Are You Trying Too Hard or Annoying Your Prospects?

Are You Trying Too Hard or Annoying Your Prospects?
Heather Rubesch - Thu Feb 10, 2011 @ 10:38AM
Comments: 16

fingermails.jpgIn life there are many fine lines.  The line between sweet and smothering, critical and helpful, informative and annoying is all razor thin and in the eye of the beholder.  So how can we as marketers make sure we are providing the information our prospects need and want without smothering and annoying them?

Set Expectations

Have you ever walked into a cute funky little shop because you saw something you liked in the window, made a relatively small purchase and been asked at the checkout “Would you like me to add you to our email list?” by the cashier.   It happened to me recently.  I was so charmed by furnishing in their show room and I was in fact in the process of buying a new house so I would need more furnishings so I said “absolutely” and gave over not the email address I usually use for spammy stuff I know I don’t want but my REAL email address.  This has proven over the past two months to be a grave mistake.  I get at least daily emails from these people.  And catalogs arrive weekly.  The number of trees they are killing is ridiculous.  How could they have handled it to keep their charm level high but their annoyance level low?

· They could have sent me a link in their first email not only confirming that I wanted to be on their mailing list but also asking me for my communication preferences.  I could have said “No. Never” to catalogs and “Yes to Weekly Emails”. 


· They could have asked me if I was most interested in furnishings for bedroom, living room or dining room.  They would have known I am happy with my bedroom furnishings but really need dining room stuff.  That would have eliminated the need to send me dozens of emails about duvet covers they have on sale which immediately delete.


· They could have asked what I was in the market for and I could have told them I needed a dining table that seats 8 and matching buffet in a medium wood.  I did after all end up buying one of those a 5 weeks after signing up for their email alerts but not from them because they had already received “annoying” status and I am now directing all their emails to my trash via email rule!

Open the Express Lane

Have you ever tried to find a product you know a company sells on their website but they make it so difficult to find what you know is there somewhere that you give up!  Another way to cross the fine line is to waste people’s precious time.  Back to my dining table search.  I was very specific about what I wanted.  I wanted something that seated at least 8 when leaves were added but would typically only seat 4-6.  Must have a matching buffet server but not one of those monstrous china hutches.  Medium wood finish (not oak or pine but also not black).  Fairly formal styling but stopping short of being something that could also be placed in Buckingham Palace.   I could envision a website that would have great filter features that I could click on to keep me from having to scan through 972 tables that didn’t meet my criteria to the one that did.  None of those websites existed.  Some allowed me to filter on manufacturer.  That helped very little.  This is likely the first and last dining table I will every buy and I am in the habit of knowing who manufactures a good table.  Some did allow me to filter by size and dimension of table (round, square, rectangle) so that was somewhat helpful since one that seats 8 is likely rectangular.  Other sites had options for “formal vs. casual” dining but the range in their “formal” was still quite broad.  Again what could be added to take the annoying factor out?

· Add tags, filters and search features to your site.


· Make sure the tags, filters and search features use terms that real people actually use when shopping for your product.  If only 5% of the people who come have a manufacture in mind when buying a table then that probably should be at the top of your search hierarchy.


· Solicit reviews from those who have purchased by holding a contest or offering a discount on future purchases.  I ultimately spent almost $4000 on my dining table and buffet purchase.  Not chump change so I read every line of the reviews of those I had in my “final 3”.  A real world comment about how the finish wore over time, etc is valuable info and ultimately was the tipping point for one over the other.  Most sites I looked at did not have customer reviews as an option.

Be Forthcoming

Finally disclose any hurdles up front.  Shipping costs, backorder status, constraints of any kind need to be mentioned before I hit “order”.  In my case with the set I ordered the deliver was 4-6 weeks which makes me think they aren’t even chopping the trees down until I hit “order” but at least I knew in advance.  They are also giving me free shipping, assembling the set on site and setting it up for me and not charging my credit card until it ships.

Are there any other suggestions you can add to make your company easier to do business with?

About the Author: Heather has spent the past 15 years advocating for the customer perspective in her approach to software development and product marketing. Her penchant for collaboration is what drew her to the Savvy B2B team. Read more of Heather's posts here or contact her directly at

Comments: 16


1. Lisa R.  |  my website   |   Thu Feb 10, 2011 @ 11:31AM

Hi Heather,

I just stumbled upon this blog this morning, and I really liked your post. As I'm in charge of the email marketing campaigns at the software company I work for, I was interested in learning how to avoid annoying our prospects, especially since we have such a niche target audience. Your takeaways were insightful, they just felt as if they would be slightly more useful to someone in a B2C environment

Aside from allowing prospects to select which level of communication they would like to receive from your company when opting-in, what other tips can you provide a B2B marketer to ensure we're not "annoying" our prospect database?

Thanks in advance - I look forward to following this blog now that I've found it. :)

2. Heather Rubesch   |   Thu Feb 10, 2011 @ 12:27PM

Lisa - Thanks for your comment. I agree that B2B is a bit trickier but B2B prospects also tend to be big researchers so the idea of tags, filters and search keyword are also very relevant. For B2B the Savvy mantra has always been make your product material tagged / catagorized, plentiful and don't require registration to retrieve it. The tags are slightly different than they would be for a dining table but you could be tagged by industry, solution type, company size, etc. Nobody wants to wade through 25 case studies for other industries to find that one is a company like them. If you have a case study for a regional P&C insurance company then it should be tagged as such.

Make sure you have a section of your site that would be tailored for the customer who is preparing an RFP or who is shopping. I have even written a "10 Questions to Include in Your RFP for an XYZ Solution" for clients. One of the best practices of any white paper is to give your prospects a shopping list that is geared toward your solution. If you want to see specific examples of this feel free to email me direct.

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