Good. Evil. Bratwurst.

Marketers and Liars

Posted on by arlen

Seth Godin states the obvious in a recent post. That’s not a knock on him; it needs stating and restating and restating yet again, until the penny finally drops, or they take delivery from the Clue Train. Slimy marketers and sharp operators have fatally poisoned the environment for the rest. That particular ecosystem can no longer sustain life; it’s long past time to realize that and move on.

As far as the public is concerned, the default belief is “all marketers are liars.” “How can you tell if the salesman is lying?” goes the old joke. “He moves his lips.” comes the punch line. And we laugh, because inside, we truly believe that to be the case.

Test it yourself: Let’s suppose someone you’ve never heard of or seen before comes up to you and starts telling you about this wonderful product or service, and tells you you need to have it. Is your first instinct to enthusiastically say, “Great, thanks for the tip” or give a sarcastic “Yeah, right”? Would you even make a mental note about it to check it out when you had an extra moment? Most of us would reach for the sarcasm, and at least half of you right now who say you wouldn’t are lying, to me and to yourself.

I (as do most of us) start from the premise that all marketers lie. Which means if you call me, email me, or otherwise solicit me, you’re already doomed, because I believe nothing you have to say. If you cite statistics or conclusions from an impartial source, I’ll just believe you made them up, that the source never said it, and I’ll be so sure of that conclusion I won’t even bother to check. Nor will anyone else listening to you.

It’s taken quite a while for us to get to this place; selling has always been an uphill battle, but conditions have been worsening. And like the frog in the pot on the stove, most of the so-called marketers haven’t been aware of the slowly rising temperature, and they’re now being boiled alive.

Cold Calls? Sorry, I don’t usually answer the phone and if I do, my arm works quite well thank you, and the terminate call button is easily pressed. (Unless, that is, I’m in a puckish mood, in which case I’ll try to spin out the call as long as I can, hoping that way to spare some other schmuck who’s on your list of targets from the ordeal, as well as costing you a few extra cents.)

Approach me in an airport or a mall? One word answer: No.

Email campaigns? Please. There are only two companies on the face of the planet that can send me email that I’ll even read. And here’s a clue for free: I read them because the companies clearly identify who they are, and my history with them encourages me to believe they’re not scamming me, and I’m likely to get some value out of opening this email. If you’re not on the list already, you don’t get into the party.

So how do you get invited to the party? The answer is simple, but following it? Not so much. You’re never going to get invited by shoving yourself or your wares in my face. Especially today, where your competitors are just a mouse-click away, and I can buy from The Netherlands as easily and often as cheaply as I can from the store down the street.

Start here. Understand, don’t simply give lip service to, the idea that marketplace doesn’t belong to the person with the loudest voice. Marketing is seduction, not rape. Let me believe it’s my idea (and no, not with some stupid “oops, emailed the wrong address” ploy; that line doesn’t work any better than “Is it hot in here or is it just you?”) and then serve me. Make what I want more important than the sale. Let me decide when I’m going to trust you with my details. (Ever wonder how many of those email addresses in your “customer database” are phony? How about birthdates? Seven sites have asked for my birthdate. None of them have it, though they all think they do. Other websites have 5 different names for my favorite pet, four different maiden names for my mother, and I have twelve different occupations. Yes, I lie to marketers. Why not? They lie to me.)

But you’re different, you say. You’re not a liar. OK, but if that’s true, why are you doing the same things the liars do? Anyone can say they’re not a liar. Prove it, by treating me differently. The universe is different, today. I can find people and places to do business with all over the planet. I get to choose, and you can bet your last cent I’m going to choose people who don’t inflict themselves on me, who don’t demand the right to interfere with time I want to spend with my family.

But how can you connect with me, if I refuse to let you in my face? Make sure I can find you. be available when I’m looking, and where I’m looking.

Told you the answer was simple; just not easy.

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April 2009
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