Marketing That Marketers Love to Hate

May 14, 2009

While conducting research for our last newsletter about surefire ways to irritate customers and prospects, I decided to conduct a small experiment on my marketing brethren. We're generally good at telling our clients how to reach customers, but what happens when we're the customers? (Yes, marketers also are major consumers.)

I decided to head over to LinkedIn Answers and talk to my peers about the matter. If you're unfamiliar with the Answers function of LinkedIn, it's the modern, business-centric equivalent of the Lyceum. LinkedIn members, presumably business professionals of some sort, ask and answer questions on a variety of topics—marketing, HR, business development and management, venture capital, and so on. In a pinch, it's a great way to survey other professionals, and it suited my needs perfectly. Thus, I asked:

"What poor online techniques (marketing, site navigation, spamming, service—anything) will cause you to sever ties with a company?"

 

I wanted to know about the drop-dead, head-in-the-sand, mind-numbingly dumb things companies do that make marketers—people who, presumably, would be more forgiving than the average consumer—drop them. Spamming, the number one answer, was expected; indeed, I had listed it in the question in the hopes it would inspire people to give up something else. (Read about Valarie's recent experience with this.)

Other answers were fairly representative of poor online behavior: lax or nonexistent security, selling personal information, bait and switch, etc. Then there was the guy who expressed his extreme displeasure with, among other things,

"Nihilist programmers who throw obscure nonsensical 'warnings' in the face of users asking badly worded questions that have no meaning (much less explanation) to the user, which serves only to absolve the programmer of the responsibility to program well, regardless of how much the user is harmed."

More interesting to me, however, was how many people mentioned inconsistent/irrelevant messaging, particularly in email. One writer told of a toy company that had asked him for rather specific demographic information that would allow them to target their message appropriately—then proceeded to send him (by email and snail mail) every piece of garbage their marketing department could turn out.

That's a good way to irritate customers and a great way to infuriate a marketer. Worse yet, the writer's attempts to halt the messaging were unsuccessful; it took a phone call to the company's CMO to end the onslaught. It makes one wonder what kind of outfit that company has—or, as the writer put it,

"In my mind, if their marketing efforts are that disjointed.... I could only imagine how the rest of the company was running..."

Is he overreacting? Or does this bother everyone, equally? Likewise, how would you answer my original question?