When marketing gets creepy

A company I’ll call “NotAGreatIdea.com” is spying on me.

They know I’ve wandered onto their website and watched a video demo of their product.  I didn’t provide my name or email address.  But somehow they think they have permission to contact harass

Perhaps “harass” isn’t exactly the right word to describe the email that arrived a few minutes after my visit to their site.  It addresses me by name and mentions that they know that I’ve checked out their video.

Maybe “creepy” is a better word.

Nothin’ for nothin’

Companies can contact me when I’ve asked for something from their website, like a white paper.  I actually expect that.  It’s a fundamental principal of inbound marketing.  You give me something of value, and in return I give you an opportunity to connect with me.

Done well, this mutually valuable exchange can be a vital part of an effective customer acquisition strategy.  It can help companies earn credibility and move prospects along a path toward purchasing a solution.  And it can be designed and executed to fit within software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies’ business model.  (See “SaaS companies can’t afford to sell,” November 2012) 

But when I’ve not explicitly provided my name and contact information, as in the case of my anonymous visit to “NotAGreatIdea.com,” the company has not earned the right to contact me.

A productive relationship doesn’t start with stalking

In fact, their intrusive email completely soured me on the idea of learning more about the company.  I have not the slightest interest now in taking them up on the invitation “to arrange a short meeting to answer any questions you have and to show you how NotAGreatIdea.com’s easy to use patented technology can help take your marketing to the next level.” (Name changed to spare public embarrassment.)

If by “take your marketing to the next level” you mean that my company too can use your technology to identify visitors – who thought they were anonymous – and try to establish a trusting and productive relationship with them… no thanks.  That sounds worse than spam; it’s stalking.

Look, I’m not naive about what marketing technology can do.   I know you can use clever solutions like these to track all my comings & goings on a website, count my downloads, and even discover my name and email address.

But just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.

Creative Commons License

This work by Peter Cohen, SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Images obtained via  iCLIPART.com.