Persistence or pestering?

In the not quite so new anymore world of marketing, we’ve come to realize that savvy B2B customers want to find us more than they want us to find them.  Oddly enough, the world of inbound marketing has both helped and exacerbated the problem.  Like all great inventions, we start with a startling new premise, based on true insight (in this case, the idea of a “pull” strategy that is content-focused being more effective than a “push” strategy that is close-focused), that is executed expertly and achieves remarkable enough results that the rest of us are compelled to jump on the bandwagon.  What follows is a mass need to ramp up, to demonstrate that we too know enough to be able to do this innovative thing for our customers, and mixed results as to how well we execute it based on how close or far away we are from understanding the original premise.  Those of us who watched the metamorphosis from innovative open plan workspace to Dilbert-esque cube farm have seen this trajectory bear “fruit”.

In the case of inbound marketing, this has led to some excellent consequences as well as some maddening ones.  On the maddening side, today I deleted the 11th (yes, 11th) automated voicemail from my local pharmacy chain in the past 2 weeks telling me it’s time to renew a prescription.  (Seriously?  Do I seem so feeble that you need to remind me every day?) I also deleted 123 (yes really) e-mails I got last month from a professional organization I belong to, all of which were either encouraging me to attend a webinar, reminding me that they provide me with good service (they don’t) or telling me why I need to be professionally certified (at a net cost to me of upwards of $4000 in coursework, test-taking and certification fees.)

What these examples tell me is that folks are applying a logic to their inbound marketing strategy that says more is always better.  This strategy didn’t work well in person-to-person cold calling. Why would it work in this arena?  Persistence is admirable, relentlessness is not.

On the excellent side, there are those blogs and websites that offer me content to help me get up to speed on a subject and the opportunity to talk with someone, presented either while I’m browsing the content or at reasonable intervals (which for me is no more often than monthly) without cluttering up my inbox with so many e-mails that I miss the one or two that might really be relevant.  These are the ones that recognize that when I trade my contact information for content, it’s to open a dialogue with a hope for real, measurable intelligence, not an invitation to cyber-stalk me.  So yes, let’s practice inbound marketing, but let’s focus on quality, not quantity.

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