Three Steps to Avoid Machinegun Marketing

Last Updated May 18, 2010 5:06 AM EDT

Too many businesses believe marketing is about shouting about themselves and that communication with their customers and potential customers simply means informing or telling them.

They see networking (online and offline) as getting as many Tweets, business cards and brochures out as possible. They work on the theory that as long as their message is being 'shouted out' then people will be listening.

It's simply not true. In the same way that most people switch off from listening to my latest rant on why bin collections need to be weekly not fortnightly, then many of your customers, people and network contacts could be doing the same to your machinegun marketing messages.

So what should we do about it? Here are a few ideas:

1. Get permission. In days gone by, marketing was all about whoever shouted the loudest and most often. Hence the strong power of TV, radio and newspaper advertising. The bigger the budget, the better chance you had of grabbing people's attention.
Although they can still be effective promotion methods, there's a lot of evidence that their effect is declining as we become more questioning, use an increasingly diverse range of media, and have the ability to find what we want, when we want it through the on-line world, 24/7.

Many people see advertising as intrusive and uninvited and find ways of blocking unwanted messages out. Don't believe me? Are you in the Mail Preference System to stop unwanted junk mail? Are you ex-directory to prevent cold calls? Do you have spam filters to block uninvited emails? What about Sky+ so you can avoid the adverts?

US marketing guru Seth Godin talks about Permission Marketing; whereby businesses obtain people's permission to market to them â€"- they sign up, they choose, they proactively engage.

2. Have a look at yourself â€"- are you guilty of forcing your message onto people who may not want to listen? Would it be better to focus on those who want to listen? The quality of your contacts on your database is far better than the quantity.

Think CNN. The messages you send out there to customers and contacts can be filed under three basic headings:

  • Critical â€"- this is stuff that's vital to them, could really help them, solve their problems and make a real difference to them. It adds value, and they would thank you for sending it to them.
  • Nice To Know â€"- useful, interesting stuff, but don't send them too much.
  • Noise â€"- all the stuff they're not interested in, the irrelevant and unrequested guff. Irrelevance is defined by them, the customer.
3. Try Dialogue, Not Diatribes. It's about having conversations with your customers, getting their opinions, thoughts and ideas. It could be something as simple as asking what they think.

When was the last time you had a real conversation with one of your customers? I don't just mean about the weather or who's going to win Britain's Got Talent, but meaningful stuff about your performance, their aspirations and challenges. How often do you tap into their opinions, thoughts or ideas?

Have you ever considered that the best networkers tend to be givers not takers? They listen, they ask questions, they have conversations with people. You don't see them dishing out business cards like an over-zealous traffic warden dishing out parking tickets. They put people in touch with others, they share ideas, and create contacts and opportunities for others. It's about developing conversations and relationships with customers and communities.

As well as encouraging you to think about your communication, I'm going to practise what I preach â€" and create some dialogue too. Let me know what you think of these ideas, tell me what else you'd like to read about. Is this simply another 'rant'? Is there anybody out there? I'd love to hear what you really think â€" the good, the bad and the ugly!
Email me at andy@competeorgetbeat.com, or put in a comment below. Let's start a conversation.

(Pic: Blyzz cc2.0)