I’m feeling nostalgic today so I decided to name today’s blog post Knock Three Times on the Ceiling if You Want Me, after Tony Orlando & Dawn‘s super single that sold sold six million copies. But this is about marketing and not about adult contemporary pop songs (I was recently reminded that this is a marketing blog and not an American pop music of the 1970s blog. But, as I sat down to write this post, the first thing that came to mind was knock three times.
The biggest mistake that marketers make is that they don’t knock three times. Let me explain.
You’re feeling a little nervous right now, aren’t you? You really hate receiving unsolicited snail mail and email at all, don’t you. You’re feeling your inner Hippocrates: primum non nocere, do no harm. However, persistence is always rewarded.
First, let me assure you: people are a lot more tolerant of unsolicited email than they used to be as recently as five years ago. A decade ago, when I started marketing online, email as well as snail mail marketing was a mine field, a mind field.
Today, the field has been reclaimed. The noose was too tight. Too much good mail was going to /dev/null— the effective null device of email is the spam folder. While spam isn’t gone immediately, too few mail users habitually check their spam folders within the 30-days they’re typically held before being deleted. And then, Gmail has built in mail tabs: Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.
So, whether you’re selling or marketing something to a double opt-in email list or your prospecting to people you’ve never met before, always be sure to make the offer at least three times (and no more than four).
Knock three times but don’t rudely hammer the ceiling like a madman
Please don’t send out the same email three times. That’s just poor form. I unintentionally make that mistake too often myself because I do the thing they tell you not to: don’t push the button more than once when sending. I make my double email mistakes via Contactually, but that’s on me. When I am doing a big outreach, I both make sure I am doing it mostly by hand — semi-automatic — but I also put myself into a stultified trance. Email marketing demands constant vigilance (more about all this next week, my mea maxima culpa blog post).
Yes, knock three different times but in three different ways
If you don’t understand how to follow up two or three times on an initial email or snail mail marketing or sales pitch, think about how you feel after you sent out all those wedding invitations, right? Or, if you’re more of a single urban sophisticate, then the invitations you send out for your Salons and dinner parties.
Not passive-aggressive jerk-faces
Sending out invitations without receiving the sort or RSVP response that you desire or expect can drive someone insane. We all know that maybe means no and that yes can mean no, too. However, the vast majority of people who don’t respond aren’t being passive-aggressive jerk-faces — they’re just too busy just then or they’re waiting on someone else’s feedback or they had such good intentions … until they totally spaced out. The majority have totally spaced out. The majority of everyone is spaced out, situationally.
JL Racing‘s got a posse
Recently, JL Racing did a brilliant job of this over the 4th of July weekend. They launched a store-wide 20% off discount code, JULY4THAGANZA, early, on July 29th, and they shut it all down at midnight, July 4. They sent me both an initial email on the 29th and a follow up at 9:03AM on the morning of Independence Day. They also posted a couple supporting Facebook posts also sharing the JULY4THAGANZA discount code.
So, by Tuesday, I had been touched four times — 4 knocks — resulting in my ordering a very roomy black 2XL unisuit from them. What’s a unisuit? Well, I called them rowing singlets when I rowed heavyweight eight sweeps in college and I called them wrestling singlets when I wrestled in college (the British call a singlet any tanktop, especially sport-related but can include the un-PC “wife beater”).
Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick boom
Not only did JL Racing remind me via all the platforms I actively followed them on that there was a sale but they also reminded me that it was time-limited and that, while they were giving me some extra time at the front-end, they were shutting it down at the strike of twelve midnight on the 4th. So, while they gave me a pretty generous runway on which to land, they also make sure I knew that I needed to hit the brakes at some point or lose my opportunity.
There was no doubt when the “wedding” was happening, when we were “sitting down” for dinner at the dinner party. And, as the time slipped away, they became insistent. Not rudely but just enough to make sure I knew they if I showed up at the wedding not having RSVP’d by the date required, I would not be welcome. That, were I to show up at the dinner party, someone else would be seated instead of me. That I would be missing out, not because of anything JL Racing did — they did their best — but because of my lack of action, my failure to indicate.
Even I knock three times on the ceiling if I want you
Me? I don’t have a mailing list, I don’t have any MailChimps, I am not double opt-in. When I reach out it’s either as a though leader or as a PR pitcher. Mostly, cold-calls. But even I ask three times. I send an initial email which is very clear, very simple, completely in plaintext, and clearly Subjected with exactly what the ask, the pitch, the request, and the email is about (about which we’re always clear).
The second email generally it Subjected with “Following up on my last email,” which is exactly right. And, I don’t want my second email to get lost in the threading of the first, which can happen in most new email platforms, especially Google Mail / Gmail.
In general, we start off, “I know how busy you are and you know how email can be” and/or “last week I reached out to you but haven’t heard back,” something like that. And then, in even shorter form, we try to convey the same message as before just in case the first email never reached the recipient, for whatever reason.
The final email is again subjected differently, My final attempt” or “This is my last try,” or somesuch. This email generally states that there will not be a fourth email coming down the pike (for this campaign, anyway) and that you’ve either
- done an amazing job of ignoring me
- are really busy and never got around to responding and here’s your final chance (and that reason works because if you reach out three times, recipients often finally believe that you’re serious, akin to knocking three times at the door of Judaism to prove to the Rabbi that you are, in fact, truly interested in converting) or
- I’ve finally sent an email that has outwitted your SPAM filter and this last, most brief, most plaintext, least spammy email of all has finally gotten past your robot AI gatekeepers and this is the first time you’re really seeing my message — any and all of which work for me.
At the end of the day, no matter how or why, someone over here at Gerris will be there for your reply. No bots but Chris, Dan, Nina, or someone else at the ready in the Inbox.
So, don’t be shy. Think of every email, marketing, sales, or PR campaign as if it were your wedding. There’s a wedding date and you need to get all your friends and relatives (and all the flaky friends and relatives of the enfianced) to line up and commit to coming well before you need to know because it all comes down to money, resources, logistics, and planning.
How aggressive were you before your sacred event, be it your wedding or some other planned event? Did you regret not being more aggressive; did you regret your lack of persistence? Well, use your lessons learned from this post and from your past events on the Sacrament of Marketing: “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7).