect when they signed up for this list?
Are the recipients suffering from list fatigue and want to receive something less often?
Has the content of the mailings recently changed so that it’s now more marketing and less of what they cared about when they signed up?
All of these problems are things that need to be examined. They are the third degree burns that need to be treated. And, even better, once they are treated then the problems of bulk foldering and blocking tend to take care of themselves in short order.