ISHN Guest BlogI speak my mind, in person and in print. Some like it some do not. I don’t really care if people don’t like my style—different strokes for different folks I’ve always said. But recently I have seen an alarming spike in a lack of manners and civility among the denizens of the so-called social media. For some many of you, a lecture on manners coming from me is laughable and may smack of hypocrisy—after all I am not exactly shy about whip-slapping the unfortunate mouth-breather who comes crashing into my inbox.

This post isn’t directly about safety. I won’t be throwing out some thought- provoking (or inane depending on your bent) concept for us to debate. My message is simple: to all you ham-fisted amateur-marketers who barge into my life uninvited and choke my inbox with everything from their latest newsletter to a faux “article” published by you and that praises your services as the best thing since slice bread.

Some people are good at marketing and others are drooling ninnies who lack the sense God gave geese. So this is me, playing Emily Post, or Mister Manners (if you prefer) Submitting to you here for your approval some proposed manners for the digitally thick:

Don’t eBlast.

Sending out thousands, or tens of thousands of blind emails to strangers is rude. I don’t want to buy steel no matter how cheap it is. I’m not in the market for used induction hardeners, and should I need photos retouched I am not likely to send them half way across the world to Rick (no last name) from China when I get high school kid with Photoshop to do them. Not because he is Chinese (yesterday, when I called a coy, “how dare you” imbecile out for sending me an ad couched as an article on Fire Restoration Services, I told him that he was now in the company of the Rick from China who tries to sell me photo retouching and the sketchy people trying to sell me counterfeit Viagra he got all self-righteous and called me a “racist”. First of all, “Chinese” isn’t a race, it’s a nationality or even an ethnicity, so “racist” isn’t even the right label, bigot? Maybe, but I don’t think I am a bigot for not trusting a person with no last name, who I know only because of spam, with photos I could retouch myself. Oh, and I get an email from this clown month after month, with the exact same pitch. )  The point being is sending out an eBlast is the same is sending out junk mail and I am just one of many who hate it.

Junk email is more than an inconvenience; it significantly impedes the productivity of business travelers who are sifting through dozens of junk emails on a four-inch screen. It means that they miss important business emails and you may be costing them money.

Don’t Tell Me I Can Unsubscribe or Block It.

“What’s the big deal? Just unsubscribe.” Bullshit. I should never have to unsubscribe to something to which I never subscribed in the first place. Years ago, unscrupulous companies would send merchandise through the mail and then demand payment. Even though the practice was illegal it worked, many people paid to avoid making a fuss. If you want me to unsubscribe then be prepared to receive a bill for “Unsubscribing and General Aggravation” and understand my collection techniques are savage and relentless.

Spare Me Your Newsletters.

 Time was corporate newsletters cost money to produce and ship and were generally put together by professional writers. Now they are slapped together and sent to anyone with an inbox. The stories are banal and seldom have anything worth reading—at least many of the ones I read. There are some exceptions, I regularly read Dr. Paul Marciano’s newsletter, but then I go to his website to get it, you see Paul doesn’t blast his newsletter, if you want it you have to go and get it. (You should, it’s worth it.) I get an onslaught of newsletters on everything from the latest in welding technology, to BBS, to Joe-Bob Floyd’s view of safety. I didn’t ask for them, I don’t want them, and most are on topics I couldn’t be LESS interested.

The problem goes deeper than bad manners; in fact, most of the stuff I receive is from fairly well mannered, albeit clueless, people trying to eke out a buck like the rest of us. Unfortunately, marketing professionals who weren’t entirely knowledgeable about digital marketing started making all things digital an imperative. The spread some of the worst kind of bad advices since Heinrich’s Pyramid. “You MUST have a Facebook presence (useless unless you are retailing or selling from a website) and get people to “Like” you” they warned in furtive voices. “You must have a LinkedIn Profile for your company” (I found mine completely useless) “You must blog” and worst of all, “You must publish a newsletter”. Instead of these unholy commandments, they should have offered these rules for effective digital marketing:

Rule 1: Thou Shalt Know Your Audience.

Send targeted materials. If you don’t know whether or not I would be interested in a used centerless grinder the answers is probably not, and you don’t need to waste my time sending me the latest and greatest “breaking news” on the subject. I often stop buy a booth at trade show and will give someone my card because I have a specific question on topic about which I am writing. I end up on a list in perpetuity and get every bit of crap that the company sends out, even though I clearly am not interested.

Rule 2: Thou Shalt Qualify Your Leads.

Someone who drops a business card in a fishbowl for a chance at winning a free iPad or uses a professional model wearing a dress that’s hemline and neckline is separated by a three inch line of spandex probably isn’t interested in buying your safety promotions. Collecting so-called “leads” in this way is foolish and pointless. Most of them aren’t interested. Instead, gather leads by asking three simple questions: “What does your company do?” “What do you do for them?” and “Do you get involved in the purchase of _____________?” This way you will have a good idea as to whether or not this person is a prospect or just someone wandering the booths.

Rule 3: Thou Shalt Leave Your LinkedIn Contacts and Fellow Group Members Alone.

Do you have an article that you think someone might legitimately interest someone in your network? Fine, send that along, but you had better be able to defend WHY you think they might be interested, and be prepared to suffer the venom (or being dropped as a contact) for miscalculating.

Rule 4: Thou Shalt Have Expiration Dates On Subscriptions.

One of the greatest things about Facility Safety Management magazine is that you have to actively subscribe. The subscription is free, but it expires every three years (or less) and if you want to continue to receive the magazine you have to “re-up” periodically.

Before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy—I do send links to my articles to people in the safety press (because I believe it to be newsworthy) and I do invite people in my networks to read my blog articles (because I genuinely respect their opinions and enjoy discussing topics with them)—I would hasten to point out that there is a huge difference between inviting people to read my articles (which are so free of advertising that many in my organization openly question the value of me spending time on them). I don’t do eBlasts, I don’t work from a standard distribution list, and in cases where I don’t think the topic on which I have written is appropriate to a given population, I don’t post links in that particular group’s discussion forums. Or accuse me of hypocrisy. As long as I stop getting  eBlasts on Fire Restoration from drooling simpletons, I am ahead of the game.