Balancing creepy with helpful: A marketer’s view

I sign up for way too many newsletters. They come recommended by friends, co-workers, blogs and of course other newsletters.

This puts me in the top of the funnel for all sorts of products both relevant and not. All promise to make me better at my job.

In this post, I’ll walk through a few couple recent pitches and explore their effectiveness. Sales and marketing are intertwined. There’s little patience for sleazy sales pitches. Productivity trumps persistence. If you’re taking my time to show me your product, make it worth my while. I have a lot of respect for sales reps doing cold calls, demos, lead scoring and the works. It’s an intense, unforgiving business. It’s great to see more and more real pros who respect my time too.

You can probably spend an entire year demoing various products to monitor your social audience, work leads through the funnel, nurture prospects and automate yourself silly. Some of the tools I’ve used are really cool and useful by offering a closer look at your individual audience members.

The challenge  for the modern marketer (aka growth hacker) is balancing the creepiness of looking over someone’s digital shoulder with the potential for helpfulness by solving your customer’s headaches.

Here’s one example of a sales email that came after I registered for a virtual sales conference. The subject line was simply, suggestively: VoicemailDon't Do This.

First, I don’t mind that he sent it. I liberally share my email address with vendors to gain access to their guides and so-called premium content created to elicit my email address. (Note to self: write post about how to create premium that kills)

The problem with the email above is that it’s based on a lie: he couldn’t have left a voicemail because I haven’t set it up yet. This sets a bad tone from the beginning of my relationship with this guy. A colleague of mine also pointed out two other negatives:

  • Saying “My job is to schedule your one-on-one follow up conversation” depreciates his role and creates less of a reason for me to reply.
  • Thanks, Regards, … is just sloppy.

Chance of replying: 0%

In my second example, here’s a marketing email from The Daily Muse. I really like what they’re doing to make it easier to find quality career advice. The “What’s it like to work at…” posts offer a glimpse into companies that you won’t find through most branded Facebook profiles or company team pages.

The point of the email below is to get me to go to their Facebook page and like the brand. As much as I know there is value to be unlocked on Facebook for B2C and B2B marketers, this attempt falls flat at first blush.

Not amused.


But I’m torn on this one. At first I dismissed it as annoying and a waste of my time. I signed up for musings of the daily variety, not this. The “jab” in this email is that I’d see more of their great content quickly. Since I don’t really use facebook to find content, I have little incentive to give away my like or clutter my feed.

Also, dudes, don’t be greedy! As of posting this, The Daily Muse facebook page has 125K+ likes (from 112K in the email gif)! Mysterious forces at work here. Or just marketing genius.

Chance of clicking the CTA: 0%

Chance of trying a riff of this: 100%

What do you think of these two strategies? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips.

My Kryptonite

I spent the first decade of my working life as a journalist, most of that with The Wall Street Journal. As an editor responsible for keeping updated with the best and most relevant content, I kept tabs on all the news I possibly could. That meant frequent contact with our bureaus around the world, a few computer monitors, a full Tweetdeck, a bank of TVs set to the major news networks or sometimes cartoons, daily news meetings, our own site’s live metrics…

It dawned on me the other night. One thing I really love about my new job at CB Insights is that I get to deep dive in one subject area: private company data.

It’s a big change from constantly jumping from central bank meetings to elections and everything in between, not to mention launching new websites and running a team.

I’ve slowly come to notice a pattern in what makes me less productive: trying to move to a new task before the original one is finished. It’s futile to try to focus on more than one thing at a time. How does that add up for a digital editor charged with keeping tabs on every major news event throughout the day?

One answer is teamwork. I worked with the most generous, intelligent and talented group of people in the business.

Another answer is focus.

To put it another way, multitasking is impossible. Even though you’re probably reading this (hey, thanks!) while thinking about lunch or eavesdropping on someone’s obnoxious train conversation, your brain can only process one of those thoughts at a time.

I want to embrace that fact. There are many strategies for processing large amounts of disparate information. I use boxes. If a distraction pops up that would take me away from the task at hand, I put it in a figurative box in my mind and set it on a shelf.

It’s a strategy I’ve learned from friends and mentors to help manage personal as well as professional matters.

The impetus for starting this blog–something I’ve had on my massive to-do list for years–is three-pronged. First, I offered to start a blog back and forth with Peter Boyce, and want to deliver! Second, I want to be more focused. Third, I want to share my love of writing with others.

I come up with ideas for blog posts every day. How many of those have I written and published in the past year? *Ahem* zero.

I plan to write about a few areas of personal interest, which will probably morph over time: storytelling, sports & outdoors, travel and technology.

My goal is to blog regularly as a means to improve my productivity in work and play. If you’d like to join our blog tag-team, drop me a line in the comments or shout at me on twitter.

Thanks for reading!