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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Collaboration vs. spam



Today, I woke up with the inspiration to write about the power of collaboration in marketing. I turned on the computer, and discovered 347 emails in the in-box. Most were bounces from spam, apparently using my (forged) email address on the 'from' line. As I went through the tedious process of clearing the junk email and worrying about my damaged reputation, I am reminded how the Internet brings out more than ever the extremes in marketing -- something you should consider and appreciate in planning your own strategies.

On one end, the collaborative approach, the marketing/selling process is built from healthy relationships, most often from existing clients who have discovered the quality of your work (and the quality of your ability to relate to them as individuals). They give you more work, sometimes steady contracts, and refer others to you. You can then use these relationships to enhance your opportunities with just a little effort -- maybe discovering the name of a mutual acquaintance, or (with their guidance) learning of a worthy community project or cause to support.

While industry leaders probably don't cite "marketing" as a reason they involve themselves actively in their trade associations/groups (serving on the executive and committees) or joining at a high level in community/charitable activities, undoubtedly they obtain true and meaningful advantages through these relationships. When you are a friend and community builder, it is never hard to be invited to quote on projects; when you are well respected and recognized publicly among the people with decision-making authority, you will find your proposals tend to be wired in your favour. This even creates ethical challenges; for example, your bid isn't the lowest, but the owner/GC wants you, so 'helps' you win, perhaps by redefining the scope of work, or finding some other approach to move you towards success, as competitors scream "they are bid shopping and peddling".

Now, look at the other extreme -- spam. It costs little cash to pour out thousands of emails to prospective customers, in the hopes that one or two might actually buy something. It doesn't matter how many people you irritate or offend (especially if you can forge things so an innocent person takes the heat) as long as a few people buy stuff.

The net cost, of course, of your marketing is far higher than the benefit -- the wasted time, energy, and frustration for thousands doesn't matter -- you are still making some bucks. Of course you are also probably breaking quite a few laws.

Telemarketing, broadcast faxing, and door to door canvassing all fit in this framework, though (thankfully) there are self-contained limits on these practices. You need to find "human resources" to do this type of work -- and since the work is so thankless, you generally find only desperate or naive people to do it (and if you can find really good people, with sensitivity and intelligence, so be it, you may well be successful with these marketing approaches, though I am intrigued by how much more successful you would be if you applied these individuals' talents to more collaborative and community-sensitive strategies.)

I am certainly not disputing that in-your-face push marketing works; my argument is the cost -- to all the people who don't want to receive your message; don't desire your interruption, and overall, to society/the environment for the complete waste they cause. How much more effective is it to share, to give, and to contribute to your community (and ensure your existing clients are so pleased with their experience they rave about it to their friends and even complete strangers?)

2 comments:

Tim Klabunde said...

Mark-
Great thoughts… it is amazing how living ‘right’ produces success. I have likewise found that simply doing things for the betterment of others, being honest, and focusing on relationships yields a sweet success that is both long-term and satisfying. Thanks for the great post!
Tim Klabunde
www.CofeBuz.com

Mark Buckshon said...

Tim, thank you for your kind comment. At least today I found the sudden outburst of spam is not a nefarious plot -- turns out my local ISP/Web designer is working on reconfigurations of our email accounts and in the transition, (temporarily) a mass of spam has been unleashed. Of course, the spammers, (like canvassers and telemarketers) could care less about the inconvenience they are causing because I am not buying their stuff!