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The first time I heard the phrase “product propensity” was when a vendor was trying to sell me a matrix mailing system. That’s when you send new members a series of letters informing them of the next product they should have – based on their product propensity study.

On the surface it sounds like a great idea.  I guess where I have a problem with it is this. At some time in everyone’s life, you need what we sell.  Our products are commodities. It would be like my dry cleaner sending me a nice letter saying: “We noticed you brought in a jacket to have it cleaned, did you know that we clean pants too? Bring us your pants. We’ll clean them.” knows what propensity means – an inclination to behave in a particular way. Amazon doesn’t sell things we need. They sell things we want. And they make money when they help consumers make purchase decisions.

Case in point. I went to Amazon this morning to pre-order Awkward Family Photos. According to their data base, people like me also buy Sh*t My Dad Says and Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong.

Do I need any of these books? No. Do I want them? Maybe. Did they help me buy more – cross sell – absolutely. They are on to my propensities. They also don’t stalk me (call me or send me unwanted mail). They simply place it out there for me to find – I have to opt in.

“Marketing is not a campaign, it’s a commitment.”

Joseph Jaffe

We don’t sell funny books. We move people’s money. That’s a lot more serious. It’s a real commitment. And like any relationship, it requires time and trust before I’m going to give over everything.  So stop sending me your letters adorned with shiny happy people pushing me-too-products and start paying attention to my needs.

You may need to sell more credit cards, but seriously, I don’t need or want another one. I have a propensity to buy too many books. You should know that by now.

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April 2010