The most valuable commodity in the world today is attention. Your challenge is to get it. The question is, “How?” Will you try to steal it, or will you earn it?
One of the free, local newspapers in my town isn’t exactly an institution, but it has somehow endured for years. A few people actually read it and appreciate it — enough to generate the advertising that somehow keeps it going.
Recently, something happened to their distribution model.
It used to arrive in every mailbox in town, whether your subscribed to it or not. No big deal, most of us tossed it into the recycling bin with the rest of the unwanted junk mail. With so many catalogs, phony mortgage loan offers, coupons and 0% APR credit card applications to discard — it doesn’t require extra effort or frustration to add a newspaper to the pile.
Postal delivery suddenly became very expensive, I assume, because the paper was forced to find another way to get into every inbox in town. A scramble ensued to figure out how to make good on advertiser promises with no affordable distribution model.
Their solution — hand deliver a paper to every household, every week.
There’s a problem with this solution, however. Without the postal service, they can’t slip the paper into mailboxes.
They decided to throw the papers into people’s driveways.
What happens when you hand deliver a paper to 30,000 households that didn’t subscribe and don’t expect it? It sits there, unnoticed for days, weeks, sometimes months. The paper slips underneath the car and you never see it. It lands just short of the driveway, on the curb or the sidewalk and you never see it. It lands in the middle of the yard, and because it’s winter and you’re not mowing the lawn or spending time outdoors, you never see it.
The papers are piling up. Mixed with melting snow, they turn to mush. Washed away by rain, they clog the storm drains. Blown by the winter wind, they end up in the streets.
Cars run over them.
After a few weeks of this, I got fed up. I plucked one of the papers out of the middle of my street. I turned to the masthead and found a customer service email address. I fired off a complaint. I described the public nuisance they were creating. I begged them to stop
A day later, I got a response. Actually, the circulation manager informed me, there are many people that want and wait for the paper. They get calls of gratitude. And cancellation is easy, she said, all I have to do is provide my address.
So I canceled the subscription that I never asked for.
The issue that this newspaper, and so many companies, don’t understand is that we no longer live in an era when people will tolerate this kind of practice. In the permission economy, people will not tolerate being tricked, cajoled and interrupted.
Unfortunately, similar tactics are attempted by marketers all the time. This is a tactic that can never be successful in the connection economy. What the selfish marketer overlooks is the fact that if the product they are delivering is literally trash in the street, the perception of their brand diminishes exponentially.
I recently connected with a professional marketer on Twitter. He followed me, I followed back. He auto-DM’ed an offer to me. I ignored the auto-DM (does this tactic work for anyone?)
This particular marketer looks good on the surface: 37,000 followers, a slick website that offers masterclasses (avoid disappointment, they sell out!) and guarantees of instant growth and increased sales.
Suddenly, I started receiving automated emails from this guy. One little problem, I hadn’t opted in.
After a few daily messages, I responded — why was he sending emails when I hadn’t opted in.
His response: my email address is in the public domain and therefore fair game. But don’t worry, he said, the emails clearly provide his “unsubscribe” link.
Again, I’m given the opportunity to cancel the subscription that I never asked for.
Marketers: please, we have to do better. We can’t be OK with creating blight. Stop going for the quick sale, trying to trick people into buying your product or service.
Be patient. Be generous. Be a good citizen.
Grow an audience organically based on the value you bring to them. Take the time to build a relationship on trust.
The world’s attention is your to grab. Will you try to steal it, or will you earn it?