Monday, January 15, 2007

Communication

I once heard someone say that the opposite of talking is waiting.

Wise words. How many times do we find ourselves in conversations where we're waiting to say what's on our mind, rather than fully appreciating the words coming at us?

But things are different on the world wide web.

I did a little MySpace experiment three days ago, sending a bulletin to my 1700 friends and asking them to reply.

Three hundred people have replied so far.

Now I'm in the awkward position of responding to their replies, which is taking me forever. Be careful what you ask for...

While I've beenreplying, I took a look at the 800 other emails in my inbox, and realized these people deserved responses as well. Especially since some of them are from July.

Here's my deal with email; if I receive something from someone close to me, I always respond immediately.

If I receive fan mail, I try to respond within a reasonable amount of time---usually within a week.

But a portion of the emails I get are from people who want something. A blurb. A critique. An answer to a detailed question. And I let these accrue, because I always have something else I could be doing other than answering email.

It doesn't take Seth Godin to understand that this isn't very good customer service.

The future of marketing has less to do with finding new customers and more to do with enthralling the customers we already have. As a public figure, and a personal selling a product, I have a responsibility to reply to those who want my attention. Communication is the single most important form of branding.

So why am I slacking?

I have a friend who describes herself as Type A. She keeps a file of interview questions, and has cut and paste responses for every possible question she could be asked online.

I dismissed her method as impersonal. Now I applaud her genius. She's giving great customer service, at very little cost to her. Sure, the answers are canned. But that beats the sendee waiting five months for a reply. And the sendee doesn't know the answers have been given many times before. It's win-win.

So my goal for 2007 is to make sure I keep my inbox empty. I'm delighted to be in a position where people contact me, and I owe it to them to respond.

At least until it becomes so overwhelming that my addy must go dark and I have to hire a web maven to screen my emails. Or a bot. But I hate those bots, don't you? Why can't I email Stephen King or Dan Brown and ask them to blurb me?

Oh. That's why.