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A Letter To Anyone Who Sells/Produces/Promotes/Coordinates Stuff

Dear [Insert your company, non-profit, educational institution, etc name here] – Why won’t you listen to me?

Dear [Insert your company, non-profit, educational institution, etc name here] –

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Why won’t you listen to me?

I buy lots of stuff, including books, clothing, music,  electronics, even a new car recently.  I am a subscriber, to two different print newspapers and more than a dozen magazines, and satellite radio.  I watch at least ten different television shows on a weekly basis, some live, some through my TiVo, and a couple online.  And that doesn’t count the time I spent tuned in to sports and news events.  I listen to the radio, in my home, in my car, and through applications on my iPhone.  I travel.  I go to sporting and cultural events.  I donate, to a half dozen charitable organizations and almost any cause a friend or colleague is involved with and organizes to support.  And of course I spend hours and hours a day online surfing for information, doing my work, communicating with my friends, and exploring new and interesting things.

I am the kind of person you want in your audience, or as a customer.  I am 31 years old.  I am a father.  I am educated. I am gainfully employed and own my own home.  I pay for all these things and buy them for people as gifts.  I talk about my favorite products and services to friends and colleagues.  I blog about them.  And even as economic times have gotten tough, I am buying more to try and do my part to keep the organizations I support in good standing.

And yet, for some reason, you don’t listen to me.  You don’t respect me.  You don’t care about me. 

You cancel my favorite shows.  You change the times of the flights I take regularly so they are no longer convenient.  You buy out the reporters who do the best writing or replace their regular column in your publication with advertising.  You stop printing books on the topics I find interesting (if you even print books at all).  You trade my favorite players for cheaper ones, even though it doesn’t help the team.  You “improve” the products I have been buying for years, but in doing so make them less effective or desirable to me. And when I call or write you to ask for help inquire about service and support, you ignore me or outsource my question to someone who doesn’t care. 

Its not for lack of trying on my part.  I fill out all the surveys you send. I send letters to the editor to highlight great work.  I blog about my favorite things.  I scream and yell in support at events, and at the television when I can’t be there in person.  I speak for work regularly, and mention you often.  I give interviews, and use you as examples.  I tell you exactly what I want.  I tell anyone who will listen what I love about you.  And I let you, and everyone else, know when you are in the wrong — and more importantly, things you can do to improve.

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What do I get in return?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Bupkus.

I understand why you act this way.  Your only goal is to make money.  You don’t really care about me as a member of your audience or as a customer.  You don’t care about the world I live in, or the people around me.  You just care what I do.  I am a nameless, faceless sale or donation.  I am part of your fan base, but my individual preferences don’t matter.  The only time I matter is when I am part of a large enough group that does something so you can make you a healthy profit.

Sadly, in most cases, you aren’t making money.  I know why that is too — because you aren’t doing a good job anymore. I am not the only one who can’t find the products they like anymore.  I am not the only one who doesn’t find what you print as compelling or relevant as I once did.  I am not the only one who feels there are better ways to spend my time and money than dealing with your organization. 

Wouldn’t it make more sense to make your audience happy?  Isn’t the easiest way to get more people to buy things (thus resulting in revenue for you), spend more time (thus resulting in deeper loyalty to you), or tell their friends (thus resulting in greater awareness for what you do) about what you do be to offer things that people want to buy, enjoy, and talk about?  The answer to that is yes.

I assure you, I want to buy your products, watch your shows, donate to your charities, read your articles, and attend your events.  I have money to spend, I have time to devote, I have interests to serve.  Please, please stop serving your own interests and trying to pad your bottom line at my expense.  Please, please listen to me, observe my preferences, and offer the things that I am asking for.  Its not as hard as you think to please me, and millions of people in your audience and customer base just like me.

Thank you for listening.  If you ever want to talk directly I am always willing and if you have any questions I am more than happy to answer them.

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Sincerely,

Brian Reich
Cambridge, Massachusetts