Lessons from the Umbrella Salesman

It’s a fascinating phenomenon here in New York City. As soon as it starts raining, there magically appears on nearly every street corner a gentleman selling umbrellas. When the sun is out, these men are no where to be seen. They must be lurking somewhere, watching the seismic reports. As soon as the drops hit the sidewalk, you can hear calls of “Uuuhhmmmbrellllaaaa’s” and see them hawking their wares.

My reaction is one of respect and gratitude. They are there exactly when we need them, and no more. Your email program could take a lesson from these entrepreneurs. When subscribers are in market, send them more email that speaks to their specific needs. When they are not in market, don’t send as much email.

When are subscribers in market? They are in market for an umbrella in a rain shower, for a competitive quote when their policy is up for renewal, for a new suit or personal trainer when they meet a match online, for coaching around a job change, and for a sweater when they’ve just bought a pair of pants.

How do subscribers tell us they are in market? By their self reported data certainly,but also by behavior. Just as they are defenseless in a downpour, your best opportunity for a positive response is when they clicked on a relevant link, just made a purchase, just joined your file, visited your preference center or recently browsed your website.

Focusing on these opportunities can go a long way toward creating a compelling experience for subscribers all the time and not just when their needs are highest. It’s hard to be relevant every week, especially if you sell something that is rarely purchased like furniture or a highly considered purchase like software installations. Therefore, your weekly messages can be utilized best to focus on relationship building, with a bit of selling in the sidebar. Consider that talking about great romantic restaurants sells matchmaking or how to spruce up a room for the season sells pillows and accessories (and tables and couches). When your subscribers are in market, respectfully meet their needs by directly presenting the benefits of your products and services.

Who knew rainy weather was such a great time for email best practices!

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