Opportunity lost

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I stumbled across Context Magazine while looking for something else. Several of the articles were interesting and all were well-written. I liked the magazine’s focus of strategy and technology. As I often do when I find a publication I like, I decided to follow the magazine online for a few months. If I still like the magazine after reading it online for a while, I’ll often subscribe to the print version.

Here’s where the problems started.

It’s much easier to remember to visit a site regularly if they send me an email newsletter or provide an RSS feed. But I could find neither. In clicking around the site, I hit a link labeled "Subtext," and clicked it to find out that this is where I can sign up for an email list. Subtext must be the name of their newsletter, but how was I supposed to know that? If you are going to have clever names for areas of your site, make sure your visitors know what’s behind the name. Naming the link "Email Newsletter" and moving the name Subtext to the signup page would have made it easier for me to subscribe. How many potential subscribers have they lost because people couldn’t find the link?

Once I subscribed, I received two messages. The first was a bounce message from their mailserver informing me that a message to a user by the name of David Douglass could not be delivered. Since I didn’t send a message to Mr. Douglass, I assume that the subscription process sent him a copy of my subscription request. If you are going to automatically copy internal mail accounts when someone sends your company a message, think about what will happen if someone leaves the company or turns on an autoresponder. That bounce message should have gone to an internal address instead of to the customer. Otherwise they risk confusing the customer and looking unprofessional.

I also received a confimation message from the list:

From: ListManagerSQL ListManagerSQL AT community.diamondcluster.com
Sent: Tuesday, September 03, 2002 5:17 PM
To: xxxx AT kalsey.com
Subject: Re: in-context

You have been subscribed to in-context with the email address "xxxx AT kalsey.com"

To unsubscribe, send a blank email to

ListManagerSQL is such a lovely name. I think I’ll give that name to my next child. Or pet. The point is, how about making it look like the reply came from a real person? It makes people feel warm and fuzzy when they think that someone cared enough to personally send them a note. And if they have a question and they reply, then the reply goes to a real person as well.

Of course the rest of the message is devoid of personality anyway, so why bother using a real name? It would be better to have send something like this:

From: Joe Schmo <jschmo AT diamondcluster.com>
Sent: Tuesday, September 03, 2002 5:17 PM
To: xxxx AT kalsey.com
Subject: Welcome to In-Context

Thanks for subscribing to In-Context, the email newsletter of Context Magazine. We’ve added your email address, xxxx AT kalsey.com, to our list of subscribers. We’ll send you an email each month with a short summary of the articles available on the Web site.

If you subscribed on accident or you changed your mind, you can send an email to
leave-in-context-xxxxx@community.diamondcluster.com and we’ll take you off the list.

By the way, if you like Context Magazine, you can subscribe to our print edition for only $36 a year at http://www.contextmag.com/subscriptions/.

Thanks again for signing up.

Joe Schmo

Subscriber Services

Context Magazine

Now it sounds like someone other than a computer wrote me the message. They’ve give a quick pitch for their magazine, and let me know what to expect from the newsletter.

If you send your customers automated responses, make sure you aren’t missing some marketing opportunities.

September 4, 2002 12:34 PM

Hey, great read... you know what's funny? I work at a company with the same dumb policies that drove you away from context magazine... We don't reply to emails from customers very professionally, and sometimes we don't reply at all. We don't use our list management software to the fullest, and only send out HTML newsletters... It's bad. I think this sort of problem really plagues organizations that aren't organizations in the true sense, but are really just 'one man show's' disquised as an organization... if the boss doesn't want any help, no sense trying to help him/her right? ugh... only if we could help those that needed it before they realized it.

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