The Schmuck Vs. The Good Buddy

There’s a lot of discussion these days about frequency — specificially, how often you should email your house list.

There are two schools of thought now in the cyber-marketing community: One, the “Vikings” who treat everyone who opts in as a resource to be pillaged and re-pillaged until it’s burnt to the ground. These guys hit their list often, and without mercy.

It can work. But it has a price — namely, you will burn out the interest of your list in what you offer very quickly. For many marketers, that’s just fine. They know how to find endless veins of traffic, and lure fresh meat into their lair efficiently — where, each newbie will be forced to either act or opt out.

The other school of thought: Treat your list like a precious herd. Nurture it, and go for the long-term relationship.

This can work, too. Especially if you’ve got an inkling of the “lifetime value” of each person on your list. Sometimes a customer will buy several things from you, but not all at once. Maybe they need time to devour each product as they buy it, or maybe they just need to “come into heat” about what you have every few months, and ignore you the rest of the time.

This is called “working the back end”, and if your marketing model has lots of stuff to offer an interested prospect, you want to nurse them along tenderly rather than rape them and leave them for dead.

Like I said — both models can work. You have a choice.

But here’s something most marketers seldom consider: How welcome you are in your prospect’s life.

Neither model will work very well if you’re a pain. Both can work like crazy if you bond well.

So ask yourself: Is your “persona” a schmuck who repels trust, or a good buddy who reeks of credibility?

This doesn’t mean you have to be a Mr. Nice Guy. (Haven’t you had a good buddy before who was pretty much a beast, but still fun to hang around with?)

Most marketers are now aware of the “Rich Jerk” phenomenon — a very crafty marketer who has styled himself after the old Robert Ringer model being a very effective asshole. After you’ve been in business for a while… any business… you start to realize that being a nice person doesn’t win you any points. And yet, being a cold-hearted bastard can postiion you — sometimes — as the guy who gets the most cake.

I don’t recommend this tactic. I play hard-ball, myself… but only as far as getting the job done. I’m more like the hard-ass sarge who kicks your butt in boot camp, because that’s the fastest and most effective way to get you in shape. It’s actually an act of tough-love.

I do this, because that’s what it took to shake me out of my daze as a young, clueless drifter with zero discipline. I would have never had the “a-ha!” experience that started my now-legendary career arc if I’d taken an easier road.

Some guys, however, are mean just because deep down they’re wounded animals, and they aren’t happy unless everyone around them is miserable. They want your self-esteem as gut-shot as their own.

Anyway, that’s a different lesson.

For the email frequency thing, it’s better to think of the people in your life who you want to hear from every day… or every week… or however long you’re considering emailing your list. Really put some thought into this — what kind of personality does it take to make you welcome in your prospect’s life, as often as you’re going to email him?

I urge every marketer to work on their personality — it’s the “X” factor in wild success that most rookies miss entirely. They’re too obsessed with the flotsam and jetsam of just getting any response at all.

This is an advanced tactic, however. Think long and hard about what it would take for someone to be welcome in your life… to make you eager to open their email, every time one appeared in your in-box.

Most marketers blow this, because they ignore the social dynamics of weaseling their way into their prospect’s day. A few master it, however, and they enjoy amazingly high readership and high action.

Something to think about. Be that guy your list loves to hear from.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

P.S. I put my first podcast up at iTunes. It’s under business and marketing, and titled “How To Write A Damn Good Ad… In 9 Minutes.” Check it out. It’s free.

P.P.S. Also, I’ve fired up the RSS feed on this blog, and installed a way to be notified when I post. It’s still a fragile little option, so let me know if you have trouble, and I’ll sic my geek on it post haste.

P.P.P.S. The Apprentice double-feature was kind of lame this week, don’t you think? The basic lesson is good enough — do your detective work and research, and success is a heck of a lot easier. Plus: Making assumptions without adequate input or info is just silly.

Better tasks would create better drama, though. I caught myself yawning and able to predict the outcome.

Or… gosh… maybe we just witnessed a shark-jumping…

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  • Jock says:

    Can’t find your podcast, John. Mind posting a link to mp3 file? Thanks

  • Carlton, a podcast? Oh my god. This is the fastest transformation from (at least publicly) Internet dinosaur to high tech wizard in history….

    Next, we’ll probably see Dan Kennedy teach a course on email marketing….

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