I’m a big fan of Ken Magill.  I like his irreverent style and that he has the cajones to name names and call stupid stupid.

So, I’m kind of torn with this post, but being an irreverent guy I’m sure he can take it as much as he dishes it out.  And, I have to thank him for the inspiration of this post.  🙂  I could have razzed him at his column, but if I’m going to write something, why not do it here?

What was it he wrote that inspired me, you ask?  eWayDirect Unveils Reengagement Tool 

The Press Release-cum-Blog Post opens, “eWayDirect has developed marketing technology designed to drive sales from customers who abandon e-commerce Websites without making a purchase, the e-mail service provider recently announced.”

The keyword above is “abandon”, but wait, I’m not finished yet….  Remember, the article was about eWayDirect’s new “Reengagement Tool”.

Um, didn’t we used to call this triggering an abandoned order program?  From the five paragraphs of the benefits of an Abandon Order Program, there isn’t anything in there that speaks to any exciting new technology. 

What technological improvements does the eWayDirect Reengagement Tool bring to the basic principles of identifying a user abandoning an order and then sending them an email?  Is it something magic that just happens?  Does the organization using this feature no longer have to supply customer and event information to the vendor to trigger an abandoned order email – excuse me, “reengagement” email?  Is it some sort of double blind post that posts abandon order information to the organization and the vendor when the user leaves the site?

We don’t know.  I guess that wasn’t in the Press Release.

Nope, what we got was basically another term for a common tactic….

(A quick aside for a cheap plug and extra ribbing: Hey Ken, if I send you a press release for MissVeniceBeach.com Ladies Fashions and Swimwear, will you run it?  After all, we use double opt-in, but we call it “e-subscriber click verification”!)

Renaming commonly known terms takes me back to a life before GUI hit the Web.  Once upon another time I sold RF Communications including two-way radios.  RFPs could never call out a specific product, but anyone in the business could usually tell what product manufacturers were in at the specification stage.  If it was spec’d to your line of products that made it a little easier for you.  If it was spec’d to your competitor you had to work extra hard to show that your equipment met all of the same standards and the rest was semantics.

I’d worked for Motorola and independant dealers of EF Johnson – the two biggest players in the space “back in the day”.  Anyway, working for the dealers was fun as it didn’t have the more rigid structure of the big “M”, and we could do more “creative” things. 

One of my favorite creative things was appending model numbers with the initials of my dealership when competing with other dealers and then playing games.  Sometimes I’d come in with a radio at the same price I knew my competition would quote, but with a bigger battery, and other times come in with the base model a little cheaper, always informing the buyer that there was something about that appended model number that was “special” and the competition didn’t know it or didn’t have access to it.

Between RF Communications and the Web, I spent some time in the surveillence industry, with some of that time working for manufacturers.  We sold through dealer networks, as most manufacturers at the time did.  We couldn’t sell direct, and someone had to install it anyway, but we’d get in at the beginning of the project and actually write the specifications and the RFP for the buyer.  They didn’t have to do the work, and we made sure that our equipment was embedded in the spec. 

You might ask, “How could you do that?  I thought you said RFPs can’t name a specific product.” 

Well, I’m glad that you asked!

Although the RFP could not call out a specific product by name it could call out specific terms, and we’d use some key proprietary terms.  For example, surveillence cameras have to synchronize with recording devices and other cameras.  The RFPs would include our proprietary term for synchronization.  It was all semantics….  This was all really common practice and probably still is in many industries today.  Nothing exciting or leg-breaking about it. 

So WTF does this have to do with email, Ken Magill, and eWayDirect?

Again, I’m glad that you asked!

For starters, the Surveillence manufacturers I worked for often sent out press releases boasting our “advanced” semantics.  We at least went to the effort of embellishing as to why our synchronization was better or more stable, or whatever, when the only difference was the words that we used to describe the same thing.  We weren’t so lazy as to state the obvious, like, “People who record events have more retention that those who just view events”.

When we’d send out those press releases we’d often have the publications we’d send them to call us and question whether we really had something different or were just playing semantics for some free PR. 

In the end, I don’t know if eWayDirect really has some new and exciting technology, or are just playing word games.  If it’s truly something new, I’d like to learn more about it.  If it’s just semantics, well, you decide….