Do Marketers Always Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs?

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Why are we compelled to judge entire groups of people by the “worst” that group has to offer?

  • Hockey players are violent.
  • Public relations professional are spin-meisters.
  • New Yorkers are rude.
  • New Englanders are thrifty.
  • Southerners are, well, southern!

I think of this phenomenon often as the subject comes up frequently among my friends and peers – usually as it relates to their specific professions. As a member of three of the most widely hated groups known to man (lawyers, salesmen and SEOs), I see this sort of thing regularly. I can’t even go a few days without hearing a crass comment or a rude joke about one of my three roles. Thank heavens for my acting degree and my role as a father or I’d have developed a serious complex by now. But, I digress.

Yesterday, I read my friend Mark Schaefer’s excellent blog post about how much love and pride he has being in marketing, and how much he truly loves Marketing. I love it to!

And yet… I’d like to make the case for including marketers in the category of world-class gits.

The goose that laid the golden eggI cannot help but look around and see all the stuff we marketers have utterly and completely ruined in the name of marketing – or in the name of marketing results. The reality is we’ve effed up damn near everything we’ve ever touched – but ESPECIALLY the things that were scalable.

In short we have a terrible habit of killing off the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Just a few examples to support my case:

  • Email spam. Email spam is an impressive industry. As of 2010, 89% of all emails were spam. That’s 260 billion spam messages per day. Crazy. Of course email that’s targeted to the right person with the right message at the right time is less likely to be “perceived” as spam – but if it’s unsolicited, isn’t it still spam? You tell me. I know I’ve spammed people via email in search of results. Have you?
  • Junk Mail. Prior to screwing up email, we did everything in our power to screw up regular old mail. Experts estimate that over 71% of all mail is sent to prospects.  What’s worse, junk mail or email spam? You tell me. The amount of junk mail is down over the last several years, but that’s primarily due to the rise of Internet Marketing coupled with mailing preference services that serve as opt out systems for addressed and unsolicited mail.
  • Robocalls. Once again technology rears its ugly head. Political campaigns now have the ability to call more people in less than time than ever. So glad I got rid of my land line. I’ve received exactly no political phone calls this year. None.
  • Blog Comments. Marketers single-handedly killed off the utility of blog comments years ago by spamming blogs relentlessly with comments containing links back to their web sites. Why? Because Google valued those links in their search engine algorithm. The problem got so bad that Google responded by creating a new tag rel=nofollow and stopped counting links from within blog comment systems in their algorithm. A billions of spammers wept.
  • Blog posts. Until recent updates to Google’s algorithm, crappy content was able to get through the system and sometimes win the day and dominate for specific searches. It got so bad that some “internet marketers” used something known as article spinning software that could pump out dozens and dozens of the same article reworded enough to bypass Google’s filter. They would then use other software programs to submit these articles to hundreds of “article marketing” web sites. Ugh. This is marketing?
  • Infographics. Infographics have become the marketing tactic du jour, have they not? Let me be clear. A well-crafted infographic can convey more information, and do so more clearly and more elegantly than reams of data or narration. The problem is that the word is out that people love them, read them and link back to them (there’s that Google influence again). The end result? Piles and piles of infographic rubbish. Poorly designed, ill-thought-out pablum pumped out the same way articles were spun months ago. It’s amateur hour in the infographic world – and it PISSES ME OFF! Want an example? How about this blog post that was turned into an infographic. There is NO REASON for this infographic to exist. None. Write a damn blog post instead.
  • PR Pitches. If you’re a blogger, I can GUARANTEE you’ve seen them. Pitches so poorly targeted that my ten year old could have done a better job with an internet connection and a few hours. But is this marketing? I sure think it is. One of my favorite things is when my PR friends send me misaligned pitch emails with the caption “I hate PR people!” Hahaha!

spamI realize not all marketers are spammers, or engage in spamalicious activities. But we as a profession sure are in the habit of killing off the goose that lays the golden eggs! We move from one communication channel to the next destroying all good will with our prospective customers. Considering that track record, I find myself regularly sitting back in my chair and wondering what the f#$k? How is it have we come to this? How did we get here?

I think it’s a lack of empathy. Great marketers (and all great business leaders) have an ability to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and craft communication messages, in communication channels that RESONATE and have meaning. Devolving to spam tactics is equivalent to throwing up your hands and admitting you can’t actually do that. You’ve given up on creating a message that compels an action and jumped over to the other team – the team that relies on a .001% response rate to make money. A numbers game. A racket.

Why not instead commit to doing the incredibly HARD WORK that blows the numbers away. The work that requires crafting an original message that will resonate with your audience and creatively put that message in front of your prospects in a way that doesn’t feel spammy, invasive or creepy.

Who’s with me?

Images courtesy of lansingit, Tatiana12 and arnold | inuyaki via flickr creative commons.

Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, full service digital agency based in Chicago, Illinois. 312 digital provides high performing websites, SEO, content marketing and other online marketing services to small and medium sized businesses across the US. He speaks and blogs about SEO, content creation, social media and a number of other digital topics. Sean has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1998. You can find him on .

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45 comments
suzannecarawan
suzannecarawan

I'm not sure I'd say the issue is empathy....perhaps laziness. I think that marketers kill the golden goose and so few do the hard work because so few CAN do the hard work. I've found in the world of B2B marketing that most marketers are really good at copying, doing what's super safe and doing a little more than the minimum. It's a world of really solid B averages, khaki pants and white shirts...no one can say anything bad about you and everyone will consider you nice and reasonable.

 

You're right, organizations should do the hard work and find the messages that resonate. However, this assumes that organizations have really taken the time to figure out their customer and have taken the risk of putting out the message that really has impact instead of the one to which no one will object.

jan de graaf
jan de graaf

Well I don't mind it if I get spam. But some company's are just plain stupid. They will send you an Email 4 times on one day and some even more! When they do that i will immediately delete the email, if not I'm willing to read the email.

Latest blog post: tweedehands BMW

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

So when you look at your analytics and you see that the time spent on this blog post is out of control, it's because I read this on Tuesday, got interrupted and never closed it. Yes, it will be a 48 hour time spent on site number for you!

lauraclick
lauraclick

I think every industry has a faction of people who give the entire group as a whole a bad name. You're right - these are ugly tactics and people like you and me (the good guys!) fight against this every day. The sad thing is that so many businesses are jaded because they've been scammed by someone who did one of these things and now they are paying dearly for it. 

dbvickery
dbvickery

Hey, watch it with that Southern thing - of course, I'm sure you are excluding Texans, right?

 

I enjoyed this post throughout. I probably still feel most offended by robocalls, but email spam and junk mail definitely altered how we view our inbox/mailboxes. Somehow it also had the effect of SPAM filters that throw legitimate emails (like those from my company's domain) into SPAM, too. Go figure because we do not send out mass emails.

 

I am frustrated because we build these online relationships through sharing and engaging in both the blog posts and the subsequent comments. That builds camaraderie, but I haven't seen it cross over to advocacy yet...and I think it is because folks are either too busy, too distracted, or wary. At some point, I keep hoping some of these relationships translate to business...and yes, I've even been bold enough to include calls to action in Tweets/Facebook status/blog posts. That *definitely* is not my strength.

Lori
Lori

Hi Sean,

I agree that hard work needs to be done - the authentic, organic work, not the speedy "cheats" that (heaven help us? )work??? I don't get the telemarketing calls that are robotic. Don't they realize how easy it is to hang up on them?

what about building relationships, one customer/prospect at a time? Isn't that still the best way to go?

Lori

Latest blog post: Is Big Brother Bothering You?

rdopping
rdopping

Damn, I didn't know that half those "techniques" existed. Ignorance is bliss. All the blogs I have read have always talked about hard work and organic growth. Maybe I was always on the right track. I can certainly see what happens when I don't work.

 

Is Zemanta another one of those things that's a spammy enigma wrapped up in a riddle surrounded by a mystery?

mediachick76
mediachick76

@ginidietrich Only when they scramble to make things happen? Do Marketers Always Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

Okay, I'll confess. I'm that friend who emails bad pitches with the subject line, "I hate PR people." And I do. I hate the ones who clearly have never read a single blog post that talks about how to pitch bloggers or sat in a single PRSA luncheon where reporters talk about how to pitch them. I realize it's hard work to actually build relationships with the people who can influence sales for your piddly little product, but it's the only thing that works 100% of the time.

 

But I have to say, the only reason Spin Sucks (and eventually Spin Sucks Pro) exists is because people aren't willing to do the extra work it takes to be above average. 

geoffliving
geoffliving

What you are truly talking about is the stuff that separates the very good from the rest.  I think marketing in that sense if no different than any other sector. Consider all the creepy lawyers who pass the bar exam.

AnneReuss
AnneReuss

Beautiful! Everybody, say it with me....HARD WORK! Cheers. 

KDillabough
KDillabough

I'm with you...and who knew there were so many types of spam? Cheers! Kaarina

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

I'd never heard about the programs that create many versions of the same article, but I'm not surprised. I'm glad to hear that Google figured it out, because I'm sure many of the articles weren't well written to begin with, and the thought of hundreds of the same crappy article, well, frankly, makes me sad.

 

You are right, though, and I'm with you about doing the hard work. I make sure that I have a photo with every post, and all of them are images I've created, so I hold the copyright, no stealing here. I'd gotten away from doing the photos and my blog suffered. It takes extra time, sometimes a couple of hours, but it is important to me. I try to write entertaining content and put it up each night. Some nights are easier than others. On occasion, I'm even surprised by how some posts are received.

 

Without the hard work, though, I'm not sure there would be much satisfaction.

WarrenWhitlock
WarrenWhitlock

@seanmcginnis looking at a new market as a "golden goose" is the problem. It is the nature of commerce

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @lauraclick I think so too, Laura. I know I've had this discussion with Gini in the past - that it's the worst within our profession that taints the public's view of our respective professions. The big difference is that when lawyers are slimy, we as consumers aren't necessarily affected by it. When marketers go wrong, or screws up a new channel, we all suffer for it - or at least we can.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @dbvickery Your comment is leading me down the path of writing a completely different blog post, maybe on my personal blog. I think it's REALLY important to be clear with yourself and your network by making an ask every now and then. "Hey everyone, here's what I do and how I can help you" - is an important step to take if you're using social media and/or blogging to drive business results. Even sharing case studies and/or testimonials can and should be done without feeling like you're a "salesman."

 

Don't you think?

Erin F.
Erin F.

 @dbvickery Calls to action aren't my strong suit, either. I'm trying to find a way to implement them without feeling like a sleazy salesperson. I also hope that some of my online relationships will build toward business or collaboration on business projects.

 

Are Texans Southern? I thought Texans were, well, Texans. ;)

Latest blog post: Write Right Dreams of a Dragon

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @rdopping Ralph - I'm only marginally familiar with Zemanta, and so won't comment on the spammy nature (or lack thereof). Overall, I think my message is this - If something is cheap and easy it rarely, if ever, provides a sustainable competitive advantage. And yet, that's exactly what we clamor for - the shortcuts that lead to success. We do it in life in addition to marketing. But we especially do it in marketing -- because there are technologies that are cheap that profess to help us get there.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@mediachick76 Did you notice your pun with "scramble" in that tweet?

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @ginidietrich I think you should start another blog devoted to crappy pitch emails. Think of the fun you could have with that!!!

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @geoffliving I think you're right Geoff. There's a whole different post to that take my intro and more fully develops that idea. We do have a tendency to allow the "worst" elements of a group come to define and represent the group. It happens in PR and Law and Sales. Marketing is no different, I suppose.

 

But the difference is that bad boy marketing behavior is so far reaching and affects us ALL in our daily lives - and yet we don't call them out as often (in my experience).

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @AnneReuss I'd say "it's not hard" but I suppose it kind of is. Putting in the time and effort always pays off. Always.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @markwschaefer I think you hit the nail on the head in your post yesterday Mark. Low barriers to entry are a problem. I think another is the drive from the client and agency side to do more with less - resulting in this everlasting charge for results at scale. It's that same ethos that feeds tools like Klout. After all, it's cheaper to pay for tech that can ID infleuncers instead of paying employees to find them and develop relationships with them.

 

More for less. More for less. More for less.

 

It's all around us.

dbvickery
dbvickery

 @Sean McGinnis I've started to get a little more bold about that, Sean. However, I've always preferred the case study...or in our case showcasing different aspects of the technology...as well as generating content people trust. If they are interested, ask. Otherwise, I do not have to bother them with a "sales pitch".

 

I'm an introvert, so the content approach is much more suitable for me than being a gregarious, natural networking, sell you the Golden Gate bridge type of guy!

Erin F.
Erin F.

 @Sean McGinnis Could you, maybe (heehee), write the post? I'm interested in learning different ways to do that. I think my "about" and "work with me" pages are relatively clear, but I'm wondering how to add that element to my e-letters and/or blog. @dbvickery 

Latest blog post: Write Right Dreams of a Dragon

dbvickery
dbvickery

 @Erin F. That's funny - Texans make the distinction but a lot of other folks might not notice the distinction between Texans and Southerners. I grew up in Texas, and then spent a couple years in South Carolina...there is DEFINITELY a difference in cultures. However, both can be more outwardly friendly than what you would find in other areas of the country...and yeah, both can carry prejudices longer than in other areas of the country.

mediachick76
mediachick76

@ginidietrich Yes. It was on purpose. I was in a corny mood today for some reason. :)

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @dbvickery You'd be surprised at how little I know or remember about people, despite (or because of) my extensive network. When I went about building my list of contacts to email about the launch of 312 Digital, I was SURPRISED at how many people I consider valuable contacts I didn't actually have email addresses for. If I don't know THEM that well, they probably don't know ME that well either.

 

There have been countless times someone who is a social media connection has indicated they are on the job market and I had t ask them exactly what they did to see if I could help. Happens all the time.

Erin F.
Erin F.

 @Sean McGinnis  I guess I need to work on making what  I do a part of normal conversation then. I've been trying to be better about using real-world examples in my blog posts, and, of course, I have that blue box that says "Subscribe!" Well, not in those exact words... I'll have to think about what I can do to incorporate a better reminder about what I do and how to work with me in my e-letters. That seems like a good place to share that sort of information.

 

Thanks for the advice and ideas! @dbvickery 

Latest blog post: Write Right Dreams of a Dragon

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @Erin F.  @dbvickery I think it's less about having a web page devoted to it, and more about periodically letting people know what you do via tweets and social media - or how they can work with you. They need to be reminded, or they will forget.

 

One of my favorite at this is a friend here in Chicago who has a weekly newsletter that goes out. In that newsletter she always reminds people about how they can work with her, in all the various flavors. That seems like a really smart thing to do.

 

Call to action buttons can be helpful as well, leading people to your awesome "about me" page, etc... And then periodic blog posts that highlight examples of successes can be effective as well. I'll still think about the blog post too. :)

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