Is nastiness necessary?

Yesterday I visited a Tradeshow which seemed immune from the current general malaise. Long, but orderly, queues formed for sessions, abundant freebies were displayed on the stands of a plethora of start-ups with shiny new logos. What was this exciting exposition, flourishing despite the current financial doldrums? A show focused on technology for marketing professionals.

These days that covers a lot of services and applications, including SEO tools, CRM and statistics packages, Web-building and hosting. Not to forget the man with the mobile bubble making machine – possibly the stand-out in terms of innovation. It did seem ironic to stage a conference to market marketing to marketing professionals but the free entry ensured a healthy crowd.

My excuse was to talk to a prospect. She was an overseas marketing professional from a software vendor, attending ‘to pick up ideas’. I was selling Positive Marketing to her and her colleagues. For them this was a perfectly valid research trip; so we all had alibis. These though are tough times and beneath the gloss, the hawkers of today’s marketing tools were doling out some interesting, no, plain-nasty, messages.

One VP speaker recommended using his analysis package to find deeply unprofitable customers and then giving them to your competitors – nice. Another senior panellist picked on poor old Microsoft Outlook, which he opined would be dead in 18 months, replaced by universal use of Google Apps. This was ironic as UK Gmail users were at the moment of his speech experiencing an outage which lasted several hours.

Marketing guru Al Ries once likened marketing to war and it seems it is now. For years ‘unfair competitive advantage’ has been the half-heated rallying call of many a marketing professional, but now cut-throat competition means some people are thinking it means survival of the bitchiest. But is this the smart play?

The first rule of smart marketing is to qualify your audience to make sure you send the right message. In this case, the audience was marketing executives spending some time, but little upfront money to review the state of their profession. Even though these are professionals, who know all about having a sharp Point Of View, ultimately ‘people buy people’.

Nasty folks tend not to be nice to do business with and that is what I remember from these two vendors. If we are all getting evil, perhaps even Google, let’s remember that what goes around comes around.

P.S. If you are curious to know who the boot boys are drop me a line pmaher@positivemarketing.org

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