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Start The Startup™

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MYOB: When targeting goes too far.

Shutterfly 5/14 email to customers

Today Shutterfly accidentally sent a highly targeted email out to a (much) larger group  than intended.  “Congratulations,” it said,  “There’s nothing more amazing than bringing a new life into the world.”  I chuckled at the message because of the irony.  My own “new arrivals” are now 8 and 10.  Being played out today on social media, the happy Shutterfly message could be ironic, painful, funny or insensitive, depending on the personal circumstances of the recipient.   Moms dealing with infertility, babies in NICU, single moms, estranged dads.  As a sympathetic marketing person whose at least once in their career hit the ”SEND” button too soon, I felt bad for the unintentional damage it did.  OK, so let’s pretend Shutterfly had sent this email to the right group instead of the wrong group of people.  Does that make the message smart?   I’d say not.  Regardless of today’s technology in data mining, traffic stats, and cookies, we still cannot over-assume.  We run the danger of projecting our own definition of how life should be, a dangerous slippery slope.   “Now’s the time to send out thank you notes,”  with a “tip” that thank you notes are better late than never.  Excuse me?   Startups, VCs and marketers aggressively look for the “pain points” as market opportunities but rarely are these REAL human pain points.  As entrepreneurs and marketers, it’s better not to “go there.”   Let the customer go there, and you can help them out, good times and bad.  People don’t need to be told what’s important in their lives.  They already know.



Cathy Bennett is an entrepreneur, product launch veteran, and avid coffee drinker from the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Communications and earned her MBA in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame. After 15 years in corporate marketing, Cathy launched her own startup in 2007. Despite being a small-new-online-bootstrapped company, Cathy took an aggressive, hands-on approach telling the story of her company. It was compelling enough to get the attention of the Today Show, Martha Stewart, Parents’ Magazine,, Daily Candy, and PC Magazine, amongst others. Her use of social media was featured by Facebook Corporate as a “Best Practice” for its engaging use of Facebook pages. She sold her company in 2011, joing on to leading new initiatives in product launch, PR and social media for the parent company’s New York-based operation. Before her startup, Cathy was involved with corporate product launches for large companies like Ford (U.S. Launch Manager for Jaguar and Land Rover brands), Nissan (Product Manager for Infiniti’s QX4 and I30), and spearheaded Lincoln’s audio licensing partnership with THX/Lucasfilm. Cathy started Start The Startup™ to share her best practices in product launch and PR for small startups looking to attract some high quality attention.