How Not to Market Your Product (Or Yourself)

This is a “do as I say, not as I do” post, because I’m generally terrible about marketing things.

But I know when things don’t work.

For example.  In the last three days I received ten phone calls from a mortgage company associated with my bank.  No, I didn’t answer and that’s why the auto-dialer they were using kept calling me back.  Over and over and over again.  Starting at 6:54 in the morning my time.  (I have an East coast phone number still, but even if I’d been on the East Coast that’s still too early.)

Yesterday I finally answered so I could tell them that I do not need their services.  Guess what they did?  Kept calling.

This is not the way you make friends and influence people.  No, no, no.

I understand this idea that it takes seven no’s to get to a yes, etc.  But you don’t get to that point by being an annoying pain in the ass.

Many years ago I worked as a cold-caller at a brokerage firm.  We’d sit there while the auto-dialer made its calls and when someone answered the phone we’d read the name off the screen and ask for Herb or whomever it was.  (I always pronounced it with a silent “h”, so never did well with that guy…)

People did not like our firm.  (For good reason, it turns out.  I was young and stupid and didn’t know.)  So, sometimes you’d get someone who would say, “I loathe your firm.  Never, ever, ever call me again.”

You know what I did?  I put them on the do not call list and moved on.  You know what some of my co-workers did?  They hit redial and said, “We must’ve been disconnected.”

Did they win that client over with their persistence?  NO.

It’s fine to keep trying to sell people.  But you have to do it with a certain finesse.  Which means you do not tweet about your new book fifteen times a day.  You tweet about other things so that you have an audience.  And you occasionally mention how your book ties into those other things.  And, maybe on release day or when you win a big award, you tweet about the book specifically.  (Scalzi does a good job of this on his blog.)

The best bet is to provide value to your audience first and then worry about what you’re going to get back from them second.

A friend and I were talking about his efforts to find a new job.  And he told me he was surprised that someone hadn’t reached out to him after he e-mailed them.  Turns out what he’d e-mailed was a detailed description of him and his current experience.

Well, I don’t think that’s the best approach.  Maybe you luck out and you’re exactly what someone’s looking for.  But I think it’s better to flatter someone, request their expertise, and then mention you’re looking for a job.

A number of years ago I was looking to switch jobs and ran across an article someone had written.  It was spot on with what I had been thinking about my particular area of expertise and how it might evolve.  So, I wrote the person and explained that I’d seen the article and would love to talk to them further about their ideas.  And, at the very bottom of the letter, I said something about attaching my resume so they could see my experience in the area with a mention that I knew they weren’t hiring but if an opportunity did open up, I’d love to work for an organization that was thinking this way.

I had a job offer in two weeks.  And I honestly think it was partially because I kissed that person’s ass first and asked for a job second.  And I was genuine in doing so.  I would’ve still wanted to discuss with them what they thought even if there was no job in the offing.

So, I am no marketing expert.  But what I know is that in an age where you can see the history of someone’s phone calls or the history of someone’s tweets or blog posts or what-have-you, that constant spamming one-note approaches just don’t work.  Forming genuine connections just might, though.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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