Creepiness Comes in Many Forms. Don't Be Creepy!

Creepiness Comes in Many Forms. Don't Be Creepy!

If you work in B2B, getting spam is a daily occurrence. Not just the typical spam that vanishes into your junk file, but unsolicited one-to-one emails that are just as worthless.  

I set up a rule in my Outlook account that sweeps about 90% of my unsolicited email into a folder I'll never look at. Most of the remaining 10% comes from people who want to sell me a list or tell me about their best-in-class technology solution that's the greatest thing since sliced bread from a leading-provider company that I never heard of.

Here's the thing: In the email marketing world, we don't spam each other. That is, no reputable sales-development person does that. We try to win our business deals the old-fashioned way: We earn them! (That reference is for all you olds; Millennials, ask the old dude sitting next to you to explain it.)

As for the rest ...

A world-class creepy sales email

I thought I had seen every kind of crappy unsolicited business email. Then, one of my Adestra colleagues forwarded an unsolicited email that broke all world records for running, jumping and climbing creepiness.

Beside pitching the benefits of the sender's product and company, his email contained these three charming quotes:

"I love your website, by the way, it looks fantastic. LinkedIn profile pic is rather dashing too if I may be so bold ..."

"I'd love to treat (lol) you to a tequila shot & 10 minutes to discuss where this collateral can be used. I promise to be somewhat entertaining. You never know, I may even wear a monocle! ..."

"From here you have three choices, Berate me – I can take it. Ignore me, it'll hurt but I can take it. or 'best choice wink wink' choose a time from the link below for a chat."

Are you creeped out yet? This was in his sig line:

"PPS: Can't actually do tequila right now as I'm travelling right now so Skype or Phone will have to suffice!"

Creepy or creative? I vote creepy

I'm all for creativity in sales email. If you're going to spam me, you'd better be clever. You have only one shot to amuse me before I block you from the entire email system. So, come at me with your best.

But an email like that goes beyond creepy. It's not just casual conversation. It takes sliminess to a higher level. He cares so much about his business, his brand equity and the impression he's creating that he's willing to harass a stranger and even cops to harvesting her email off a website.

Plus, my colleague is female, which makes all the wink-wink/tequila shot/LinkedIn photo-creeping talk borderline sexual harassment. Reading his email creeped her out. Was that reaction he was hoping to generate?

Think about your customers

It's easy to chuckle about the over-the-top attitude of this email but there's an overarching theme to all this: Are we thinking about our end users – our message recipients – and their connections with our brands?

No, we don't send intentionally obnoxious emails like this one from the overeager bro. But could your use of data in your emails make your recipients feel just as creeped-out?

Along with everything else that goes into email message creation, we need to think about how our messages look to our end users. Could they come off as inadvertently creepy? Not because we got inappropriately chummy but because we used data to personalize those messages in ways our customers neither expect nor value.

That's one of the things First Person Marketers consider about using data. They ask, "Would our customers expect us to know we know this about them?"

Find and hold the line on data use

In the ability to access information about your customers, do you ever cross the line of acceptability or even look at where the line is?

Just because you have a certain data point about a customer doesn't mean you must use it in email messaging, in remarketing or other places where you encounter that customer.

Have you ever looked at something you did something with data and gotten a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? That means you not only crossed the line of appropriate data use, you went way beyond it.

We can easily go too far in our targeting and data use with the tools we have in marketing technology. We could slip into the foxhole where consumers think we are overreaching.

The lesson here is to watch how we use data, to watch and think about how our customers will react. Put yourselves in their place. The people who buy from you don't just want to buy your products; they want to buy your products from you. If you lose that trust, they'll go elsewhere, to someone who doesn't creep them out.

If you think about your customers and how they'll react, you'll never have a moment where your customers will call you and say, "How dare you!"

Wrapping up

When a stunt backfires – and we have way too many examples of how commercial messages can go horrifically wrong – you sacrifice mass quantities of brand equity and trust in making amends. You can't just go into a Foghorn Leghorn routine and hope that makes everybody laugh and move on.

You have choices when you set up your data inclusions in your emails. Don't choose "creepy."