How to Totally Suck at Marketing

What’s on the iPod: Eyes Wide Open by Gotye

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Interesting day yesterday — interesting in that train-wreck sort of way. It seemed I couldn’t get my head cleared long enough to focus on a minor technical thing that ended up frustrating me needlessly. Turns out it was something small I was doing, and that the links I was frustrated with were working just fine. Time to walk away from the computer and breathe.

I gained a new client yesterday, so I had some work to do right away that occupied my afternoon. I still had time to do my personal writing, which is coming along nicely. I’m hoping to get something in front of a publisher soon. A lot of somethings, but that’s another story.

While this has been a blessedly slow week, marketing has paid off for me. However, it’s not marketing I’ve just done that’s scored an assignment with a new client: it’s marketing I did a year ago. Never give up, and don’t stop following up until they tell you it’s pointless.

That being said, there are ways to screw up marketing if you’re not paying attention. It’s not too easy to suck at it, but some people tend to excel at meeting all the criteria. So as you’re putting to action your marketing for the day, avoid these tactics:

Flood the airwaves. Show of virtual hands — how many of you have stopped following someone on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or even their blogs because they just can’t shut up about themselves? Learn from the mistakes of others. Don’t overshare and don’t toot your own horn too often. The more you shout, the less people hear, and the more likely it becomes that you’ll be ignored.

Spam them. You really don’t send to people who haven’t requested your blog update or e-news, have you? If so, stop it. Not only are you annoying the hell out of strangers, you’re also breaking the law.

Show them your biases. We all have opinions, and we love sharing them. However, potential clients may be scared off by your political leanings or your hard-assed attitude, or maybe even the way you gun down people who don’t share your opinion. Temper it. Pretend your highest-paying client is reading. Act accordingly.

Use inconsistent messaging. From graphics to wording, you’re being judged by potential clients. Your messages should have a unified theme, and your image should be consistent. If you present yourself in one way — say as a comedic writer — and use that same image to gain business clients, no one will be laughing. Well, not laughing with you.

Confuse them. You send them a brochure that tells them you’re a writer, then proceeds to go on about your background from cradle to grave, including pictures of your goldfish and your children. Uh, why would they hire you exactly? You’ve not shown them your skills nor explained how you might benefit them. Instead, they feel as though they’ve just read excerpts from your annual Christmas letter.

Refuse to build a relationship. We talked about this in the last post comments briefly. Marketing includes sales, but if you put sales ahead of all else, you’ll be struggling to find work much more often than if you lead with relationship building. Clients should be treated like humans — hey, they are human. Show them the same respect and interest you would a friend.

What examples of sucky marketing have you seen?

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  • Devon Ellington March 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    There's something to be said about tempering one's opinions, but I think it's gone too far. We're letting ourselves be censored because of what potential clients might think.

    I'm not going to accept an assignment from a company whose practices go against my beliefs and values; it's best that they know where I stand before they approach me.

    It's gotten to the point where we're supposed to shut up, bend over, and let ourselves be walked over, while publicly smiling and saying, "more, please" and that's not the right approach either.

    Yes, we should keep it classy. But we should also speak out when something is wrong.

    Too many people get away with too much cowardice and deliberately causing harm by hiding behind "company policy" and they get away with it because everyone else is too afraid to speak out.

    There are limits, but as humans, our ethics and values need to be a part of our brand.

  • Lori March 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Agreed, Devon. Speaking out against something that is wrong is exactly what I believe in, and I'm not one to compromise my personal standards or ethics for ANY job. But you and I both know there are people out there whose sole purpose seems to be offending anyone within earshot for the sport of it. I've had potential clients send me emails listing reasons why I should vote for their candidate (and that's why they never became my clients — even if I believed in their candidate, I think it's way too presumptuous of them to mix politics with business).

    I've seen CEOs do it. In one case, I agreed with everything the CEO said. I just thought it was a tacky, classless move on his part. Way to offend unnecessarily half of your paying customers. Does it really matter what your political leanings are when all I want is a damn cup of tea?

  • Paula March 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I hate the aggressive style of marketing where as soon as they know you're sympathetic they try to talk/cajole/shame you into doing their bidding.

    Sorry. I support causes MY way, not by having you tell me what to say (or worse, write) to my elected officials on your behalf. I'm not going to waste my time or postage and pester my "neighbors" by mailing them junk mail about your charity, no matter how worthwhile it may me. I'm not going to join your phone bank. Forget about putting a sign in my yard unless you're a contractor I hired who is giving me a discount in exchange.

    Last night I saw a local political add that misused "less" when they meant "fewer." Their message had me until that point. That might not be sucky marketing, but it sure was sloppy. Hire a darn copywriter!

  • Lori March 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Oh Paula, I agree. I've begun to really despise celebrities giving political opinions. Who cares? Unless you're raising awareness about a human rights issue, don't bother me.

    Same for the charities begging for my help and money. Yes, I give to charities. However, I give to those I've vetted and whose causes I believe in. What irks me are those "police" societies that have absolutely nothing in common with law enforcement beyond their name. I hang up on them immediately.

  • Michael March 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Great post Lori. Recently I've encountered a few examples that you mentioned.

    I think social media has been a huge contributor / enabler to your first two points flooding the airwaves and spamming. My Facebook page gets littered daily by friends and companies who seem to think regurgitating the same content over and over again will suddenly make me change my mind about something. It's gotten so bad recently, that I've had to send friends private messages asking them not to include me in their list the next time they share something. If I receive more than a few a month, I block / delete them. May sound harsh but that's what T.V commercials are for.

    Your point about confusing the reader is a funny one. I was doing some research on a Realtor and happened to stumble upon their Facebook Business page. Well they were posting about the weather, cookie recipes, changing diapers, auto care and everything else BUT real estate. I know social media is about being social but what kind of message do you send an audience if your web presence is littered with anything but your specialty. I'm never sure if I should leave well enough alone when I come across these things or send them a message suggesting they appear more professional.

    The last point about relationship building is an important one. I think too many people and businesses focus on the return on investment (R.O.I for all of you marketing specialists..LOL) however I think if they shift their focus to a return on engagement, they will have longer lasting business relationships. Everyone has a place they go to may it be a market, a coffee shop or a book store that they just feel like they visiting old friends. You don't go because they deliver exceptional goods or services, we go because we're made to feel comfortable. Marketing should be conversational not dictational.

    I should forward this post on to a local Realtor. Everything you have outlined in this post, he does. He's a "tad" outdated with his marketing efforts. An example of bad marketing would be this guys entire platform. It's filled with the in your face, egocentric, opinionated stuff that makes used car salesmen wearing cheap suits look professional.

    (Sorry for the length of the comment. I'm jacked up on coffee. ) 🙂

  • Jenn Mattern March 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I'm not sure about being a hard-ass. If anything, I've become too soft over the last year or two. Being blunt and a hard-ass helped me grow both my PR firm and later my writing biz more quickly than most folks I know. Clients found it refreshing (at least the ones who wanted honesty from a pro rather than a yes-man — they just happened to be the clients with solid budgets too). That doesn't mean be abusive just to be abusive. But if someone's spouting BS, it doesn't hurt to call them on it. If you have to give some tough love on your blog that will piss some readers off, others will appreciate it. And if anything, I've found it to be a bigger problem when I self-censor too much. Now only you and a handful of others hear my uncensored ramblings. 😉

  • Lori March 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Michael, it sounds like that realtor has lost sight of the reason for social media. Kind of weird, isn't it?

    Jenn, you do tough well, though. You're able to temper it just the right amount to get the point across without being outright insulting. I agree — call them on the BS. Tough love, absolutely. I gave a dose of that to a client recently, and already I've seen him take the reins and act on some of it.

    I guess it depends on your goal. If you're trying to help a client do better or understand how behaviors or approaches are affecting them, then you have the client's interests at heart.

    And you can ramble uncensored to me any time. 🙂

  • Edward March 12, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Lori mentioned one of my most annoying fundraisers. The so called police and law enforcement phone calls. It took me 3 years to get rid of them.
    This is my first time visit to this blog and it has some great value for a beginning writer like me.

  • Lori March 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Edward, welcome! Great to have you here. Make yourself at home. Ask questions. Leave opinions. It's your space as much as it's mine!

    I've told callers to take me off their lists. Doesn't work. I remember a guy in one of my college classes who said he'd done telemarketing for a while. He was taught to call back if he was hung up on or told to remove the person from the list. That's harassment, and he said it was a good enough reason for him to find another job.