The Creepy Factor in Modern Marketing

It’s one of the greatest paradoxes of online commerce: we all love the personalized advertising that tracking allows, but no one, and I mean no one, wants to feel tracked.

As marketers and as sales reps, we walk a fine line between using data to personalize the sales experience and cater to specific needs, and (to put it plainly) seeming like stalkers. But, as Mathew Sweezey discussed in his recent webinar, “Social Selling Without Being Creepy,” there are ways to use today’s modern tools (progressive profiling, social lookups, and real-time alerts) to optimize your marketing without crossing over into the realm of creepy. Let’s take a look.

Be Cautious With Wording

Take a lesson from the masters in personalized advertising: Amazon. If you’ve ever browsed the website of this online retail giant before, you’ve probably caught on that the fact that you like most of the products on the Amazon homepage isn’t a coincidence. But what if, instead of saying, “Customers who viewed this item also viewed,” at the bottom of each page, they said, “You’ve viewed products A, B, and C, so we’re showing you product D”? It may seem like a subtle distinction, but the wording here is crucial, and the message conveyed changes from, “Since you’re looking at this page, let me make some helpful recommendations,” to, “I’ve been watching you, and I can anticipate what you’ll want to look at next.”

Understand Social Media Etiquette

All social media is the same, right? Wrong. Each social media channel has its own purpose and comes with its own rules of etiquette — particularly when you’re using it as a business. Understanding these distinctions between platforms is crucial to not coming off as creepy. For instance, adding a prospect you’ve been chatting with as a connection on LinkedIn might be okay, but adding them as a friend on Facebook is definitely not. For platforms like Twitter, which toes the line between business and personal, it’s a little trickier. Just remember that the Golden Rule applies: if you would find an action creepy (or at best self-promotional), chances are that others will too. Make sure that interactions are, in fact, social — meaning that you should follow a prospect and show interest in their conversations before bombarding them with marketing messages.

Know the Right Time for Real-Time

A prospect comes to your site and downloads your buyer’s guide. With real-time alerts, your sales rep is notified the second he or she clicks the button, and within minutes, they’re on a phone call discussing pricing and package options. Sounds like a powerful tool, right? It is, but there are restrictions for taking advantage of these capabilities. For one thing (as Sweezey points out). not every action merits a phone call. If a prospect downloads a white paper, give them a chance to read it before having a sales rep reach out. For another, it’s important to be aware of wording in these interactions as well. For instance, if a sales rep says, “I noticed that you just downloaded our white paper on implementing our product on your landing pages; what did you think?”, you not only come across as creepy, you also give your prospect the perfect opportunity to say, “Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to look at that yet, please call back later.” Instead, consider using this tool strictly as an indicator of a prospect’s interests — and to start conversations along the lines of, “I see that you guys are already doing some very impressive things with your landing pages, let me show you how our product can help.”

Today’s tracking tools give marketers the ability to create a more personalized sales experience than never before — one that consumers will appreciate. And with a little bit of common sense and adherence to the Golden Rule, marketers can take advantage of these tools without coming off as creepy. Be sure to check out Sweezey’s webinar for more on social selling etiquette, and tell us about your own experiences in our comments section!

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One thought on “The Creepy Factor in Modern Marketing

  • Hi Molly,

    Great article. I was looking for modern interactive techniques and found this article. Thanks for the reminder. I don’t want to be “that guy”.

    I work in engineering. A friend has a psa that does promotional casual Fridays. The stylists wear t-shirts from a local business solely as a “Name Recognition” exercise.

    I think it’s a great way to get our name out into the general public.

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