Michael Arrington has 2400+ unread emails in his inbox. And he needs someone to fix it.
If you are the person with the idea to save us all, send me an email and tell me all about it. Actually, strike that. Drop by my house and tell me all about it. I don’t want your message to get lost in my inbox.
Michael is looking for the email equivalent of a magic diet pill. He can’t change his behavior, so he needs a dietary supplement. The dieting-market is huge, and products succeed playing on that emotion for dieters. Is email management the same?
You’ve Got (Way Too Much) Mail
Are you completely overwhelmed with email? There are two fundamental ways to approach solving the problem of having too much email. The first is to change the way you work. The Getting Things Done people have all-but-formed a religion around changing how they work. A master-stroke for David Allen. But you – if you’re reading this, you already heard of GTD, and at least one of the (at least 92) companies that has developed products to make it easier for you to change. But apparently that didn’t work for you. Or Michael Arrington.
The best way to diet is to eat sensibly and get exercise. A well-balanced diet with more calories burned than consumed will make you lose weight. Steadily and sensibly. It always works, and it is “the right way to do it.” USA Today reported in 2005 that 62% of American adults are overweight. I am unwilling to believe that that stems from ignorance. People know how they should eat and exercise. They just don’t want to.
People with weight problems are perceived to desire a solution that does not require them to change their behavior. An odd diet, an arcane supplement, a magic pill. Something that lets them lose weight without changing their behavior. Or they try and change their behavior, but it just doesn’t stick.
Maybe that’s what happens to people who have lost control of their email. They try changing behavior, and that doesn’t work. And now they are looking for a magic pill.
No Pain, No Gain
Pain, in the market, translates to profits for the people who alleviate it. I attended Pragmatic Marketing’s product management training a couple years ago, and Barb Nelson presented a compelling argument for addressing pain in the market. She used Dr. Scholl’s shoe inserts as an example. Their products address people’s foot pain. They make for a great example for a traveling instructor because they are light and they pack flat. Maybe that’s why I remember them.
Before I attended that class, being an optimist, I was always looking for opportunities, not problems. I realized after listening to Barb that calling a problem an opportunity is fine when you want to motivate yourself to solve it. But when you want to motivate your customers to pay you to solve it, every opportunity looks better as a problem.
Michael sums it up well:
The volume of communication requests for most people today are far, far beyond what they can handle. Few people today respond to every communication they receive. And an increasing number don’t even claim to be able to read every communication they receive, let alone respond.
That is definitely pain.
As soon as you start imagining the ROI for solving this problem, you start thinking of lost opportunities, misunderstandings, past-due bills… There’s money to be saved by your customers. And therefore, money to be made. Email is so ingrained in the mass-consciousness now that you could sell people a solution based entirely on emotional appeal. The USA today article pointed out that being overweight has been a growing problem for decades. That problem has emotional roots too. The same type of message could work for email.
Get all the email you want. Respond to what you need to. And don’t worry about it. Keep using your current email solution, and watch your inbox dwindle away to nothing, shedding those excess mails overnight!
People’s desire to gain with no pain leads to your gain from their pain. In Spain. In the rain.
Design The Magic Email Pill
OK. So all we have to do now is design the magic email pill. Let’s see if brainstorming will work on a blog post.
In a comment, either
- Describe how email pain manifests for you. How does dealing with your email hurt? OR
- Describe a possible technology solution (feature, capability) that will help one of the pain points. OR
- Describe how you think about email and using your email system (which do you use). OR
- Describe how this problem has already been solved.
This is a fun topic to think about.