Is your digital marketing leaving cigarette burn marks on your customers…

Depending upon what you read, almost two thirds of all activity on the internet is computer generated. Bots, crawlers, scrapers, autoresponders and marketing automation dominate the internet. Human connectivity is in the minority.

Given our love affair with social media, this is pretty scary stuff. As marketers lean on computers and data points to trigger activity, more and more marketing messages come from machines than humans.

computers create more content than humans…

One current trend is remarketing or retargeting – depending upon your preference for buzzwords. And the result is not always positive.

Burning customers didn’t start with the internet though. The first instance of the “cigarette burn” problem in marketing came with the proliferation of telemarketing. The problem of unsolicited calls into homes became so bad, governments around the world created ‘do not call‘ registers, so the public could opt-in to opt-out of getting telemarketing calls.


Then came the ‘do not mail‘ registers so people could opt-in to opt-out of getting mail. And thanks to marketers and online scam-merchants abusing the email channel, spam laws were created to protect consumers.

“It’s a sad reflection on the industry that anti-marketing laws were passed, because marketers abused the personal media channels vital for connection with the people who make them money – customers.”

One of the problems with personal channels and personalised messaging on websites, is the way marketers measure success. We only measure one half of the activity – those people who respond. We never measure those people who don’t respond – the majority of people who get the message. So you may unwittingly be leaving lots of little cigarette burns on your customers.

cig burn
Are you leaving cigarette burns on your prospects and customers?

Your intent is to make a positive statement about your brand. Your measurement says you are successful because it only measures results from your point of view, not the customers. But what are you doing to the majority who have no interest in your content marketing?

Here are some insights to help you when creating your content:

Amazing Insight 1: Customers don’t really care about brands

Amazing Insight 2: Customers don’t want relationships with brands

Amazing Insight 3: Customers don’t want to engage with brands

Amazing Insight 4: Customers don’t want to join a conversation with a brand

Amazing Insight 5: Customers get pissed off if you irritate them with irrelevant content marketing about your brand

Yet given every brand is now a publisher, customers are being burnt more than ever before with an oversupply of content designed to help the brand’s search results, or trying to position the brand’s alleged thought leadership in the false belief consumers will be seduced by the charms of the content.

LinkedIn has become the ash tray of B2B marketing

Sadly LinkedIn appears to be a constant stream of smouldering cigarette butts leaving burns on the collective memory of customers and prospects: regular approaches by fake accounts trying to connect; people asking to connect who then immediately flog their wares to you; lists of secrets to success; personal posts with no relevance to business; saccharine, glib motivational posts which depress rather than inspire; content, content and more content – you cannot avoid wincing each time you log-on.

Sadly, LinkedIn is becoming the ashtray for content marketer’s cigarette burns

The social selling industry is addicted to leaving burn marks on prospects, with its belief you need to smother people in self-serving content, rather than invite them to respond or buy.

I recently had one bloke in the UK send me a direct message on LinkedIn to promote his thought leadership whitepaper. He didn’t even have the courtesy to invite me to connect with him. He assumed I would be more interested in his content marketing, than connecting. This constant mediocrity driven by the new social salesperson is becoming depressing.

Social selling is a confusing paradox

If you believe the hype, you no longer need to do any selling to succeed in B2B marketing. All you have to do is provide content and your prospects will automatically buy as result of your amazing thought leadership.

If the Social Selling B.S. is true and there’s no longer any selling, why isn’t it called Social Content or Social Mediocrity or Social Business Development? Why is it called Social Selling if there’s no selling involved? Hmmm?

Me thinks there’s another digital scam afoot – driven by trend blindness and people who don’t like being accountable, or just aren’t very good at selling.

I think that’s enough content for today – I have to go earn a living…


  1. I’m obviously not keeping up…”Social Selling” is a new one on me! Don’t want to sound like a fuddy-duddy but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m better off ignoring whatever the latest-and-greatest marketing breakthrough is and sticking to the boring old direct response model adapted for particular circumstances. But…probably like most people…curiosity gets the better of me and I take a look at something “new”…only to find the “new stuff” is the same as the “old stuff”! “Won’t get fooled again”…I wish!

    Clearly, the idea of “Permission Marketing” has faded in mainstream-marketing land (indeed if it was ever really understood). Most people, I suspect, have “tuned out” online. Fascinating those figures about how much of the online world is artificial (or non-human, at least). By coincidence was watching “The Matrix” again last night. Rather makes genuine connection through channels like direct mail much more valuable, I would think.

    Thanks for the post…especially on a Sunday 🙂

    • Thanks Kevin, yes one of the latest digi-buzzwords is social selling. Instead of sending messages with offers to encourage response, you send pseudo value packaged as content and all your dreams will come true:)

  2. The relationship a customer has with a “brand” is the same as the one a John has with a hooker: You pay your money, they give you a service and everybody gets what they want. Happy days. Just don’t send Xmas cards.

  3. Wonderful stuff as always, Malc…

    After 30+ years in this crazy DM business, I have to say, I don’t recognise it anymore.

    Lunatics and asylum come to mind…

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