How to Alienate Your Customers In 140 Characters or Less

Last week I attended a launch event for Clear at the Abbey Bar in Harrisburg.  Despite the open bar, free food, and promises of free devices with free service, I initially had no interest in going — and I’m not the type of person to turn down an open bar (or, for that matter, free food).  Amusingly, my lack of interest was due entirely to the marketing firm Clear hired to “promote” their event.

This all started a few weeks ago when I got my first shady email from them trolling for my email address .  I actually get a steady stream of emails like this; since my contact form doesn’t disclose my actual email addresses, spammers occasionally send “feeler” emails (“Your domain is about to expire”, “Your hosting has been disabled”, “SEO LOL”, etc).  The idea is that I’ll reply and they’ll have another email address to annoy and sell.  Multiply this by the hundreds of thousands of sites their scripts hit, and this tiny success rate turns into a few pennies’ worth of profit for zero effort.  Between the captcha and Bad Behavior, most of them get blocked.  But every now and then, a few will slip through.

And I assumed this was one of them.  After all, what kind of event invitation demands that I email them back in order to get more information?  And while this all may sound a little paranoid, when I clicked through to the domain they provided, it was a vague, cookie-cutter-website for a “new media marketing consulting group”.

No, really.  They actually say that.

badmarketingTheir website says they’re from Seattle — an unlikely candidate for wanting to organize a Tweetup in Harrisburg.  And if this all sounds a little paranoid, their Twitter feed is a steady stream of cut-and-paste replies begging people to click on a bit.ly link.

Yep.  Totally legit.

Right about now, most marketers — especially those that include terms like “affiliate” or “consultant” in their titles — would smugly cross their arms and say “So?  The whole point is to get people talking about the event.”  The problem, of course, is that nobody was talking about the Clear 4G Harrisburg launch.  After searching Twitter a few hours before the event, it became apparent that the headcount would be extremely low.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who was put off.

At the end of the day, barely a dozen people (and that’s being generous) actually showed up for the event.  It’s hard to get an exact count — especially after their employees started asking questions during the Q&A session — but there were far, far fewer people than should have been there.  Hell, we get twice that many to the Harrisburg Tweetups, and we don’t even have free booze!

The thing about marketing is that you as a client are judged by the image of the firm you retain.  If your marketing company starts annoying everyone they come across, you’re going to look bad.  You and your image are, to most consumers, inseparable.  Simply blaming bad exposure on the marketing firm doesn’t work; after all, you hired them, and you (should have) approved their tactics.  So right off the bat, Clear left me with a second-rate, fly-by-night impression.

This is unfortunate, because competition is always a good thing.  And in the wireless industry, we need as much competition as we can possibly get.  I hope Clear does well, but if they keep marketing themselves like this, I have my doubts.

I’ll post my experiences with the card in the coming days.

2 thoughts on “How to Alienate Your Customers In 140 Characters or Less”

  1. Back in the Dark Ages, I owned a resume-writing service. After talking to zillions of people who were eager to leave their jobs, I learned that companies generally treat their employees the way they treat their customers.

    It appears that you’ve come up with a corollary. There are companies that look at relationships as something to be nurtured, and there are companies that look at relationships as something to be exploited, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a customer, an employee or a vendor.

    Nice post.

  2. A lot of marketers view customers as a resource to be harvested. These are suitable for used car dealers and MLMs, but when they get retained for a new-to-market business trying to establish itself — let alone develop a professional-friendly image — it backfires. The marketing firm annoys the potential customers, and said customers perceive the business with the same regard as Discount Donny’s Used Car-O-Rama or Dare To Dream Financial Independence Consulting Group LLC.

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