Hardly had I posted the blog entry on working with email lists, which talked of the virtue of working with ‘warm lists’ through partners, than I get an egregious example of how NOT to do so!
I run (in a different life) a fairly successful Meetup.com group for photographers. We are closing in on one thousand members, so we are a target for all sorts of requests and sponsorship proposals. Most are related to the topic of photography, and so can be considered. And at least one of our ’Sponsor’ links is done pro bono, as they are a local camera club. Having said all that, I don’t take many of the offers, even when they are relevant – I don’t want my members to ‘tune out’ the important stuff because of lots of noise – messages that have no relevance to the topic at hand.
So when the message below landed in my email, I was more than a little put out. Remember, this person had to have joined my group – under false pretenses (I guessing he’s not a photographer at all) – in order to email me directly. I can’t think of a more calculated and cynical marketing move than that. It does the individual, and Lyft, no credit at all. In fact, it has soured my already cynical view of rideshare services. Note that especially, it hasn’t just soured my view of Lyft’s brand, it makes me suspicious of ALL rideshare services. And less likely to use any of them.
I responded to this initial email by asking “What has this got to do with photography?“ Apparently eager to dig himself a deeper hole, he proposes something completely different to the original proposal. At least this response has something to do with photography (see below):
But really? You want photographers to go out take promotional pictures for you and call it a competition? I still can’t read the exchanges without getting sad and a little annoyed.
So what are the marketing leaning points from this episode? Well, first it fails the transparent, open, and honest test. The Golden Rule. I hate deviousness and I hate feeling like I’m being manipulated. Most of us do. Now what constitutes each of those is, at least, subjective. But for me this definitely crossed the line. Your mileage may vary. And so may your customer’s. Make sure you don’t cross that line, or your message is doomed before you even deliver it.
Second, it fails to deliver any value for the recipient (or all, perhaps, except the ‘contest winner’). The whole approach is tone deaf from what seems on the face of it – an individual (I have the suspicion that this isn’t an employee of Lyft) – who has been incentivized to get the maximum number of sign-ups. The method plays only to Lyft’s benefit, and not to the Meetup Group or its members.
Thirdly, when challenged, bow out gracefully and apologize. Do whatever damage limitation is necessary. Promptly and sincerely. If the individual didn’t read that in the first response from me, he certainly did in the second.
I answered “You mean spam. There is no, or at best an extremely, extremely tenuous, link to photography groups. Please don’t do this. It damages your company’s brand – and right now you need all the help you can get, not stupid pseudo marketing tricks.” I got no response at all. So the damage is done, with no attempt to limit it at all. I read that as a total lack of respect for potential and future customers. And again, Your Mileage May Vary.