Spray and pray

I know how customers feel when a bank rings them up out of the blue to sell them a credit card. Most of the time it is annoying.

I know this because I am subject to multiple emails and phone calls a day from people who wish to do business with the bank. Because my contact details are transparently available here and elsewhere, I am particularly subject to this, but excepting volume, I doubt I am exceptional.

Actually, these calls can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. There have been occasions when I’ve been called or emailed by someone or other, and it just  happened to be the right time and place for some business to be done. I love it when that happens, so I pretty much make sure to keep as many doors open as possible.

But what I find challenging is the faux-personalisation some people use. For example, the other day, I got an email from a recruiter. They had obviously just added my name to a general spray about a candidate they were trying to pitch. "Capital Risk Project Manager" would probably be someone of interest to a group somewhere in the bank, but is obviously not going to be an inherent part of any innovation agenda.

This is the Spray and Pray approach. Send out lots and lots of emails and pray that one of them hits the mark.

So I called up this recruiter and told them to stop spamming me.

Now here is the interesting part. When I called him on his indiscriminate spraying of CVs, he told me I’d been specifically targeted as someone who would be interested in candidates of this kind. What he meant, really, was that they were being careful to target bank people. But that, of course, isn’t good enough, because not all bank people are going to be bank innovation people. The only kind that would be relevant to me.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to convince this recruiter that what he was doing was in any way inappropriate – after all he’d personalised the email with my name so of course it wasn’t spam.

All I managed was to get off the mailing list, which was obviously extensive. So extensive, in fact, that there’d been no opportunity to do any research at all about me.  Even though my details – in fact, even the details of many of my people – are all over the Internet and the simplest of Google searches would have returned stuff that would have made those emails valuable to me.

It takes me a lot of time to deal with my emails and calls every day, and I read every single one that arrives. I refuse to use those clever rules that people have – if it is me on the CC line, file automatically – because I prefer to trust that there was a point to being sent the email in the first place.

But I have to process email on the Tube to work every day just to keep up, and most of the time I can’t respond to everything I want to. So I really appreciate it when people make the effort to optimise those communications.

For me, something a bit personal builds my trust that what you’re saying will be worthwhile. And when I write my emails back, they will also be a bit personal in exchange. I never use canned text.

The difficulty with all this is that it doesn’t work for Spray and Pray. So, in other words, if you want to get some kind of relationship going, don’t.

So I now propose a litmus test that may be a useful diagnostic with respect to a particular relationship banking strategy. Does your bank ever Spray and Pray? Because if you do, your strategy is about sizing up the odds of a hit, quite like a gambler on the horses. That’s the kind of relationship I’d expect from someone way, way less respectable than a bank.

2 Responses to“Spray and pray”

  1. June 13, 2008 at 6:14 pm #

    Great post. This is why I tend to talk about “extreme personalization” where the decisions involved are also targeted and personalized, not just the presentation.
    James Taylor
    Author, with Neil Raden,of Smart (Enough) Systems.

  2. Sam
    June 16, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    I’m hoping you didn’t think my email to you late last week was “spray & pray”…….I’m still waiting on a response!

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