September 25, 2019

CD Baby's legendary confirmation email

Harry Dry @harrydry

Back in 1998, when Derek Sivers started CD Baby, their order confirmation email was the regular: “Your order has shipped today. Thank you for your business.”

But for Derek, this generic email felt at odds with CD Baby’s mission of putting smiles on faces. So he spent 20 minutes writing out something a bit more creative (see image)

Not only did it succeed in putting smiles on faces, people were so enamoured that they flocked to music forums and personal blogs to share the email. This led to discussion after discussion about CD Baby, plenty of valuable backlinks, and in Derek's words: “thousands of new customers.”

In fact, if you run an exact search on Google for “private CD Baby jet,” you’ll see just over 2000 search results. That’s how many different sites have copied out Derek’s email.

Companies like to think that a “better product” is always the answer. Sometimes, 20 minutes of creative writing can be far more effective. To quote Derek:

It’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts and come up with world-changing massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you.

If you found this useful, I write about real world marketing examples (like this one) over on marketingexamples.com. Any questions, I'll be in the comments :)

p.s. - Derek Sivers on the podcast would be carnage.

  1. 3

    p.s. - Derek Sivers on the podcast would be carnage.

    We've talked, but he's hard to book! Very guarded about his time. One day, though.

    1. 1

      Yeah, I can imagine.

      He spends a hell of a lot of time replying to emails. It would in my head "make sense" to give his wisdom to 100,000 in one swoop.

      But I guess Derek thinks differently to most.

  2. 2

    I'll be the voice of dissent here. I don't like the email, because at it's heart is a lie, and the email reeks of disingenuousness. Sure, it's a funny lie, a creative lie, even a lie the audience is in on. But it's still a lie, and it's flirting with making fun of the customer: You think you're so important? We stopped our entire business to take care of your single CD order. But not really, because that's ridiculous. We actually just threw the CD in the mail with thousands of others, and you're actually not special after all.

    As a customer, what I find much more impressive is a business actually going out of its way to do something amazing for a customer. Going above and beyond to rectify a customer service issue. Comping some product just to say "thanks". Taking the time to really walk me through an issue I'm having rather than reading from a script. Whatever. But not just pretending to be impressive. Talk is cheap.

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      Interesting take. I read it as just an entertaining story meant to make people smile.

    2. 2

      This might have worked 20-odd years ago when the internet was new and people didn't really know how marketing worked in this new medium. So it's hard to read it today without a cynical voice in your head - back then it might have been considered funny and original.

    3. 2

      I take onboard what you're saying. Couple of points:

      This was back in 1998. Back at that time emails like this were much rarer. We've got accustomed to this type of copy over time.

      CD Baby did actually do stuff as well so this email kind of fit their whole vibe. For instance they had a policy where if you ever requested anything from them they'd go out their way to add it to the package. One time a customer requested "a small rubber squid" and they found it and included it in their package. The story is here => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCIXkbfgR6g

      1. 0

        I get what you're saying. I think that I'd have a similar reaction to this way back in 1998, but maybe I'm not the usual target market for this kind of email copy.

        It would certainly go a long way though if the company backed up their talk with action.

  3. 1

    Thanks for reminding me about this. I've added a ToDo to improve SaaSHub's emails' copy!

    1. 1

      Nice one! I always like to write it then read it in the morning with fresh eyes!

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