Win enemies with a really annoying marketing plan!

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

Have you received the following phone call in which a recording of a hyper-sounding woman says to you,
“Hi, this is Marcia, and you know, I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard from you…”?
There is a note of surprised reprimand in her voice, as though you’ve made a goof, a rude error in not having telephoned her.
She then goes onto explain that you were supposed to call her to get a better rate on your home mortgage.

ARGGGH!

Who came up with this as a marketing plan? What dodo thought anyone would be taken in by this woman’s insinuation that you’ve been rather foolish and gauche not to have called her up?

What makes it really fun for us is that we don’t even own the home we live in! We’re lowly renters. But Marcia doesn’t care. She forgot to look into that before sending us this automated recording.

There are 3 things wrong with this very dumb attempt at marketing the generic mortgage company in question.

1) I immediately hang up the phone when a recording starts playing. If someone has something important to tell me, they can take the time to phone me in person.
2) The fact that I don’t have a mortgage adds to my annoyance of being subjected to a mass-marketed message that is hinging on the hope that I might fall into their targeted demographic.
3) The tone of voice the person speaks in seems specially designed to elicit an irritated emotional response from the listener.

Does the generic mortgage company honestly envision me saying,
“Oh my gosh, how stupid of me…I totally forgot to phone Marcia! Heavens! I have to correct this at once by finding a pencil to write down the phone number and then hurriedly call her back so she won’t be insulted by my neglect! I really hope I haven’t hurt her feelings. She sounds hurt. What a fool I’ve been!”?

There’s a lesson in this for small business owners who are trying to get the word out about their brand. That lesson is:
Don’t be generic and don’t be annoying.

Where do we see this in the on-line world of trying to market your small business?

Link Request Emails
As you probably know by now, link exchange request emails have fallen into disfavour over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, they are still showing up in our inbox, and probably are in yours, too. Here’s a sample:

Hi,
I’ve noticed that you haven’t added a link to our website on your website, www.flowers.com. I will give you three days to add a link to me. If you fail to do this, I will remove the link I’ve placed to your site on mine at www.washingmachine.com. You must have overlooked the fact that we’d make good link partners and that this will help both of our Google rankings.

This request (which is an amalgamation of various weird link requests we’ve gotten) commits the errors of being both generic and annoying. Laying down the law by telling the other person you’re giving them a time limit is bossy and rude. Additionally, if the sender took half a moment to look at my flowers.com website, they would realize it wouldn’t make any sense for us to link to a washing machine company. They are clearly just sending out these requests to any site they can find, without thought or care.

A better plan
If you sincerely desire a one-way or reciprocal link from another business, offer to do something useful for them. The big guys simply offer money in exchange for one-way links. What can you, the more humbly circumstanced small business owner, offer? Could you write an article about the other company’s topic and give it to them, including a link back to you? Could you write a great review of them, send it to them, form a real relationship with the owner and have that lead naturally to a link or two coming your way? Is there something on your website that is going to be of helpful service to the other guy’s users. (i.e. “I thought your customers who buy contact lenses might find my study on conjunctivitis to be helpful”). If the link is really going to be of value, you need to make the effort to educate yourself about the other guy and figure out something to offer them that will actually be worthwhile for them. Today’s Internet is all about building relationships, as has always been the case in the traditional business world.

Blog Spamming
Our blog is new, and our readership is still quite small (though greatly valued!). Perhaps I should be grateful for anyone who tries to post a comment here, but I really cannot work up any thankfulness for link droppers. I find numerous comments in my moderation cue that look like this:

I wrote something about this same subject on my website at www.blahblahblah.com. Come read it!

In general, these links do not point to anything remotely SEO/web related which makes it rather an obvious joke, but there is another class of silly people who actually do leave somewhat related links to things, but that is all they leave. They aren’t contributing anything but an advertisment for themselves. This is selfish behaviour and does not win you fans. Blog authors who moderate their comments catch on and hit delete. You cannot be generic and selfish in the blogosphere.

A better plan
If there is a blogging community related to your industry (and there likely is), become involved. Be a real contributor. Take interest in what your colleagues are saying. Comment on their posts in a way that makes the conversation better, deeper, more informative or more fun. When you have built up credibility within the community, no one is going to growl at you for occasionally including a link to something of genuine value in your comments. In point of fact, this type of interaction enriches the community. In the SEO/web community, people do this all the time (i.e. “I really liked your study of this. Did you read what Matt said about this? Here’s a link”) or, even (“I just completed a survey in my town on this subject. The results were kind of interesting. You can read them on my blog”).

No one is going to mind this type of link dropping, because while it does serve to bring people to your website, ultimately, the purpose of it is to be a contributor to the conversation. Again, today’s Internet is about building relationships. Being a valued member of a community you care about is the opposite of being generic or annoying.

In conclusion, the aggravating marketing plan of the mortgage company illustrates for us that even big budget companies make bad choices when it comes to promoting their brand. While some traffic will always come in randomly, by the throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall attempt of hoping that if you go at things in a generic way someone out there will respond, this really isn’t a very concrete strategy. Rather, finding your user base and taking the time to reach out, specifically, to them is a much smarter way to go about building credibility. You can’t fake this, and any attempt to do so may have the unwelcome result of creating enemies instead of customers.

Believe me, if I had a mortgage, I would not be calling ‘Marcia’s’ company. The impression their sales pitch created on me is the exact opposite of what they are trying to achieve, and they’ve missed a genuine opportunity to win my trust in a way that could come into play one day when I’m ready to buy that house!

2 Responses to “Win enemies with a really annoying marketing plan!”

  1. on 12 Apr 2007 at 2:27 pm Bill

    Funny, Marcia just called me about ten minutes ago, and I hung up on her recording. She’s on the East coast and the West coast. (I’m not kidding). I don’t have a mortgage, either.

    Excellent points on blog spamming. There are better approaches that many companies can take.

  2. on 12 Apr 2007 at 9:13 pm admin

    No way, Bill! She must be EVERYWHERE!

    It just is not fun to get those pre-recorded messages on the telephone. I wonder who thought this would be a good idea.

    The sad thing is that, from studies I’ve read, it is often the elderly that fall victim to less-than-above-board sales campaigns like this. I know my grandparents were always becoming confused by attempts to sell them things. It makes me suspect the quality of the product/service if the rep isn’t just willing to be straight about their sales pitch.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only person Marcia has targeted, and thank you for stopping by, Bill!
    Miriam

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