By Shayne Tilley

5 sure fire ways to make yourself look like an idiot

By Shayne Tilley

When you’re presenting direct offers to customers either through direct mail, email marketing, telemarketing or door to door sales, here’s five sure fire ways to ensure you’ll never make a sale…

Send your customers an offer they can’t accept

There nothing quite like sending a customer a letter, or an email with an offer so wonderful that they’re ready to buy. Only to find out “sorry – we don’t ship there” or “that service isn’t available at your address”. Don’t make promises you can’t keep!

Give customers a call to action that doesn’t work

The main purpose of a direct mail piece is to get a customer to act. That action might be to click a link, visit web address, or dial a phone number. If your direct mail achieves that – its done its job. So when that action is completed, you better be ready for it! Nothing converts quite like a 404 page or a phone number that’s disconnected.

Send your customers better deal on a product they already own

Talk about rubbing your customer’s noses in it. These days people are aware that offers change over time. How many of us have bought a TV, only to find it on sale the next week, or Apple’s price drop on the iPhone. So if they see an ad on your site, or hear something on the radio, most people will feel unlucky, but not angry. Send them a direct mail, with their name on it, offering them a better price something you should know they already own — now you’re asking for trouble.

Don’t unsubscribe your customers when they ask

When a customer asks not to hear from you about a particular product, or to not hear from you at all, then act on that request. I don’t like your chances of selling a product to someone who’s clearly nominated they’re not interested – nor will you sell anything to the 10 other people they tell “they just couldn’t get you to go away!”

If a customer asks you a question, don’t respond, they don’t deserve it

If a direct marketing piece prompts a customer to ask a question, then the sales 90% complete. Don’t answer and I can guarantee it’s lost, answer promptly, comprehensively, and courteously, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll make the sale.

Unfortunately over my many years as a marketer I can associate myself with just about all of the above. But the best thing about making mistakes is that you learn from them, so perhaps you can learn from mine…

Feel free to add your own direct marketing tragedies.

  • Ian

    Nice points but did you have to make it near impossible to read by inverting the actual point of the article?

    How about next time, change the heading to be “5 sure fire ways to make yourself look *not* like an idiot” and make the article readable instead of me having to mentally reverse everything.

  • Desmond Kerk

    I agree with these points. The most frustrating is really when you call or email and get no response. It’s aparent some companies still don’t think the potential of their websites/online sales seriously.

    Anyone in marketing should have this list pinned up somewhere to avoid making these mistakes.

  • @Ian Yeah but then would you have been as interested in clicking the title in the first place? :)

  • darkecho

    I relation to “Send your customers better deal on a product they already own” I get a lot of calls from Comcast “Hey if you like your cable with us” (which I do) “then you should try our high speed internet”. This is not a automated system, but a real human being. Now my response is always “We already have your high speed internet so why would I want to try it”. Guh!

    If you are going to call someone about other products/services that you offer make sure they don’t already have those. (more for services than products as you don’t always know what someone has)

  • @darkecho — I’ve seen that so many times in large organizations. It’s always a case of the right hand having no idea what the left hand is doing. You’ll find they have one system that manages your cable and a different one that manages your high speed internet. And nothing that seamlessly merges them together.

    I’ve worked for an energy company that had no way to view gas and electricity customers as person accurately. Too many times did we run a campaign along the lines of “Hey your electricities with us, why not bring your gas across” only to find out they don’t have natural gas, or it was already with us.

  • SecretAgentRege

    I disagree that “send[ing] your customers [a] better deal on a product they already own” makes you look like an idiot.

    I’ll agree that showing a potential customer that you offer a product at a lower price than they may have purchased may be “rubbing [their] noses in it,” as you put it. However (and to continue on your analogy) why do you rub a dog’s nose in it? So they won’t do it again, of course! By showing a customer that they’ve made a mistake going somewhere else, the customer will begin to look to you for future and similar purchases. If the customer had no idea you had the same product for a lower price, why would they even bother looking at you in the future unless you give them the reason. People learn from their mistakes, but only if you show them they have made a mistake.

  • @SecretAgentRege – I agree with what your saying here, but it’s when they’ve already purchased the product/service from you, rather than a competitor, that causes the problems.

  • Anonymous

    Don’ rant on your client when they ask in the the project deadline:

    – Can you do that little change? I forgot to tell you…


  • Justen

    I am very tempted to say the whole article should just be replaced with, “One Way to Make Yourself Look Like An Asshole”, content: “Direct marketing.”

    Seriously, who looks forward to the daily spam (in the email inbox or in the snail mailbox), the telemarketing phone call or the door to door salesman? We all HATE it, many people so vehemently that they’ll actually stop buying a product made by a company who uses the most obnoxious of these techniques (telemarketing and door-to-door). You have to wonder how much legitimacy you sacrifice and how many potential customers you drive away by getting in their face and filling up their mailbox with junk.

    We should be looking for ways to reach people and raise product awareness which don’t annoy them or leave them with a bad taste in their mouth and a feeling like they got pressured or suckered after the sale. Unfortunately high pressure sales and blatant lying are strongly associated with direct marketing; the whole thing just oozes dishonesty. There has to be a better way, start blogging on that!

    Maybe I’m in the wrong industry. :)

  • @ Justen – you might just see a post about intrusive direct marketing, and direct marketing that’s done right (there is a difference :-). Times are a changing and the channel mix is shifting (sorry to use an old cliche), but the fact remains that about 1 in 10 people still accept a legitimate offer from a telemarketer. Whilst these conversions exist, large companies will continue to throw big money at it.

  • Tim

    Sitepoint.com does some really bad things, from a marketing perspective.

    Consider the article titled “The Photoshop Anthology: 101 Web Design Tips, Tricks & Techniques – PDF Only.”

    I click the link and on that page is a link titled “Download Complete Book.”

    Now, when I surf, I like to right-click and open the link in a new window. Many people do this, for varying reasons. But, when I right-click this link Firefox notifies me that a pop-up has been blocked.

    I don’t want to allow any web site unrestricted rights so I don’t ‘allow pop-ups from http://www.sitepoint.com.’

    My only other real choice, forced on me by the web design, is to left-click the link and lose the current page.

    This, too is marketing, and in my ‘cost/benefit’ equation is a high cost I pay for visiting such a site.

  • You are to be congratulated for bringing a different but very useful information. I feel, this post itself and shayne has personally cleared quite so many things. Such posts like this may educate people, even the companies are still doing these practises.

    Thanks for the post again

  • nightwatchman

    I concur with the points raised in the article but I’m astonished that in my experience the guilty culprits are usually the biggest organisations, those that one would expect to have the ability to prevent committing these abysmal errors.

    Having owned and registered Filemaker Pro 6,7 and 9 I am astonished to receive numerous offers of “free tutorials” only do be lead to 404s or dead links, etc.

    I feel that a simple respond link with options to enlighten the junk-mail sender with the knowledge of how much they are shitting you, e.g. 1. Thanks for the offer but I have already purchased it from another vendor, 2. Hey, you arseholes sold the same thing to me last week for double the price, where’s my refund, 3. I don’t like junk-mail, don’t shit me again! The responses would be one way of convincing those at the helm to spend a bit more to ensure the faux pars do not occur.

  • nightwatchman

    Actually, Sitepoint.com have managed to piss me off a number of times offering me stuff I already bought from them!

    Also, having purchased the Web Business Design Kit for hundreds of US dollars I wasn’t too thrilled to have to spend hundreds of dollars again for the 2.0 release. So I didn’t. An upgrade pack containing the only new material for a representative cost would have had me punching my credit card numbers in immediately.

    Communication in the virtual world is way too often “one way traffic”, companies doing a lot of talking but zero listening, capitalism is in danger of necking itself!

  • I’ve always loved the first of the points Shayne brings up…

    “Hey, you really need this great (insert ADSL or Foxtel or ADSL2 etc) offer. Act now and it’s yours for no setup/installation fee…”

    You get excited about it and then, WHAM! Not available in your area.

    A variation on that theme is the door to door sales person -whom you inform will not get the sale because you don’t have the credit rating for it- who has to call you back a few days later to tell you that your application has been unsuccessful. If they’d listened you would have saved all involved some time and effort.

    By far the worst one though comes from the other side of the fence. I used to work for Foxtel years ago (yes, I was one of the pests that would annoy you right on dinner time) and there were a few times that I signed someone up only to have the technician turn up and tell them that the job couldn’t be completed. At this point you would have the money you made from that sale raked back out of your next pay and usually an irate customer ranting at you down the phone in obvious dissapointment.

    Oh, and by the way, sometimes the “idiocy” is thrust upon you by the company you work for with the lies they tell you, which are then passed on to you prospective customers.

  • I especially like the point about not answering e-mail. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent some type of e-mail inquiry about a product or service and never received a reply. You won’t be getting my business that way. I understand that e-mail isn’t the most effective form of communication and things happen, but it undermines my potential to purchase when I don’t get a reply.

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