How to: Avoid Getting on the Sh*t List

Today, I’d like to tell the story of how someone who went from professional networking relationship to avoidance at all costs. Once upon a time, I met a nice, charming woman at a networking event. Let’s call her Pam. Pam seemed smart, but was looking for local connections who might need printing services. I wanted to help her. I told her that I might be able to get her in touch with a friend who was launching a program and might need her services. Foreshadowing, this is where I went wrong.

Fast forward four weeks later. I’m rushing into my event venue, running late as always. I look around to ensure my speakers have arrived. I see Pam in the corner of my eye. I give her a quick, friendly hello as I frantically drop the box of materials, start searching for my jump drive and clicker, and pull out my laptop. Just as I hit the power button, I feel a rush come toward me. It’s Pam. Our interaction goes a little something like this:

Pam: I still haven’t heard from you about your friend. You told me you were going to send me her information.

Me (inside voice): Really? Not a how are you? You look like you’re busy, so I’ll leave you alone? Does this at all seem appropriate to ask? Let alone how you’re approaching this.

Me: Sorry about that. I’ve been super busy lately (like now), and have been traveling these past few weeks. Keep me honest and remind me.

Pam: Well send it to me. I’m really looking forward to connecting with her.

Me (inside voice): Breathe. Lady, this isn’t a good time. And this isn’t all about you.

Pam (just now realizing this wasn’t a good time):  Has anyone ever told you how cute you are?

Me (inside voice): Are you f-ing KIDDING me? Patronizing me sounds like the smartest place to go, right? Do I seem that shallow for you to think that I would bow at flattery? Honey, not if you were a 5′ 8″, blonde with slender features and an Australian accent. Well, maybe … if that person was Anna Torv.

Pam: Has no one ever told you that?

Me (inside voice): I really can’t handle you any more. I’m now an extra 5 minutes late because of this pointless exchange and if I continue to talk to you, this laptop that I’m grasping so tightly might not make it to the presentation.

Me: Um, thanks. Talk to you later Pam.

So clearly, there are a few key learnings from this. As I processed and reflected on my interaction with Pam later that day, I thought to myself – if people like Pam turned me off and made it on my sh*t list, then where did she go wrong and how can we ,as marketers, start treating people like we would in daily life. Unless you’re Pam that is. Meeting people offline (or IRL) and online are fundamentally the same. So, here’s a short list of what I came up with.

Timing is everything. When I’m reaching out to bloggers, the first thing I do is read their recent blogs, tweets and Facebook posts (if we’re friends). If they say that they’re stressed, heading out of town or having a “terrible, no good day,” I wait. Pushing your topic only makes you seem oblivious and selfish. Pam clearly saw that I was stressed, but approached me the way she did. And we all know that didn’t end well for  her.

Don’t make it all about you. As marketers and communicators, we’re constantly stressed about getting our key messages out to the public, getting that hit/sale and moving on to the next person. Earlier this week, I was at a career fair and sitting at that booth showed me the flaws we make as professionals. We know the people who bounce from one booth to another. The ones who didn’t take five minutes to research your company and open with, “I’m looking for a job”. Newsflash – you just made it to my recycle bin. Customers are asking, “What’s in it for me?” Get to know them and tailor your communications to fit their needs. Our customers hold all the power. The days of push (or pushy) messaging are over. It’s not about you. It’s about us.

Be genuine. Nice guys used to finish last, but not anymore. In a world where motives are always questioned, being genuine and authentic will get you further than those who blatantly seek to fulfill their agenda. A brand’s role is to offer and provide assistance. As we enter Web 3.0, brands will either make it through consumer’s filters, or they won’t. To position ourselves and ensure that we remain relevant, we need to be seen as a resource that seeks to genuinely help our consumers. This is where Apple, Zappos, Best Buy and Southwest Airlines have all won. How are you helping others?

We’ve all been in situations where someone turned us off because of how they approached us, what was said and what they wanted us to do. What have you learned from those situations, both offline and online? Share your key learnings!

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Posted on February 20, 2011, in Marketing, Personal, Professional, social media, Web/Tech and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Laura, great post. I especially like the new initialism IRL. I hadn’t seen that before.

    It’s so important to retain outward focus and figure out where we can provide value first — everything else can come later.

    Susan

  2. I feel your pain. It’s great to work with someone who knows how to network and it’s always hard for me to deal with a person who doesn’t have a clue.

  3. Great post, Laura!

    I think i may have just made it on someone’s list because I said I’d help them with a project, but I just couldn’t do anything about it. It’s just one of those times in my life where I can’t handle any extra pressure involving 2nd parties.

    Anyways, I put this picture on my blog and Facebook profile to announce that I was on a break http://sorayadarwish.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/internet-break/
    and yet, there’s this one person that is driving me MAD with their Facebook and Skype messages. As much as I hate doing this, the end result was me ignoring them and blocking them on Skype.

    Technically I am on a break from Facebook. I can’t resist reading great blog entries!

    Cheers

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