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Back around the first of the year, I received an email from my health club. I’ve been a member there for 13 years, and this was the first of its kind. It said, in part: “Dear Chris, “We've noticed you haven't been in as regularly in recent weeks. “I understand there may be many reasons for not being able to make it in, but I just wanted to send a quick note to check if you're happy with the service we've been providing. Let me know if I can be of any assistance and I hope to see you very soon!” While I appreciated that the health club was at least trying to stay in contact, the email managed to make several unforced errors all at once—all of which were avoidable.
My reaction to this email was probably not what they were hoping for. I felt defensive. “Hey! I went last Friday!” I thought. “I’m planning on going tonight, already!” Then I caught myself. I used to go to the club three times a week. Since having a child, it’s usually twice a week for two hours. Some weeks, more, some weeks, less. But ultimately, I don’t have any need to explain my behavior to a health club which gladly takes my money regardless of how often I go. It wasn’t the club’s intent to raise my defenses. It’s a smart thing for them to encourage people to continue a regular, ongoing relationship with the club and to make attendance a habit—because then, membership renewals are a habit, too. It’s all about the message—and the audience. I know they know how old I am, and I know they know my actual attendance patterns. When the club “notices” behavior of the doughy middle-ager and calls him on it—even in gentle terms—it can start the conversation off on the wrong note and negate any positive aspects of the message.
Hey, wait a minute—I’m not doughy! I go to the gym pretty often, considering! But this email was sent January 12. I suspect the email was generated when my attendance dropped below a certain threshold or was down a certain percentage of visits over the typical month. “There may be many reasons for not being able to make it in,” indeed. December is anything but a typical month, and I didn’t get into the health club much the last two weeks of the year, thus triggering this email. So, while it might appear personalized, it isn’t. It’s not about me—it’s about my data. It’s driven by attendance statistics compiled each time I use my badge to check in, but it has nothing to do with my greater life. In the case of the month of December, the events of that greater life are easy to infer.
The email itself uses the pronouns “we” and “I” almost interchangeably. The signature is from the general manager—so, the right thing to do is to make sure the copy reads like it’s from her. I am fairly certain she is not the queen of any known nation, so the royal “we” is inappropriate.
A check-in is nice, but without some additional information, it seems like just a nudge to guilt the reader to come back in to the club. To be fair, the end of the copy includes links to an article on fitting exercise into a busy schedule and to the class schedule. But there was other information that would have made the email much more useful. For example, over the holiday break, the club swapped some new weight training equipment in place of some older machines. The next time I went in, I had to hunt around to find the equipment for my regular routine. A little update would have been nice: “The next time you’re in the fitness area, you’ll notice some things have changed…” Or, even better: “We’ll have a trainer on duty specifically to make sure you learn your way around the new gear!” Connecting with customers in a subscription business is vital to survival. But you want to do it in a way that makes the customer feel good about buying from you, provides a reason for them to engage with the message, and which reflects positively on your business so they never have a reason to think about switching to a competitor. Learn more about how to make your marketing emails more effective.
Chris Bucholtz is the content marketing director at CallidusCloud and writes on a host of topics, including sales, marketing and customer experience. The former editor of InsideCRM, his weekly column has run in CRM Buyer since 2009. When he's not pondering ways to acquire and keep customers, Chris is also an avid builder of scale model airplanes.