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Why you need to humanize one email notification for your business today

It seems like right now the bar has been set so low by numerous companies that the difference between making it and not making it can be learning how to show the human side of your brand. At the end of the day that is one of the strongest connections every business has with its’ customers; our humanity. As a top website development company, today we wanted to share our thoughts on why you need to humanize one email notification for your business today if you want to make an impactful, lasting connection to the people who interact with you.

Listening to the Titans

The concept behind this post comes from author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans. In this book, he takes the information shared by billionaires, icons, and other titans from his business interview podcast The Tim Ferriss Show.

Two of his interviewees mentioned a similar concept about how the idea of humanizing a contact point provided a lasting impact, so much so that they mentioned it in their interviews. That idea is worth exploring and sharing as virtually any business can benefit from it.

Humanizing in Less than 15 Minutes

While he might not be a household name for many, Alexis Ohanian is the co-founder of both Reddit and Hipmunk along with being a digital rights activist and best-selling author. In Tools of Titans, he talks about an error message they created on Hipmunk.

Hipmunk is a travel booking website and one of the more amusing messages that they created is when a user is booking a trip and puts a return date that is before the departing date. A message then pops up stating, “We don’t support trips to the past yet.”

Ohanian noted quite emphatically about the power of that connection. People still tweet about that error message four years later which he feels is because of the human connection and giving users a moment of humor during what is typically a very boring interaction between customer and business. His point is that the time it takes to inject something so simple is minimal; 15 minutes at best compared to the time it takes to code the whole page, and really just requires that you actually give a damn about the people your business is interacting with. That is the idea behind humanizing one email.

Making People Smile

A similar concept was shared by Derek Sivers, the creator of CD Baby. CD Baby was an early internet success created in 1997 that became the largest seller of independent music on the web.

Part of his business genius has been not following the status quo. He also feels strongly about making people smile. These two thoughts combined a few months after CD Baby launched and he took about 20 minutes to re-write the automated email that let a customer know when the purchased CD was actually shipped.

The email was completely silly and goofy (and humanizing):

“Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.”

The full email can be read here on Sivers’ website, but that snippet reflects the silly side of Sivers. What was the result of that goofiness? Not only did it spread and earn the business thousands of new customers, but it is still a force online 20 years later.

If you perform a web search for “private CD Baby Jet”, which is the method mentioned in the email for the CD transportation, you will still find thousands of citations and links. In 2011 there were over 20,000 citations about an email written a decade prior.

The lesson to be learned is that it isn’t always the big things that get people talking. You don’t always have to be the business creating the most amazing, awe-inspiring concept or idea. In some cases, the tiny details can make a big enough impact with people that they then want to share it with their friends because it made them smile or laugh as your business showed its human side.

The Bottom Line

Not everyone will be able to replicate the success of CD Baby or Hipmunk, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It isn’t hard to humanize one email notification. Set aside a half an hour today and review some of your contact points with customers from email notifications like order confirmations and subscription confirmation or consider some of the messaging on your website. Think about where you might be able to add a small about of humor and levity that will make someone smile.

You need to humanize one email notification for your business or one interaction point on your website because it shows that your business actually cares; which is an important part of building trust in a brand. At the end of the day that is something, all of us share – our humanity.


Be sure to check back every week for great new Lounge Lizard blog articles.


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