This might separate some crowds. Just my take in regards to my sector, market and response.

Here's an experiential account of a couple of direct marketing practices I tried over the past 18 months. It's an evaluation of the purpose of marketing and the relative value of the result of cold and indirect styles. Buckle in salesmen.

Exploitative Direct Marketing Agencies

I was looking for more formal work experience in Summer 2016 and made a mortal but valuable error. In my defence, I didn't know what pyramid schemes were at the time, but let me tell you I can wax lyrical on their flaws now. I walked into a rented ground-floor office high on pride after receiving an email saying 'we loved your CV and would like to invite you in for an interview tomorrow' two hours after sending it, totally blind to what was going on.

I was preached to in my interview about the virtues of direct marketing and how the progression rate is rapid - Assistant Manager within one year, potential to make as much as I willing to work for? The bloodied-in are probably laughing by now but to me it sounded great. I didn't think to ask about the turnover rate or about basic pay. The interviewer said she liked my confidence and wanted to put me through to a second interview, and away I went thinking about what I'd tell my mum.

Day two was a shadowing day. I went out with a team to Bradford to see what was really happening. Here's where my open-mindedness causes problems. The work entailed standing for eight hours on a street corner somewhere in Yorkshire trying to sell charity subscriptions to the unwitting public. Everyone was around my age, some at uni, some not, all saying how much they liked the job before revealing it was only day five for them. Still no alarm bells, and that's without mentioning the actual Wolf of Wall Street chest-beating ritual that happened that morning.

I worked with them for two weeks. For the sake of brevity let me gloss over what I saw. A note to the challengers, I'll expand on all of these if you want more information. This is just a whistle-stop tour.

  • 50s-level sexism towards all newly-starting females, from managers.
  • Interviews were held all-day, every-day. That's the Assistant Manager's job. People rarely lasted a week.
  • Pay was 100% commission, and sales were confirmed by phone a week after. Any reluctant-to-commit buyers could cancel after the fact and there goes your £30.
  • One manager referred to one new team member as 'black boy'.
  • All managers and assistant managers had expensive cars. All team leaders were students or were attempting this as a career.
  • If you wanted to quit, you 'didn't want to work hard enough'.
  • If the public didn't want to subscribe, the public was talked about when nobody was listening.
  • We were taught all sorts of tactics around our pitch to secretly twist the arm of the pitchee, the worst being that the campaign the entire pitch was based around (using the subscription money to get first aid into the national curriculum) didn't exist, my team leader revealed to me in an 'aren't we clever?' tone of voice.

Fair enough, there's a mixture of (non-exhaustive) personal experience and customer experiences here, but this all boils down to ethics. Like I wrote in my Three Tenets post, they way they ran that business went completely against how I run mine. You'd better believe my Glassdoor review was mysteriously taken down after I quit. But here's the thing, when I'm trying to help someone's marketing and be someone who's always coming through for them, how am I going to start that relationship with dirty tactics and a secret impression that they're some sucker I can feed lies to to get their money? That's not okay.

The problem is, those schemes work. I don't know what loopholes they're taking advantage of, but it makes money (despite being incredibly labour-intensive) and garners new sign-ups every day. But a business model where the top guys make high five figures and the bottom end makes £30 a day if they're lucky? The management doesn't respect the staff and the staff don't respect the clients? Young people are lied to and exploited for their enthusiasm until they quit, while the managers make the most commission of all of their sales? That's not the way to cultivate a business that'll make a positive impact to the world and it's not a way to make long-term, strong business relationships. Talk about a lack of ethics.

Cold Calling

Secondly, there's cold calling. I don't have as strong feelings about it but, having tried it after being advised to by a contact and considering my market, I don't think it's advisable. For video work, there's a social foundation you need to build before someone can entrust you with their brand. Small B2C businesses aren't thinking about forging new business partnerships and making deals over the phone because their business requires them to be a different type of businessman - in my experience, things are more colloquial, tight-knit and exclusive in a small team like that. There's a real mentality of defending the business, which is fair enough! Shops and entertainment places open and close all the time. There's a lot of work to be done. The last thing business owners want to think about is fresh new business moves with fresh new people, right?

I did two days of cold calling, maybe a month or so apart. Once in a market research phase to conduct a survey, and once to generate leads for interested parties. The first time I was met with some real mixed responses. Some were very keen to chat, some were very cold to being disturbed. Totally fair. The second time I was met with a lot of negativity - I'd ask to speak to the owner about a marketing enquiry, be asked to elaborate, and be given an email to send things through. I never received a reply.

Now, I'm not an aggressive salesman and there's probably a long way to go for my phone marketing skills. I tried to be genuine, to-the-point and friendly without sounding too rehearsed or informal, but not much came of it.

Consider their position - you're working the bar and people want drinks, or you've got emails to reply to, or it's delivery day, and someone calls you up talking about a photography service. What would you do?

Think of the Bigger Picture

Like me, you can be swayed to try new techniques when you're not getting the results you want. If you're not doing that you're not running a very ambitious business. But sometimes they don't work out, and then you know. I've learnt from these experiences that the impression I give to my client by acting this way about working with them creates a tension and a dominance hierarchy, when the easiest clients are ones that trust you and can work as conducively alongside you as you can with them. It's much more effective to be useful to your network, gain a good reputation of quality and reliability and attract clients to your work, rather than trick them into working with you.

Play to your strengths and generate work through doing what you offer. If I can make videos and photos, why wouldn't I do that to market myself that over repeating some pre-packaged spiel to an uninterested party?

Food for thought.

See you later.

Owen


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