An email promo we received late last week from a vendor named “Ryan B” was a great example of the inflexion point between traditional mass marketing and genuine community building on social platforms.
But that’s about the only nice thing I can say about it.
The good news is that “Ryan” seems to have grasped the theory that the days of impersonal, mass e-blasts are gone. The bad news—for his company, at least—is that he’s turned to a different kind of automated system to do his mass marketing for him.
To see what gave away the show, you just have to dissect the salutation and first sentence of the e-blast: “Dear The Conference Publishers: I just ran a search and analysis on your business as well as your competitors in the Ottawa area, and found that the majority of potential customers searching on Google are going with your competitors instead of you.”
- He ran a “search and analysis” that presumably involved laying eyes on our website, but somehow missed our decision several months ago to rebrand from The Conference Publishers to Smarter Shift. That matters because:
- He couldn’t have analysed our competition, since The Conference Publishers was the only firm in its space. For better or worse, the service has no competitors.
- Even if it did, he wouldn’t have found much competitive pressure in Ottawa, because we do very little work in the town where we happen to be headquartered.
It isn’t hard to figure out what his email template looks like:
Dear <field1>: I just ran a search and analysis on your business as well as your competitors in the <field2> area, and found that the majority of potential customers searching on Google are going with your competitors instead of you.
And with that, with all the effort it takes to fire up his spam software, he reaches hundreds or thousands of prospects. With each of whom, no doubt, he plans to build a long-term, trusting business relationship that appears to be founded on a lie.
But I suppose I’m being ungrateful.
Our intrepid “Ryan” has spotted a fatal flaw in our online marketing, and have no fear—he’s on the spot to fix it with a service that sounds an awful lot like generic, indiscriminate endorsements. “Our automated software makes it easy and inexpensive to rapidly increase reviews on major review sites such as Google+ Local and over 100 other review sites we work with.”
In other words, he’s betting that we’ll embrace a system that looks just like the one that is obviously working so well for him.
How Content Marketing Wins
“Ryan,” if you’re out there, here are five things you can do to stop differentiating your service from content marketing in a way that puts you at such a severe disadvantage. (You’ll note that “do a better job of covering your tracks” did not make the list.)
- Do your homework, rather than just pretending, to understand why a prospect might want to talk to you before you get in touch.
- Dazzle us with your insight, rather than driving us away with obvious spin. Tell us about the fantastic case study, white paper, or recent experience that points to the unique value you can deliver.
- Ask, don’t tell, by crafting an email that opens a richer, longer-term conversation rather than driving for a quick sell.
- Remember that it ends as it begins. If you set up a relationship to be purely transactional and base it on claims that, ahem, may not be entirely truthful, don’t expect your product or your company to survive over the long haul.
- And about that product: If I’m right that the email was about as genuine as the product you were pitching, don’t expect huge sales commissions for the foreseeable future. Most customers can spot spam marketing at 50 paces—in failing light, through a blinding snowstorm—and if they don’t figure it out right away, they’ll be even angrier when they realize they’ve been taken.
But, hey, “Ryan,” I’m going to forward this to you by return email because I have your best interests at heart. I’ll even claim to have produced my in-depth “search and analysis” for your eyes only. And if I happened to share it simultaneously with a thousand or so other prospects…that’d be fine with you, right?