Drip, Drip

Aug 28, 2017

BY JIM SAWYER – CHIEF SCIENTIST

I live in Atlanta—as some[1]And by “some,” I mean those poor tourists that will be the target of some future rant of mine. call it, “Hotlanta.” It’s a city ritual that every summer we are obligated to complain about how hot and humid it is.[2]We also are obligated as a citizenry to complain about traffic. It’s a requirement for the privilege to reside within our city limits. Hey, I didn’t make the rules. Sweating becomes a mandatory community activity, as does complaining about sweating, as does complaining about the fact that everybody is complaining about sweating. It’s what we do.

However, when it comes to unbearable heat, my city’s got nothing on Dallas. I’ve been traveling to Dallas as a consultant for 7 years now, and it only took me a couple of years before I vowed never to criticize Atlanta for the summer heat ever again. It is freaking hot in Dallas in the summertime.

For instance, just the other week during the lunch hour, I seized the opportunity to move my rental car from its original location in the remote outskirts of the sprawling parking lot to somewhere close to the entrance, at the expense of some poor sap who decided to go off-campus for lunch and give up their parking space[3]I hope lunch was worth it. And I also hope you didn’t choose Whataburger. In-N-Out is not that much farther away.. Hey, that would mean we only have a 2-minute walk to the car in the soul-crushing 100+ degree heat, as opposed to a masochistic 15-minute walk to the car at the far end of the lot, risking life and limb[4]Not really. But trust me, it is super annoyingly hot. to make it to the vehicle just in time to turn on the A/C. Morally, I would never subject my teammates to that risk. And if you live in Texas, neither should you.

But I digress. The excessive heat in Dallas has all sorts of side effects that we may not necessarily expect. One of these involves air travel—something I’m intimately familiar with as a traveling consultant. When I boarded my flight home this week and settled into my seat, I glanced up, and what I saw was quite intriguing.

When it’s as hot as it is in Dallas[5]Have I mentioned yet how hot it is in the Dallas summertime? Oh yes, yes I have., and the plane is idle at the gate, with the air conditioning active for the comfort of the boarded passengers, condensation may occur that causes drips of water to trickle down from overhead and onto unwitting passengers. I don’t exactly know why this happens, but I’ve seen this multiple times in warm environments. In fact, the passenger in front of me chose to switch seats to avoid this drip, drip, drip.

She just wanted the drips to stop. But what if the drips mattered instead?

Drips of water from a drinking fountain can be delicious on a hot day when you’re thirsty. Running through the scattered drips from a sprinkler in the park can be a wonderful diversion in the summertime. And drips of a long-awaited summer rainstorm can be incredibly refreshing.

Making the drips matter is really what we should all be paying attention to in marketing. All too often, when we reach out to our customers to try to build relationships, they perceive our communications with them like a series of annoying drips. Why are our email open rates so frustratingly low, when our creative messaging is so brilliant? Why are our customers setting up rules that send our clever emails straight to their spam folder? Why is nobody watching through to the end of that hilarious video we just posted on social media?

It’s because these drips don’t matter to them. So let’s change that. All of that data you’ve (hopefully) been collecting[6]And if you haven’t been, why not start now? about your customers can provide valuable clues about which types of messages matter to which groups of people. While not every communication needs to be tailored to each specific individual, simply understanding that your customers are not all the same, and that different messages resonate with different subsets of people, will go a long way to transform your communications from annoyance to relevance.

What you don’t want to see is your customers and prospects virtually stuffing napkins into overhead vents, in an all-out effort to just make the drips go away. That’s fine for a one-time flight out of Dallas. It won’t work for a customer-centric business.

Make the drips matter.

Footnotes   [ + ]