Like many of you, I receive an absolute avalanche of unsolicited sales inquiries from companies large and small. In nearly every case, the entreaties badly miss the mark. In the case of the small fry who pitch me, I tend to let it go since they're so resource-constrained to begin with.
But considering the marketing budgets of big companies, I have no second thoughts whatsoever happily deleting their e-mails, videos, and e-newsletters, as well as tossing their snail mail in the circular file.
Years of bombardment by misguided marketers has given me one thing, however: the knowledge to list the top nine marketing mistakes most large companies make in attempting to sell their wares to me:
1.) They talk at me. One insurance company bombards me weekly with digital advertisements telling me they have a passion for protecting my business. They then proceed to tell me I really should set a first meeting with a local representative. Why would I do that when the company has done absolutely nothing to convince me they know my needs or wants?
2.) They don't understand my role. I'd be a rich man if I earned a dollar for every piece of mail or spam from large providers asking me if I'd thought about my firm's copier needs, back-end web architecture, or HVAC requirements. Happily, I have very competent professionals handling those areas. If you don't take the time to figure out my role, don't bother contacting me.
3.) They butcher my name. Calling me Scott, Sam, or Shirley earns a salesperson an immediate one way ticket to Palookaville. It's not only insulting; it foreshadows the type of attention the larger organization will pay to my needs (were I foolish enough to engage their services).
4.) They don't do their homework. Large commercial realtors routinely bombard me with amazing new spaces that have just come on the market and are absolutely ideal for Peppercomm. Had these eager beavers only conducted due diligence, they'd know we're at the front-end of a 10-year lease and have no interest whatsoever in looking at new space.
5.) They don't personalize their pitch. This is especially true of car companies who try to connect with me in every conceivable way and on every possible channel. None, though, bothers to address my wants and needs as the owner of a 100-person business, or why as a small business owner I should consider buying their auto over a competitor's. Haven't these large marketers heard of one-to-one marketing?
6.) They make false assumptions. Many large trade organizations often invite me to attend their amazing workshops, seminars, or conferences. Sadly, I'm not interested in project management, business opportunities in emerging markets, or gleaning insights from rock stars in the world of telephony. Why invite the head of a marketing communications firm to any of the above without first knowing if I even care?
7.) They use the wrong channels. If a large company really wants to connect with me, they'll take the time to find out where I consume information. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn where I'm quite active and react to one of my tweets, blogs, or columns with additional thoughts. Or share an article I might enjoy. If you build trust, you'll earn my consideration.
8.) They aren't transparent. I recently received an engraved invitation from a well-known mutual fund company. They were inviting me to an "educational" dinner at a five-star Manhattan eatery for free! They were also quick to add that the mailer was not a sales solicitation of any kind. Yeah, sure. And, Barry Bonds never ingested steroids. Be upfront. Tell me you'd like me to consider your services and intend to explain why at an upcoming shindig. Maybe I'll attend as opposed to dumping your two-faced mailer in the garbage.
9.) They never offer to help me. After my firm was named best workplace by Crain's New York Business, I was deluged by e-mails and letters that began: "Congratulations on being named the single best workplace in New York City. Since you want to stay on top, we know you'll want to know more about our (fill-in product or service)." Had these very same firms come to me and offered to, say, help me network within their influential circles, I'd definitely take a first meeting (and maybe even consider buying their product or retaining their services). Alas, big companies don't like to invest their time in nurturing relationships with smaller organizations.
As everyone knows, the entrepreneurial market is white hot at the moment. And like sharks circling prey, large companies are trying to figure out how best to connect with us. There really ought to be a tutorial for these predators because most are missing the mark by a mile. If a shark was half as sloppy in its hunting, the poor thing would die of starvation.