Insufferable: “Hey, I made fun of your haircut in high school but I just friended you! Hi! I just became a representative for the Selling Things company. Would you like to host a party where I sell you things?”
Me: “umm… no thanks. I’m good on things.”
Insufferable: “but you get a discount on things, and then you can sell things too, and after all, both things, and money are good.”
Me: “No, no thank you.”
Insufferable, “But why not? DON’T YOU LIKE ME?”
Me: “I don’t have friends, I don’t like things. Please take me off your message list.”
High pressure, personal marketing is common online. One friend I spoke with said they attended “one of those nail parties,” and got no less than 10 calls before she became “unpleasant.” I know door-to-door missionaries with less gumption. While I hesitate to use the word “epidemic” for anything that doesn’t end in zombies, I think it’s safe to say that being relentlessly pursued to buy doughnut festooned leggings is reaching near Walking Dead proportions.
What makes these folks so relentless is the information they get from traditional sales, especially in the area of developing and pursuing “leads”. While this works in regular sales, with friends and family, it’s a relationship strain. We communication wonks say that you are throwing the social exchange dynamic out of balance because rejecting someone we know carries a negative emotional cost.
So, if you’re not supposed to stalk Aunt Selma until she buys your handcrafted, vegan waterbottles, what can you do?
Oh…look…a list! Hey, it’s what I do.
- Do Social Media Right – Have a separate page for your business and do not add people to groups without their permission..period. When you do share info about your business on your personal page, keep it short and infrequent.
- Celebrate your Customers – A recent customer was featured as a cosplayer on Marvel’s website. I immediately asked him if I could share. He shared the post I wrote and it got a great deal more reach than if I had posted it with “hey look at my jewelry!” When we value our customers, they are usually happy to help us.
- Comment and Respond with Care – Good relationships are based on listening to understand, not to respond. So be careful about inserting your sales pitch into conversation. About a year ago, I complimented a lady with an adorable Loki tattoo. We geeked out for a few minutes and I gave her my information. She became my first non-family member commission and totally rocked a Loki set at her first burlesque performance. Make conversations about the person first, and under no circumstances every hijack a conversation with something like: “well, if you were selling my thing, you’d be happy now…” (I’ve actually seen this!)
- Be Different – As a jewelry maker, I have to compete with everyone from Etsy to Walmart. We small fries have be different to survive. In marketing parlance, that’s a Unique Selling Proposition . For me, the only thing I know I can beat most everyone on, is service, so I focus there. One dear friends sells Thirty-One. She sets herself apart by being purposefully low key. Her business is done largely through open houses at her place. She always invites me, but since I’m an antisocial cave troll, I’ve never attended, but she doesn’t fuss at me for it. When my mom says “I need a new wallet,” I can confidently recommend her because I know she won’t be stalked.
- Be known for being awesome – You’d be amazed at how far building goodwill takes you. At a local Italian market the owner once just handed me two vials of hard-to-find flavor oils (worth about 24 dollars). He said, “I know you come in here all the time, just pay me later.” He’s now my exclusive cannoli shell dealer. Kindness also breeds loyalty. Eileen Wolf, a St. Louis based massage therapist keeps her prices intentionally low. “This is something I know many people can’t afford. If I can help them access massage, I’m improving their lives, and that makes me happy.” It also makes her popular-she books out about a month in advance.
Be easy to work with and be ethical and you’ll be amazed at how that returns to you. So, yes, do be a passionate advocate for your business, but in marketing and in life, always remember to be kind.
Lisa Pavia-Higel is a St. Louis based writer, educator and performer. By day, she’s a mild mannered Communication and Media professor at a local community college and runs her own small jewelry company, Geekery Gal. By night, she’s a stage combat fighting, comic reading, critique writing, productivity advice giving mama. She loves trying things that she’s really not very good at, like sewing, painting and writing succinct biographies. She is indulged by her little geeklet Sofia and intrepid feminist, geeky husband Matthew. She’s too long winded for Twitter, but you can tweet to her at @geekerygal