Tough love: are you making these marketing communication mistakes?

By on May 29th

Oh, look. It's my inbox. Spam © by pandemia, used under Creative Commons license.

Before the Offbeat Empire, I spent over a decade working in marketing, mostly for big boring corporations. I have seen (and produced) more marketing than you could ever imagine, and as a result I have extremely strong opinions about being marketed to.

Now, let me be very clear: I LIKE MARKETING. Done correctly, I strongly believe that it can be helpful, useful information. Done poorly, it's irritating. Done really poorly? It's a form of assault.

My Empire work makes me a target for a lot of marketing campaigns from both small businesses and large corporations alike. Both make marketing mistakes. Here are a few that you can learn from…

Email marketing

Don't be a spammer: avoid non-consensual communications

First, let's make sure we're speaking the same language: "Spam" is any unwanted email promoting a business. Yes, the worst of it is sent by robots trying to sell viagra, but even if you're a sweethearted Etsy vendor who sells hand-crafted awesomeness and carefully crafts every promotional email while listening to the best indie pop ever, you are sending spam. It's really sweet, special snowflake spam, but it's spam.

No one wants to be a spammer, and no one wants to receive spam. Despite this simple, straight-forward truth, I get dozens of emails from small businesses who add me to their company email lists without my consent. I'm sure these folks are all awesome, but when you broadcast information to me without my permission, I refuse to listen. Do not market without explicit permission. Non-consensual communications are not enjoyable.

Ask first

Simply put: do not add anyone to your email distribution list without asking first. It might feel exciting to scrape all the email you've ever received and find 500 addresses to add to your new marketing email list, but when you spam people without their permission, you're associating your business name with a sense of irritation. If you set up a new email list, make your first email an introduction/apology. "I've added my recent contacts to my new email distribution list. Apologies for the intrusion — if you're not interested, here's how to unsubscribe…"

Make it stupid-easy to opt-out

Speaking of how to unsubscribe, it needs to be really fucking easy. I worked with an organization last year that was all about women in technology. You'd think they'd have their shit together when it came to their marketing, but I had to ask four different people (four different times) to remove me from their various distribution lists, because the lists were all manually managed.

Most marketing communications apps (Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc) make it very easy for recipients to unsubscribe with one click. If you're contacting people manually (ie, just dumping a bunch of names into a BCC: line in your email) always include a line at the end about how recipients can stop receiving email from you.

This is one of the places where corporate marketing is WAY better than indie businesses: large scale corporations know they can get sued hard for anything that goes against the CAN-SPAM Act. It's the itty-bitty biz folk who fuck this one over again and again. If you like to use your BCC: line, set your signature line to include a message about "If you'd like to stop receiving messages, just let me know" so that it's automatically included in every email.

Be gracious

If you make it so that someone has to manually ask to be removed from your distribution list, always respond quickly and graciously. Don't get snippy or defensive. View this as your last chance to make a great impression. A simple "Absolutely. Thanks for letting me know!" works wonders here.

Social media

Don't abuse Twitter's @reply function

Like many Twitter users, I'm notified when people @reply any of the Offbeat Empire's various accounts. Especially @offbeatbride gets a fair number of self-promotional @replies, which is fine. What's not fine is when I click through and see that the same @reply was sent to 10 or 20 or even 30 different people. At that point you're spamming, and it's not cool.

Self-promotional Facebook comments only make you look bad

I've talked about self-promotional comments a million times, and for the most part, folks on the blogs get it. The current offenders at this point are business owners who log into Facebook as their business Page, and then leave comments to our Facebook posts that are clearly thin excuses to get their business name in front of our readers. Look, when your display name is PRETTYFACE WEDDINGS ~ SERVING THE GREATER TRI-STATE AREA, your Facebook comment is going to get deleted — especially if your comment is something like "Very unique!"

Just think it through: My business model is built on charging businesses to reach my readers. When you leave a worthless comment as an excuse to get your business name in front of those readers, it's disrespecting my bottom line. I don't expect everyone to be nice, but disrespecting me is it's a quick way to get blocked — which DEFINITELY doesn't help your business.

Oh and PS: as long as we're talking advertising, I've got a brand new banner ad zone: $20 gets you on the Offbeat Bride Tribe! Go for it.

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