The Whack-A-Mole Fail Of Social Technology Vendors

by · June 3, 201313 comments

As part of my duties at CafePress, I was invited to serve on a panel at Internet Retail Conference and Exhibition in Chicago this week. I’ll join Siva Kumar of and Sen Kanthaswamy, manager of eCommerce Business Development and Sales at Henry’s Photo-Video-Digital, to discuss leveraging Facebook data. We’ll share our experiences and our companies examples of tapping into the social graph, reading Facebook information and incorporating it into smart marketing decisions for e-commerce and beyond.

But there’s something different about this event and the conferences I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at over the years. Or perhaps it’s just that I now have a brand-side role heading into one. Either IRCE sells the list of attendees to everyone and their brother or every social technology and e-commerce software company on the planet scrapes the site and finds emails of all the speakers. I’ve been solicited via email (an email address I’ve never knowingly published publicly) at least 30 times by sales folks wanting to take me to dinner, buy my lunch, have coffee and so on. Each one of them want me to take an hour or so out of my time at this event to get pitched their product.

Never mind that I’m attending a conference. Never mind that I have a job to do during the conference as well. They want me to go full stop to look at their software in hopes that I’ll become a hot lead or prospect they can then sell to.

An aside for the sales people out there: If you want to pull me away from an event I’m attending, which you should assume is important to me either as a speaker or an attendee, your software isn’t going to do it. Dinner isn’t going to do it. I want you to fly me to Vegas, put me up in a posh suite, get me a private show with David Copperfield, pour expensive bourbon in me and feed me like a king while I gamble away $10K of your money. Or at least get me a date with Elizabeth Shue. Then I might sit through your awful, self-blovating PowerPoint about how well-funded you are and where your CTO dreamt up the gizmo code you’ve got that is … wait for it … patent-pending. But I digress.

Whack A Mole from pseale.comSome of the companies who reached out to me are social technology companies. I know people in their marketing departments. I’ve used and even reviewed their products before. And yet their sales team has no clue I’m already familiar with them?! One such company bills itself as having a sophisticated customer relationship management solution that integrates social and email contacts into one record so your various departments know the full history of communications with a customer. But their own salespeople didn’t know I had a relationship with the company already?!

While there is always a time and place for marketing tactics even purists would say are wrong — you can buy email lists, you can use telemarketing, you can spit out coupons and discounts with no regard for true consumer-focused content — what the B2B social and e-commerce software space has “evolved” to, despite revolving around an industry that says not to, is a regurgitated version of the same game of Whack-A-Mole businesses have been playing for years.

When are we going to stop trying to spray and pray? When are we going to stop spam-screwing the world hoping that one or two people like it enough to give us their money in exchange?

If companies that report to be “social” and sell “social technology” and CRM systems and the like can’t get this right, how can they expect us to want to pay them to help us do the same?

If you’re a salesperson of any count, especially one in the social technology space, focus on the relationship, not the transaction. Please? And if you don’t want to do that, then please put the name “Jason Falls” in your contact list and mark it with “Do Not Contact.”

Got a better solution? Please … the comments are yours!

Image: From Peter Seale’s weblog.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Macy English

    Sales is about relationships. Amen. The rub comes when you’re trying to build relationships and founders/investors want proof of concept. It’s a careful balance of trying to please everyone and still maintain your relationships. I agree, no one wants to be treated like a mole.

  • Michael Sagar

    CRM was about engaging the customer BUT on the company’s terms. Social Media has transformed the customers’ buying journey BUT they also now want to be engaged on THEIR terms; NOT the company’s. The black hole that needs filling comes from software companies being out of their comfort zone re traditional media/branding/advertising models and media companies likewise with their understanding of business processes.

  • deanholmes

    Now I wish I would have told my guys I wanted to go to IRCE so I could take you on my private jet to Vegas. Dammit. How did I miss this?

  • Gerry Michaels

    Jason, I believe that method of “spray and pray” as well as what I like to call “shotgun posting” is employed by more than the social space, I see it all the time being used by companies large and small. I find often that they are following the advice of the social media “guru” they hired from the internet for $79.95 month.
    The maturity of the social space, and how to operate in it, is still very much evolving, and as you so clearly point out, there is a lot more growth that needs to happen. Nice piece..btw if you ever get that Vegas gig, I am available for hire, I mean that bourbon glass isn’t going to fill itself….

  • Joe Stubblebine

    Elizabeth Shue, huh? Good choice. (and good article too!).

  • DJ Waldow

    I love you Jason Falls.

  • Steve Dodd

    Great post Jason (addressing a classic issue). Your “Whack-a-mole” analogy is perfect. It’s interesting that so many players “don’t eat their own dog food”. I really liked Michael’s comments, he’s so right.

  • Jason Miller

    Love Copperfield but I would also add in a Chris Angel show and front row tickets to the Motley Crue residency at the Hard Rock. Great post Jason : )

  • Malcolm (@innovationmuse)

    Jason…amen. I would say this however, if you want people to listen they must do as I was taught here on the website. I am an evangelist for social listening. The secret is to simple be neutral and show that you are thinking about a customer’s needs holistically and not selfishly. When you bring sense to a problem, they want you to tell them how to solve it. People buy from people they trust. If you are telling people how big it can be because others find it to big you are full of it. If you look at their problem and give them an honest answer as to how and IF you can help them and what that would look like they are more likely to jump. There is a huge difference between sales based alliance management and innovation based alliance management. Sales based is founded on what do you need to say yes now and when you the customer say jump I often say how hi. Innovation based alliance management is all about listening, dimensionalizing the problem and designing a scalably customized solution that hits them in their corporate heart….

  • Lisa Joy Rosner

    Great article Falls, IRCE was my biggest show when I was in ecommerce, LMK what you think and try to meet my friend Molly Love who runs Internet Retailer, she is the best!

  • jessicamalnik

    Spot on Jason!

  • Kevin Flaherty

    Very, very true. Unfortunately for many sales teams a focus on quantitative goals often eclipse metrics focused on quality. Sales reviews centered on new and nurtured relationships rather than just new business cards can lead to less cold touches, less pissed off prospects and ultimately more sales.

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