Internet Marketing Phobia

Bob Schmidt
Provider Marketing Group

Jim Sterne, one of the so-called Internet marketing experts, writes on the IMARCOM Digest - 3 Jul 1996 to 8 Jul 1996:

>OK, let's skip right over fear of annoying the very
>people they're trying to sell to and move on to fear
>of reprisal. 

To which I reply: Marketing, of any kind, is not a recommended activity for the fearful.

>If I _really_ don't like unsolicited e-mail
> I can write a nasty e-mail, attach the
>operating system, and send it two or three thousand
>times. And I can go to the newsgroups and ask
>10,000 of my closest friends to do the same.
>How quickly we have forgotten Canter & Seigal's fate. 

There are extremists everywhere-- perhaps even among marketers. There are terrorists in Europe. Should we stop visiting there? Should we stop promoting tourism in downtown London? Marketers can hardly allow Internet terrorism to dictate marketing methods. Doing so confuses the probability of risk with the risk itself.

There are many cases when marketing backfires and is viewed negatively by some prospects. Humorous campaigns can offend. Telemarketing campaigns can offend. Intrusive methods can offend. Those risks are ever present.

Recently, a hurricane was hurtling toward Florida. I got a call from Sears telemarketing dept. wanting to know if I would like to purchase something which is "not insurance" that would pay the deductible on homeowners in the event of a disaster. Coincidence? Not likely. Was I offended? Sure. Can I blame them? Not at all. Did I buy it? No, I was too busy nailing plywood to my house. Besides, I couldn't afford it. I spent all my money on refreshments for the weekend hurricane party.

Marketers generally speaking are not interested in those who respond negatively to a promotion. They are only interested in those who will be positively persuaded by the message. If the creative, the content of the message, is off target, then you have lost your market, but those who are offended by the medium itself are best thought of as non-prospects because there is, by definition, absolutely nothing you could ever say to them in that medium to get them to buy. You could sell gold at $6 an ounce, and if you sent an antispammer an unsolicited email about it, they would still send you a mail bomb.

Note: While I do not hesitate to provide some "equal time" on this subject and argue the merits, I do not especially advocate the use of bulk email. Neither, however, do I begrudge the efforts of those who are experimenting to see if it works. We all need to know.

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