A Face In The Crowd

The most important thing you can know…

The most important thing you can know about your listeners is that each one is an individual.

These are unique individuals, not statistics, or demographics, or rating points.

They may all collectively prefer your station to others they can use, but listening to the radio is a solitary exercise. No one brings a radio into a group of people so they can all listen together. We don’t invite friends over so we can turn the radio on and listen as a group.

Yes, I realize that parents of young children, especially, want to find a radio station they can hear in the presence of their kids without fearing assorted profanities and/or content that needs explaining. But that is only when mom or dad (usually mom, it seems) is using the family taxi to drive the kids to school, soccer, dance practice, or the mall.

For the most part, Radio does a pretty good job of understanding this tenet — until it comes to database management.

C’mon, how many times do we have to talk about this? I can’t believe you’re still allowing sales-driven email blasts to hundreds, or thousands, of individuals who signed up on your web site as “loyal listeners,” in order to participate in a contest usually. And because they’ve never opted out of receiving your email blasts, you just keep on blasting them en masse, month after month, whether they want to keep hearing from you or not.

Your contact with your listeners in your database now has to compete with someone who really gets it, who really understands how to communicate with tens of millions of fans — as individuals — in a permission-based way.

Yes, someone out there is sending literally millions of personalized emails (and I’m not saying that using my first name in the body of the message has anything much to do with that personalization) that are welcomed when they appear in an In Box.

And, that same entity is somehow reading each individual email it receives back from the millions who take the time to respond.

You might think I’m speaking of Apple. Apple is known for its customer-centric focus, and as the owner of a new MacBook Pro, I can tell you they do a pretty decent job of customer service. But Apple is in the same basic stage as Radio when it comes to emailing its customers, as this post proves. They suck just like the rest of us.

No, the guys who get this…

who have elevated database management to the heights…

who have set a standard by which you should measure your own progress…

those guys are in the Obama Administration now, and started doing their magic when they worked with his campaign.

Look, this isn’t about politics, except that “these guys” helped get an African-American named Barack Hussein Obama elected President of our country. Not by themselves, of course, but if you don’t think “these guys” played a huge role, then you’re not on their mailing list. I am, so I can share what they do, even if I have no real idea how they do it:

Early in 2008, I made an unsolicited contribution to the campaign, after spending time on their web site. I received a “Thank you” note via email, and a really nice Tshirt via snail-mail, and an option to be kept up to date on the campaign, an option that allowed me to control how often I heard from these guys in the future.

At one point, they asked me to tell them the issues about which I was most concerned. (Note that they did not tell me which issues I should be most concerned about.) I responded, and among the issues I checked, mentioned health care and health insurance, because our son is a Type 1 diabetic, so it’s important to him and us.

Now here’s where it gets amazing, and a little spooky.

Someone obviously read my response, or they have a really good software program that scans messages for key words, because somehow, they sorted my response from the tens of millions they received. And we began what feels like a dialogue, an actual conversation, where they pay as much attention to what I say as they want me to pay to what they say.

When I hear from the Obama Administration now, I get a personalized email that not only remembers that my son has Type 1 diabetes, it remembers his name, his age and work status (updated, since it has changed since that first contact) and other personal notes that have been added over the length of my “relationship” with these guys. It feels like they actually listen to what I am saying.

It feels like they actually read each one of my responses to them, and that we are having a conversation that is personalized to my life, and my needs. And I know, for a fact, that they do this with literally millions of other individuals.

So, if you want, you can continue to blast out your monthly newsletter about everything your station is doing to every person who ever signed up for any contest or information, knowing that lots of them are hitting “Delete” before they ever open it, and lots of the rest of them are hitting “Delete” as soon as they see they can’t win anything they want.

Or, you can begin to develop personal relationships with each individual in your database, by asking questions about them, about their lives, and offering them something of value in return for the information.

You can invest in a system that offers segmentation analysis, or just use gmail as your email program, so that you can use an almost infinite number of label classifications so each of these people remains an individual.

And you can commit to sending only personalized emails to each individual person, emails that offer personalized details, that actually are part of a conversation, so they feel heard, and valued, as individuals, not as ratings points.

Some station or group is going to do this. The Obama people have raised the bar. They’ve shown us what is possible. If you master this for your own database, think of the value you can bring to your clients when you help them do the same.

This is the key: The most important thing you can know about everyone who listens to your station, who buys spots on your station, is that each one is an individual person, who wants to be the face you would instantly spot in a crowd, recognize, and warmly welcome.