Stalking is bad. It is scary, spooky and downright illegal – why is it then that some of our online colleagues in Australia resort to it as a viable marketing strategy? Sadly, it may be because they don’t realise they are doing it or they are too lazy to do their marketing properly. We should all band together and help stamp it out because it is hurting the industry and giving online marketing a bad name.

Of course I am not talking about the nefarious forms of cyberstalking but rather those companies who get a list of names and email addresses and constantly bombard them with useless and irrelevant email offers, playing the numbers game that an open rate of 1% and clickthrough rate of a few percent might work for them.   

If someone walks into your bricks and mortar store, you would welcome them and offer assistance, once. If you followed them around making suggestions and offering unwanted products or services, they would quickly turn tail and leave the store, and then two things would happen:

  1. They probably never come back into your stores, and
  2. They tell other people about their bad experience.

The same thing happens online. If you bombard people with junk email, they soon stop opening it and get a negative feel for your brand, which they will share with others.

The trap many marketers fall into is that they think just because a customer has registered or bought something or joined a club program that they have given you the right to blast them with irrelevant messages each week or month. In truth opt in helps you steer clear of anti-spam legislation but it does not diminish your responsibility as a professional marketer.

It is important to remember that marketing is about matching buyers and sellers – not about sellers throwing stuff at enough potential buyers that some will be silly enough to convert. The matching means understanding who the customer is and the trick is working out what they need and when they need it. In the online world there is plenty of available information to help a marketer know more and more about the customer – there really is a person behind that click. Smart companies are using technology to help build a profile of website visitors and their habits over time that can be used to make relevant offers to the right prospects at the right time.

Please can we start to move to professional online marketing now and avoid the pitfalls that beset the call centre industry when they went down this same path 10 years ago? Outbound telemarketing was based on the same numeric principles that some of our colleagues are using with their broad brush email stalking “campaigns” (loose usage: a campaign would generally expect to have some proper thought and strategy behind it). That is, send out or call enough and play the numbers game. The outbound telemarketing industry was eventually pulled into line. The same thing will happen with email marketing if we let the lazy marketers kill the communication channel for the rest of us.