Don’t Talk Unless You Have Something Important to Say

I’m currently reading legendary rock drummer Kenny Aranoff’s new book Sex, Drums & Rock n Roll and it’s great. One great anecdote in there is when Kenny was called to play a session with country music supergroup The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson). Kenny says “I didn’t talk much during this session UNLESS it was really important.” Instincts and communications skills like that are why Kenny Aranoff is still one of the most sought-after drummers on the planet.  

But his words are more than that. They are a very solid lesson for anyone in marketing and communications, a profession that teaches its practitioners to talk first and ask questions later. But that kind of approach is bad for business, bad for your marketing relationships—and REALLY bad for your brand.

Case in point, I recently received an e-mail from a national hamburger restaurant chain. The subject said “Scott, We Really, Really Miss You”. Inside, there was a graphic of a chalk board and the words “We Miss You” written on it.  That’s all ya got?  We Miss You?  Not only is that value proposition not about me in ANY discernible way, I am now questioning whether this chain has the emotional stability to handle our “deep” relationship of me buying food there occasionally, but clearly not often enough for their marketing team.  

This is a very large company, with a Chief Marketing Officer and all of the ranks below him/her/it. So this message was intentional. Yikes. Two things you NEVER want your brand to be seen as are: desperate and needy. Like any romantic relationship, desperation in marketing is an automatic turn off.  

And I see this happening a lot more. Here’s why. Some supposed marketing genius told everyone or wrote a book telling them that MORE contact is better and you need to e-mail your target audiences often (every single day) to get results. None of this is actually true—and it’s quite dangerous.  

I think marketing automation software (which I do not like) contributes to the problem. Man, it is SO easy to just load up that digital shotgun with all sorts of garbage e-mail drivel and fire it off at random intervals or my favorite “during every part of the customer’s buying journey” (please). Any tool that makes it easier for YOU to invade people’s lives without having to invest too much to do it is a BIG problem in my book. I think before any marketing e-mails are sent the marketer/sender should have to give a small sample of their blood so it hurts a little when you send. THEN that person might actually appreciate the act of doing so and treat it with some reverence—and some empathy for the audience.  

I advise my clients as follows — “Just imagine our target customers’ lives are completely full without any additional marketing and if we never existed they would be just fine. Now, knowing that they don’t REALLY want to hear from us, HOW do we earn it? HOW can we be so great, so amazing, so valuable to them that they will allow the temporary privacy/life invasion by us?”

Remember that your brand and relationships are on the line EVERY time you’re thinking about sending something out on any platform. Get it wrong and you’re done with that person for good. It’s a LOT of risk and yet many companies just blow smoke like Casey Junior ripping down the track.  Who cares, right? I mean, we HAVE to fill our marketing automation software with SOMETHING!  

No, you don’t and no you shouldn’t. Great marketing DOES NOT have to bother and annoy people.  It doesn’t have to be sent out every day or every time the customer hits our website. Seriously, back off and put your boundless energy into ATTRACTING audiences to you using great content or media relations or just interesting commentary on social media. THAT adds value and builds strong marketing relationships.  And your audience won’t need to file a restraining order against you because you “miss” them!