You Say Relevance; I Hear Blah, Blah, Blah
By Ken Magill
I’m with Andrew Kordek.
The co-founder and chief strategist of email consultancy Trendline Interactive recently stated in a blog post that he despises the term “relevancy.”
Though I will admit I didn’t always despise it. I’ve even used it. I simply have come to despise it.
Why? Because it has become a term email’s pundits—I hate that word, too, but can’t think of a self-explanatory replacement—use to bludgeon email marketers into segmenting their lists, an activity most aren’t engaged in and won’t be anytime soon.
Relevancy refers to a best practice, but not a common practice. As a result, when a columnist touts relevance, the message is lost on most of the marketplace. Moreover, once a reader determines “he’s not talking to me” with one column, the reader will lose interest in everything else the columnist has to say.
So much for moving the marketplace along.
When I worked for a cataloger in the early 90s, I would read the trades and think we sucked.
“We are the Goofus of direct marketing,” I would say, jokingly referring to the long-running Highlights magazine “Goofus and Gallant” cartoon where rude, bully Goofus always does things wrong and the biggest-begging-for-an-ass-kicking-cartoon-wussy-of-all-time Gallant does them right.
But we weren’t Goofus. We were average. And by average, I mean just fine. We were a collection of people—collections of people by definition are dysfunctional—who did a lot of things wrong and a lot of things right.
It was only after I began writing for the trades that I realized why I had such a sense of direct-marketing inferiority at my old catalog job: The trades tend to cover only the best marketers in their case studies, and only the best things these marketers have done.
Why? Because often we get our case studies from vendors and vendors—quite understandably—only put forward their best clients for interviews.
And these clients never share—on the record at least—all the stupid crap they did on their way to marketing spectacularness.
As a result, case studies are always exceptional.
From what I’m hearing, striving for relevancy—segmentation—isn’t one of those things for most marketers.
Moreover, the concept of relevancy in email marketing simply refers to 80 percent of traditional direct marketing’s 40/40/20 rule, the rule that says a campaign’s success is determined 40 percent by the offer, 40 percent by the list and 20 percent by the creative.
Relevance is simply another way to refer to the offer and the list, or the offer and makeup of its recipients. Yes, it can refer to timing but timing also refers to offer and list—making Mary the right offer when she’s in the market to buy, for example.
Timing is one of the reasons new-mover lists are so popular with direct marketers. New Movers invariably spend a ton of money.
So to clarify, I don’t despise the concept of relevance. I despise the way the term has come to be used.
It gives too many marketers the impression they’re way behind the curve when they’re not.