Sunday, January 16, 2011

the third dog

so.  it's been a year.  actually, for those of you who like to acknowledge the passage of time in arcane ways, it's been 1 year, 6 weeks and 1 day.  if we had been marking my blog posts on the molding of your kitchen doorway, there would be a giant gap between the last post and now, as though some weird growth hormone had alluvasudden kicked in.  when i was a child (well, okay  ... until the time i was 17 and was forced to acknowledge that it was likely i'd be vertically-challenged for the rest of my adult life), i would occasionally ask my mother to do that doorframe thing.  she refused, at the time claiming the house was dirty enough without us intentionally writing on the walls.  with the benefit of a few decades of hindsight, i now know it was because SHE knew the growth hormone was not going to kick in.  she was 4'10," married to a guy who was 5'2," and mother of 2 other girls who were maybe 5'1" (including the one who says she's 5'3").  indeed, my mother was no idiot, and she was clearly aware of what was not going to happen, pencil marks be damned.

anyway, there are a number of reasons why i've been absent from this venue, and trust me, they're all good.  but the one about which i must opine today presents itself in the form of Bosco Levy, the third dog in the Levy household ... and today's marketing metaphor.

Bosco is a rescue dog who came to us last summer.  he'd been nearly starved to death and you could see his ribs from across the room.  you'd think that would've made him a mean, aggressive dog (ask anyone who knows me well about how i get when there's no chow), but he's really a very sweet creature -- in fact, almost overly so.  he has what, in dog training parlance, are sometimes called "attachment isssues."

this means he sometimes is a giant pain in the ass, like when you've got a giant basket of laundry in your hands and he gets under your feet,  and both you and the laundry go flying.  or when you step outside for a minute and he nearly commits doggie suicide by attempting to jump over the 2nd-level deck railing.  or when you're on the phone on a very important conference call, and he decides he needs to sit in your lap RIGHT THEN. did i mention that the act of covering the afore-mentioned ribs has made him an 80-lb dog? he cannot actually fit in my lap, but that doesn't keep him from trying.

i love this dog desperately, but he just wants to be too close.  and this, dear readers, is where i'm going with today's post.  often in marketing, you hear people say "we've got to stay close to our customers."  and as a general rule and correctly practiced, that's ok.  it means we need to be keeping our eyes open on their behalf, checking in with them occasionally, and absolutely being there for them when they need something, asap or sooner.  it does not mean we should be stalking them, following up unnecessarily, or pestering them with repeated requests for lunch or drinks, no matter how big our expense budgets are.  or putting our giant doggy head underneath the elbow that's holding the coffee cup and making a big mess of the kitchen table.

it also means we shouldn't be purporting to give them something for free when really it's not free at all.  earlier today, i wanted to download a "complimentary" document from the website of a firm with whom i've done business in the past, which is why i'm on their email list.  (and by the way, they sort of abuse the privilege of emailing me, but that's for another post.)  so i click on the link, expecting to get the "free" document, and see one of these ubiquitous contact form things that wants to know my name, my company, etc.  this is annoying for at least 2 reasons:

  • I AM A CUSTOMER. shouldn't they already know my name, address, etc? i'm on their frigging email list, for goodness sakes. why are they asking me to spend my time giving them info they already have? if my time is money, then is the document really free? or does it cost, actually, the amount of money represented by the amount of time it takes me to fill in their stupid contact form?
  • even if i weren't a customer, it's disingenuous to call the document "free" when i have to give them something of value to get it.  i suppose they don't think of my personal info as having "value" -- except when they're attempting to quantify the value of the "free document" program to their superiors -- but still, it pisses me off, and that doesn't really work to their benefit, does it?  even Bosco can tell you that the cookies are not likely to come out when i'm in this particular mental state.
i'm hopeful that eventually Bosco will chill out and realize that i'm still gonna be here for him, whether i'm upstairs, or around the corner or tied up on a call for a couple of hours. and so hopefully we as marketers will be able to relax and realize that sometimes less is more, and that you have a better shot at getting somebody to contact you based on a "free" document if that document is in fact really free.