The Subtle Art of Not Being Annoying | Inbound Marketing

Ashley Wilson-Rew

There are few things more difficult than not being a pain in the ass.

It's just so easy to run around with no consideration for anyone but yourself: making sudden turns without warning (because turn signals are hard), parking diagonally between two spaces, and parking in the handicap spots when you're not handicapped. Because if you didn't park in the handicap spot, it would take a whole extra thirty seconds to get to the grocery store. God forbid.

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You know who you are.

And those are only some of the ways you can be a pain with a car! There are so many other tools, times, events, and situations in which you can do The Thing You Want To Do with no consideration for others. With so many possibilities, how could anyone possibly avoid being annoying?

(Do I even need to mention that was all sarcasm?)

There are little things we do every day to show our consideration for others. Letting someone in front of you on the highway, holding the door for a senior citizen, taking a second to make sure your neighbor's kid gets off the bus safely.

Why do we do this? Because we hope others will show that same consideration for us. It's the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.

Want to know the biggest secret to marketing success? It's called the the Golden Marketing Rule:

Market to Others the Way You Want to Be Marketed To

One more time for the people in the back! Your own marketing strategies should reflect the way you wish to be treated when others market to you.

Also known as: The Subtle Art of Not Being Annoying.

What Makes Marketing Annoying?

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Spam, spam, spam- wait, what?

A brief Google search pulls up a few things that people hate about marketing:

  1. Endless promotional emails.
  2. Endless promotional social media posts.
  3. Endless promotional everything.
  4. Using tricks to get people's attention (misleading titles, clickbait, not fulfilling a promise).
  5. Pretending you're not trying to make sales.
  6. Unsolicited marketing contact (cold calling, cold emails, etc.).
  7. Constant emails, calls, any form of contact. 
  8. Hijacking other people's news or tragedies to promote your business, product, or service.
  9. Interrupting their day to push your (unwanted, unneeded) product.

What's the trend that makes every single one of these things so annoying? It's the lack of consideration for your audience. It's putting the desire to push your product above their personal space, time, and comfort. It's rude, and it's the fastest way to lose great potential customers.

When you create marketing materials and content, you need to place yourself in the shoes of your audience. Think about this before you send or post a marketing message: If I received this from another company, would I be annoyed?

The Perks of Not Being Annoying

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This subtle art comes with not-so-subtle benefits for you and your business

1.  Credibility

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides two definitons for credibility

  1. the quality of being believed or accepted as true, real, or honest;
  2. the quality or power of inspiring belief.

When you stop promoting yourself and start providing value, others naturally see you as a trustworthy resource and a thought leader. When it comes time to sell your product, they're more likely to listen to what you have to say and make a purchase.

2.  Trust

Would you buy a product or service from a company you didn't trust? If not, why would you expect your own customers to do so? 

The biggest factor in inspiring trust is respecting boundaries. People set boundaries that are both obvious (putting themselves on the Do Not Call list) and indirect (if they don't respond to your email, they're probably not going to appreciate getting a surprise phone call from you on their personal cell. This has actually happened to me. It was not appreciated). 

Some boundaries don't need to be set; they're simply understood if you're a functioning member of American society. For some reason, marketers have blown past these social boundaries for years, and we're just now finding ways to block their unwanted solicitations.

For instance, calling at dinnertime. Etiquette says you don't give someone a call when they're probably sitting down for dinner with their family. And yet, everyone has a story of getting a dinnertime call from a telemarketer. How could they expect any outcome other than pissing you off?

Similarly, you don't ask for something from a stranger without offering something of equal value in return (e.g. money, knowledge, connections, resources). So, why do marketers ask for (or simply take) your contact information without providing a valuable offer in return? 

To be a successful marketer, you need to inspire trust in your audience by respecting these boundaries and social customs.

3.  Engagement

Guess what? When you're not annoying, people enjoy interacting with you! If they can trust that you're not going to hijack the conversation to promote your new product, they'll happily provide feedback, comment on your content, like and share your social posts, and more. 

There's nothing more annoying than sharing someone's post and immediately getting a message saying, "I noticed you shared our post. Let us tell you about our new product..."

4.  Profitable Relationships

Happy customers write gushing reviews and refer you to their friends. Social proof such as reviews and testimonials correlate with more sales and revenue. Referred customers are more likely to convert and buy. Check it out:

  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (BrightLocal)
  • People are 4x more likely to buy when referred by a friend. (Nielsen)
  • The Lifetime Value of a referred customer is 25% higher than that of other customers. (Wharton)
  • Customers acquired through referrals spend 200% more and bring a 25% higher profit margin than the average customer. (MarketShare)

What happens when you use pushy, annoying marketing tactics? You make people unhappy. Unhappy people write negative reviews, warn their friends away, and don't make purchases.

How to Ensure You Provide Value to Your Visitors

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1.  Do Not Initiate Contact Without Permission

Just don't. No one likes it, no one appreciates it, and their first impression of you will permanently be "Called me when I didn't want to be called. Do not like this company. Avoid in the future."

It can be difficult to read non-verbal language over the Internet, but you can read what we call digital body language to find out if your call or email will be appreciated. If you're tracking website visits, you may notice that a prospect spent ten minutes on your website and viewed six different pages. That's a pretty good indication that you can provide value by saying, "I noticed you spent a lot of time on our site. Can we answer any questions for you?"

2.  Provide Free, No-Strings-Attached Knowledge

From Nectafy's Lance Cummins on a recent purchase from Back Yard Living:

I went into that store and I asked a few questions.  They were so extremely helpful. He (Dan) took about an hour with me, walked me out to this display area, this beautifully landscaped area. He was suggesting, “You know, you can match this stone with this stone; you want to be careful when you do this, that you put it a quarter inch above this other thing and when you compact it down, it will all be perfect.” He was basically teaching me how to do this stuff myself. 

He was providing value before I ever even gave him a dollar and I was convinced from that little bit of interaction with him, that these guys actually cared about me succeeding.

Are we really telling you to teach your customer how to do the thing you do? For free?! How are you supposed to make purchases if they can just do it themselves?

Here's the trick: you might tell them exactly how to do it, you might offer your expertise as an open book for their perusal, but they still won't have your technical knowledge and experience to do your job for you.

However, simply by saying, "My knowledge is your knowledge, no purchase required" you inspire trust, you demonstrate your expertise, and you show true concern for your customer. That's what will convince them to purchase.

3.  If You Want Contact Info, Provide a Valuable Offer in Return

People will gladly hand over their email address in exchange for something they want. What do your visitors, prospects, and buyers want? What information will help them do their jobs better, or help them make more informed purchase decisions? What info will help them succeed in their career and their personal life?

Personally, I just gave my email address to a recipe website in exchange for a healthy mini-cookbook. This is the kind of offer that appealed to me as I was looking through their site. I've also exchanged my email for a list of things you need for your first apartment, a webinar for content writers, and a coupon for 20% off my first purchase on an eCommerce site.

These offers were valuable to me based on my interests, my intent, my circumstances, my goals, and my job. These are the things you need to consider when you're baiting your hook for contact information.

4.  Give Them a Taste of Your Product or Service

Studies show that free trials, no-risk demos, and money-back guarantees increase conversions sign-up, and ultimately sales. We're wary of services that require payment beforehand - what if it doesn't work? What if you hate it? What if it's a scam and you can't get your money back? 

Trials, demos, and samples bring us back to building trust with your prospects. Once they have a taste, they know it's not a scam or a bum product, they're perfectly happy to make an actual purchase.

5.  Direct Them to Third Party Information

Nothing says "I'm here to help you" more than providing the most relevant and valuable information possible (even if that information isn't your own). This is why the 10-4-1 social media rule works; it shows your followers that you're dedicated to spreading useful information, not just selling your product. 

As Now Marketing Group states,

If you take content they’ll love from trade journals, business publications, newsletters, other blogs, funny sources, great quotes etc. you are helping them in a million different ways. Over time, your audience starts to see you as a trusted advisor, an expert.

The end result is you become an information hub. Your audience no longer has to track down 15 different sources, they know you’re the go-to spot.

In a world of shameless self-promotion, it's refreshing to see a little humility and humanity from vendors.

Do We Really Need to Tell People Not to Be Annoying?

You might be surprised. When it comes to marketing, it seems all bets are off. Things that seem obviously annoying from the buyer's perspective seem perfectly acceptable from the seller's perspective. These are the vestiges of the who-can-yell-the-loudest style of marketing made popular by TV and radio advertising.

You might not be surprised to hear that being annoying doesn't make sales. Being conscientious of your customer, providing value, and eliminating shameless promotion will build you a loyal and profitable customer base. 

This is the modern style of marketing. A non-interruptive, non-traditional, inbound style of marketing. 

Are you still stuck on old world marketing, or are you ready to move forward and see progress?

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