Ian Truscott argues that in this new age of marketing, you need to focus on the real, relevant and considered conversations you have with your audiences – and why anything else is just spam.

We are transforming marketing from the ‘coloring in’ department seen as a cost by the CFO to delivering on a strategic investment valued by the CEO, driven by efficiency and action and the craft of marketing is becoming more technical, analytical and measured. 

As we lose the Don Draper image of gut feel, long lunches and inspiration over a martini, the new age of marketing needs to efficiently demonstrate results from activities, a drive that seems to be embracing the mantra taught to us by Elvis: “A little less conversation and a bit more action guaranteed” in how we deal with our teams, colleagues and consumers. 

But, is there a risk that as a marketing leader of getting a bit carried away with all this tech, data, social, internal comms and cheap ways to crank the handle and fire out yet another ‘action’ and losing the connection with our people and our audience? 

Action, please? 

The lyrics of the Elvis song (written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange), allude to what sort of ‘action’ was on the mind of Mr. Presley and his desire to shortcut the customer journey and quickly move to the err…. acquisition phase is very clear. 

A motivation that, I discovered as I wrote this was shared in the lyrics of ‘Let’s Stop Talkin’ About It’ by American country and western singer Janie Fricke. With all due respect to any of you Fricke fans – I went with Elvis for the title. 

Anyway – this may be true of some consumers, they know what they want and whatever we as marketers want to say to them is unimportant in their path to transaction, unlike a courtship there really is no need for a chat. 

Years ago I remember customer experience writer and speaker Gerry McGovern talking about government websites and how the marketing aspect of them should get out of the way: 

“The best thing governments can do on the web is get out of the way. Save the citizen time by making basic government tasks fast and easy.” 

Which I agree with, there should always be a tension in our engagement with consumers between nurture, messaging, education and getting the transaction done.

However this is the action of the consumer, what about the action of the marketer? Does that require a little more conversation?

“The best thing governments can do on the web is get out of the way. Save the citizen time by making basic government tasks fast and easy.” 

Gerry McGovern

Let’s piss off 95% with action

I had three separate conversations during the last week that are an excellent example of the action that concerns me; an agency with a script that generates automated InMail messaging on LinkedIn, another agency talking about 5% response rate on the same platform (which they mentioned is declining, I suspect due to the automated InMail messaging) and a vendor that feels that InMail is a great place to start with LinkedIn.

In that last example, someone had been clearly tasked with “doing LinkedIn” and this becomes the goal, the action, the consumer is forgotten while this person focuses on doing something with LinkedIn. As for the response rate, whenever anyone smiles and says 5% is a great performance, I nod and smile back, sure, but my head screams for the 95% being, basically, spammed. 

And the level of intrusion of the action is important, it’s channel specific, and a personal thing that makes it ‘spam’. I find LinkedIn messaging way more intrusive, due to the interface than non-relevant email that my email client can filter.

LinkedIn, specifically, for me, is a relationship network, I only connect with people I have met, worked with virtually or developed a very good relationship with on social media. My view is if anyone asks me about any of my connections, or looks for a recommendation I can tell them something. 

I make this clear in my profile, but of course plenty of folks do not respect this boundary and want to connect based on no other basis than they would like to extend their network. 

However, InMail blasting is way worse, we marketers have broken Inmail, formerly a fine opportunity to strike up a relationship, today my LinkedIn inbox has moved from a safe place of former colleagues to a cesspool of sales and poorly targeted messaging and I find myself missing the truly valuable, connected, relationship messages in all this noise.  

And yet, here is one of many platforms where having a conversation first is easy, it takes a little work, sure, but we have the data and opportunity to nurture a connection. Not by thrusting our business card into their virtual hand, but by demonstrating relevance and joining their tribe.

A simple example, there is NO excuse for someone to InMail me about a great developer position when it’s clear from my profile I haven’t coded in any meaningful way for fifteen years. 

I agree, this is my personal relationship with the platform, maybe you feel differently about LinkedIn or have a different platform where you can see something similar happening. (By the way Gareth May makes a great case for hanging out in Reddit in the Read All About It feature in this issue.)

Social media marketing is not virtual cold calling

My point, in the social media age we as marketers need to adjust to being social, not just advertising then try and close with a CTA, or as in the case of LinkedIn InMail, applying cold calling techniques to the virtual world. 

Yes, 5% is better than 1.5%, but if you choose to take the path of being intrusive, can you ever return to the 95%? Would investment in a conversation have been a better medium-term bet?

You never know, Fricke and Presley might have found a better relationship with a bit more conversation, but I’m no Elvis Presley, so for sure we as marketers will. 

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