Growing up, I wasn’t a pet owner.  I had a tank full of tropical fish for a period of time, but they’re more like museum pieces than pets; their interactivity level is pretty low and unless you’re operating a tank professionally, they’re likely not to be particularly…long lived.

I say this because I married into pets.  In fact, today’s my ninth wedding anniversary and on the occasion of the second date with my wife, I went to pick her up and when I rang the doorbell, my ears were greeted by an ear-splitting cacophony of barking.  Unsure what greeted me on the other side of the door, I braced myself and met…them.

Cassidy and Bailey; two golden retrievers who I was told later that had I not passed their muster wouldn’t have garnered me a third date.  They licked and loved their way into my heart and became an ever present fixture, even marching down the aisle at our wedding.  Stoned out of their minds on allergy meds to keep them from being their exuberant, loving, distracted saying hello to everyone selves, but they were a fun tandem to have along for the ride.

We lost Bailey in May of 2010; she was thirteen, I think.  This past December, we lost Cassidy.  With both, they had been patients of VCA in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  The staff loved them and when they passed, we wanted them to handle their remains and cremation.  The people there could not have been any kinder or sensitive; willing to give us all the time we wanted or needed with them to say goodbye.  I mean, really compassionate.  And they get major props for it.  They send us a sympathy card with Cassidy’s paw print.  Did I say they have a clue?

Yesterday, in the mail, we got mail from VCA.  It was presumably sent by corporate, likely pulling from their database for customers who’ve not been in for a while.  You can see it for yourself:

VCA Mailer for dead pet

VCA Mailer for services for our deceased pet. We’d like to see her again, too.


Now, I completely understand that campaigns sometimes take a while to run.  You pull a list, you print, you mail.  But their systems internally put HUGE notes and color changes everywhere (I’ve seen the screens) when a pet dies to tell the people behind the counter, “This is one mistake you don’t want to make with the pet owner asking about [insert name of deceased pet].”

But she died in early December; it’s now late January.  I don’t know when the list was pulled, maybe they did it the day before we brought her in for the last time.  But it doesn’t change the feelings that people get when they get this and it strikes a discordant note.

Now, not every campaign we send is to someone who has recently lost a loved one or pet.  It’s rarely life and death and that close and personal, but think of the feeling it creates with their customers.  We brought her there, the people locally knew it, but at a corporate level, somebody misfired, and badly, and has created this feeling of a disconnected organization that if they can’t keep track of the pets we’ve had with them, why would we want to take our newest addition there?

The lesson to be learned here is that those lists need to be combed and watched constantly.  If you run a campaign, check your bounces and unsubscribes.  If your sales team are adding new people into your CRM or other sales tracking process, make sure they tell marketing so those addresses are added and/or removed based on their activity.  As new customers or vendors are added that bypass the regular marketing channels, make sure they are added as well.  Clean lists are the lifeblood of a company’s campaign successes and insure that the time and message aren’t wasted on the non-existent or unreachable or uninterested.

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