Is your inbound marketing a “Stage Five Clinger”?

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Are you getting deluged with web marketing content that doesn’t relate to your job or interests? I know I am. A case in point, I recently signed up to use an online handyman referral service for a small job at my house. I needed some gravel spread in my driveway and my lower back was telling me “pay the man”! The referral service was free for me, but the small businesses that are referred pay for the sales lead. After signing up, I was barraged with phone calls and emails from a bewildering array of companies, including other referral services, all eager to sell to me.

Since I ditched my landline a few years ago, I had to give my mobile number as a contact point. The flurry of calls was so bad, I quit answering my phone after speaking with a couple of companies. One issue was that the referral service didn’t do a good job in qualifying my need. The referral service connected my lead with paving contractors, whereas what I really needed was someone with a wheelbarrow and a strong back.

Like a stage five clinger (someone that just won’t give up on you), there was an assumption made about my intentions. Web marketing has enabled this behavior, as the cost of connecting via email, phone and web is much less than the traditional method of person-to-person sales. Our inboxes and web pages are filled with marketing content, which is great when it actually helps you find deals on things you need,  but becomes an annoyance as the frequency and urgency of the message increases (“hurry, this deal won’t last”!). Even worse are the email subject lines that try to fool you into thinking that you have a relationship already by using tired corporate speak (“just checking in” or “touching base”). 

I’m not arguing against sales automation and web marketing, it’s more a matter of touch. Marketers need to have a light touch, lest they behave like stage five clingers. Digitalization holds out the promise of improving the relationship between companies and customers as I pointed out in my last blog “The Internet of …People”. So, here’s my recommendations for using digitalization to better connect customer needs with products and services:

  1. Do a really good job qualifying the customer need. This is not trivial and I am often surprised at how many sales people are just not good at this. The handyman service had a form on their website with pre-selected choices, which totally missed the scope of my request.
  2. Try to keep the customer journey in mind. Web ads for discretionary purchases like clothing or hobbies make sense because I may buy those things at any time. Web ads for industrial hardware that I was searching for last month doesn’t make any sense, I’ve already bought it.
  3. Don’t send emails that make your company look stupid or worse, desperate. When you send me an email with the disingenuous subject line or with content really doesn’t relate to my job or interests, you damage your company brand.

It’s interesting that despite all the ways that we are able to connect today, reports of people feeling lonely are increasing. As I was shoveling gravel in my driveway, I was reminded of one of my favorite movie quotes from Cool Hand Luke, “What we got here, is a failure to communicate”!

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