Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

By Mark Schaefer

One of the themes of my writing this year is how marketing is deteriorating into a glorified IT function. Instead of considering the wants and needs of customers, companies are over-automating marketing to the point of constant consumer annoyance.

I recently had this experience with Salesforce. I normally don’t name names in my posts (attack problems, not people). But I think in this case it is appropriate because I have no need to demean Salesforce — I have LOVED this awesome company for 20 years. But this case study shows that even the greatest companies are falling into this dangerous automation trap.

All I wanted was a pdf

I recently saw a promotion about an interesting study available for free on the Salesforce site. I immediately became suspicious when I was required to provide my title, email, and (gasp) phone number in exchange for the pdf. But I was willing to put my trust in one of my favorite companies.

In the next 24 hours I received:

  • An unsolicited phone call from a sales rep
  • An email from the sales rep
  • An invitation to a webinar
  • A blog-based newsletter
  • An entirely different newsletter from Salesforce targeted at the Defense Industry. I have nothing to do with that industry.

I complained to my sales rep about this and, after a few weeks, I’ve received no reply.

Just for fun, I downloaded another document and yes, the cycle started again.

At this point I am unhappy with Salesforce and distrustful. What a weird turn of events. This premier company that I have long-admired has turned a raving fan into a suspicious and annoyed business professional writing a negative blog post to tens of thousands of readers.

This is not just about Salesforce, of course. It’s about every company abusing our personal rights and littering our lives with spam.

A friend told me the story of how his company intended to target 800 doctors with a highly-relevant email. But the email service was a flat-fee, so they decided to send it to 8,000 people instead. He was livid when he found out that his well-known company had spammed 7,200 people.

Just because I download a pdf, it does not mean I am a “lead,” it does not mean anybody has the right to interrupt my day with calls and emails and newsletters that I never subscribed to. If we had regulations like GDPR in the U.S., this marketing protocol would not even be legal.

Put the customer first

This marketing practice is commonly called “lead nurturing,” but it’s really just a gentle way of saying “we are going to annoy you until you buy something.”

I recognize that there is a place for automation in the world. Used wisely, it can serve customers and their needs well.

In this case, a company has become de-sensitized to the needs of its customers and prospects. Its marketing is not taking my time or my privacy into consideration … it is simply automating a process and creating communications that they KNOW are unwelcome and unwanted. They have abdicated marketing to an algorithm developed by the IT department or, more likely, an outside martech vendor.

The world is too competitive these days to embrace marketing tactics that result in negative reactions. If you’re in marketing, be a marketer. Put the customer first, always. How did we forget this?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

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