Ink-Dipped Advice: Don’t Be That Marketing Asshat

One of the things I’ve noticed during the StayAtHome is how much predatory, desperate, and snake oil salesman marketing is going on.

Don’t be that Marketing Asshat.

I find the worst on the radio. The amount of snake oil salesmen selling things that are, at best ineffective and, at worst, could kill you, is ridiculous. The radio stations running these “ads” should have to vet them, not just accept them because they want marketing dollars. There’s one radio station in particular I only turn on for traffic and weather and won’t listen to anymore because their “reporting” is biased and they only run ads hawking absolutely ridiculous stuff.

The daily email blasts trying to get me to buy stuff also needs to stop. We are at a record unemployment rate. People don’t have money. What they have, they’re saving for rent and food and utilities. Trying to sell me something every single day isn’t keeping your name in front of me for the times I want or need to buy something. It’s annoying me, and I’m unsubscribing and/or blocking and putting you on the list of companies from whom I won’t buy in the future.

Once a week is plenty, although I’d prefer less. Twice a week is pushing it. More than that? Bye.

Sending me a frantic email with a limited time offer on something every day – especially if it’s the same item every day that you insist is only available on that day, and then it turns up the next day, or the day after in another frantic email – not working for me.

Sending progressively angry emails because I’m not buying your product is also not going to convince me to part with my cash. I get to decide what I buy. If something you offer does not fit my needs, I am not required to buy it. Yelling at me isn’t going to persuade me. It’s going to turn me away from your product and your company permanently.

Also, be careful of the overused phrases. “We’re in this together” is particularly grating, because we’re not. If we were in this together, we’d all be getting UBI and not have to decide if we’d rather starve to death because we forfeit unemployment refusing to go back into a dangerous work situation, or we’d rather get the virus while trying to keep a roof over our heads. “We’re all in this together” is a privileged statement by the moneyed few who find “the help” expendable. Unless you’re going to back it up with action instead of the current one-way usage, it’s an insult, not a rallying cry.

“Uncertain times” has gotten old. I had to use it a few times, too, and I got sick of it fast as a writer, so I can only imagine how sick recipients are of it. As a recipient, out of 87 recent email messages, 74 used “uncertain times.”


It worked for about three days in week one; let’s find better language.

Let’s not threaten, or rage, or, most importantly, condescend.

“Empathy” is getting overused, so let’s try to not just use the words “kindness” and “patience” but practice them. On and off the page.

I also don’t need 17 Zoom invites by the time I log on in the morning.

I’m an introvert. I’m grateful there’s Zoom and that so many organizations have found a way to keep in touch with clients, patrons, and audiences via Zoom. But I don’t need to Zoom with you every day, spending more hours with your organization per day than I would in a month or a quarter. There aren’t that many hours in a day.

Yes, if it’s a Zoom meeting, there’s a fee involved, the same as if I was in the office for a consultation. It’s my time, it’s my billable hours, and I’m still billing.

As any of us who actually DO work instead of create busywork know, work doesn’t actually happen in meetings or because of meetings. Work happens IN SPITE of meetings.

So cut back on the meetings, people. They are not helpful. Nor is it helpful to send more interruptions per workday via Slack or text than there would be in a regular office.

I have not changed my policy of phone calls only by appointment during this time. In fact, it’s been more important than ever. Especially for people in fields who don’t usually work remotely, and are sitting around calling people because they’re bored. Honey, I’m sorry you’re bored, I’m glad you’re safe, but I’M WORKING. I always was working during this time, I’m STILL WORKING.

Remote is what I do.

I’m not sitting around on anyone’s dime eating bonbons and watching Netflix. I’ve been working, flat out, REMOTELY, at least  40 hours a week since the StayAtHome went in place. For those who haven’t had to keep up the pace, or simply couldn’t, you’re surviving, you’re doing great, enjoy Netflix for both of us. However, I’ve been flat out, and I’m on the verge of burn out. Receiving daily emails about all these products, services, and opportunities I should take advantage of “now that I have so much time” is enraging.

If I’m flat out, I can only imagine what parents who are trying to keep their kids on an educational schedule while working remotely as many or more hours than usual are feeling. We need a collective vacation, soon, and StayAtHome most certainly was NOT that.

When the marketing materials I’m doing at home are generating your ONLY source of income during the pandemic, snide comments about me working remotely aren’t going to keep you a priority. They’re going to get you replaced by clients who value my skill, my time, my talent.

What this has proven, more than ever, is that what I do does not have to be done on someone else’s site.  It has changed how I approach clients in my LOIs, and where I’m willing to compromise. Not just until there’s a vaccine, but for my foreseeable future as I reshape my career, because I realized how many unhealthy compromises I made the past few years.

I know the type of marketing that appeals to me, especially in a time of chaos, fear, and frustration. It’s friendly, story-based marketing with kindness and humor, that includes me, that invites me, rather than attacks me.

I’m keeping a list of the companies who are mishandling their communications during this time. Several of them have heard from me, that their tone and their tactics are inappropriate, and I am no longer interested in being a customer. Others will simply not get my attention or my money in the future.

As a writer, I want to make sure that I offer a positive experience to a client’s audience. There can be enthusiasm without aggression. Invitation without coercion. Humor without condescension.

We’re supposed to come out of an event like this as a better, stronger, more compassionate society. The marketing should lead the actions, open the way for such actions.

Unfortunately, the bulk of what I see out there right now is just the opposite.

As a consumer, it offends me.

As a marketing writer, I damn well better learn from what’s not working, so that I can offer my clients what does work. A better, richer, kinder choice that will build lasting and positive relationships through the tumult and beyond into the rebuilding.

That’s my aim. I won’t hit it every time, but it’s how I’m shaping my journey.

Ink-Dipped Advice: Artists Are Expected To Settle For Less — And Shouldn’t

As a published author, I’m getting a little tired of getting pitched to by marketing organizations that want me to hand over a bunch of moolah, but refuse to commit to results.

I understand the value of getting one’s name out in front of as many people as possible for name recognition and business growth. That’s part of how I earn my living.

I work with other businesses to communicate their message effectively and grow their business. They expect me to grow their name recognition. To get their name and their product in front of those who will actually open their wallets and buy it. They expect – and demand – that the work I do – the work for which they PAY me — results in more sales.

If it doesn’t, within a reasonable amount of time, that client will end our business relationship and hire someone else who gets him a better return.

Why are authors and other artists told they must expect any different?

Almost every author/artist promotional service has a disclaimer that they can’t guarantee sales. Why not? Other businesses expect a return on their investment. Why shouldn’t artists?

They should. We should. We need to stop settling for less.

When I hire someone else to promote my book, I expect it to result in sales. Otherwise, there is no point in hiring that firm. I can do it myself.

If it does NOT result in sales, then I’ve put my money in the wrong place, and it’s time to try something else.

The way any reputable business owner does.

Because, as an artist, I AM a small business.

We need to stop settling for a lower return than any other business because we’re artists. We need to stop ALLOWING others to treat us as second-class individuals. We need to start acting like smart business people, so that we will be treated as such.

Part of that is expecting a reasonable return on the investment.

So what is a reasonable return? At the very least, I want to make back what I spent on the promotion, plus 20%. Which is a low, but that’s my personal threshold for feeling like a campaign was worth the money spent. When it goes above that, I’m delighted.

Then I see how I can build on that for the next campaign.

Plenty of people will wail that one “can’t” expect a return on art/novels/etc. The demand I’m making here will anger a lot of marketing people.

Why can’t we expect a result for money spent? Movie studios do. Television content providers do. Fine artists do. Commercial theatre productions do or they have short runs. Traditional publishing houses do, too.

Because the artist is dropped from the contract if the artist’s work does not sell.

Now, more and more artists are forced to hire their own marketing for their work. If my publisher tells me I have to get X amount of sales or I won’t get future contracts, and I’m required to hire my own marketing firm, then, yes, I expect that firm to be savvy enough in the kind of marketing I need in order to deliver the results FOR WHICH THEY ARE PAID. If my publisher paid them directly, or had an in-house marketing team do the work, the same expectations would hold. Lack of results means the business relationship ends.

So we need to stop thinking that we don’t “deserve” results simply because we are not a corporation. We are a small business, and we deserve the same results when we hire in a service as any other business does.

I’m done settling for less.

(Note: This has been a tough time, especially for progressive women. I joked on social media that this year’s Nano needs to have a “Women’s Rage” forum. Instead of that, I’m starting a private virtual group to develop creative work in multiple disciplines called Women Write Change. Stay tuned here, on Ink in My Coffee  and the main Devon Ellington site  for more information. It’ll take me a few days to set up, and then I’ll have an address where interested parties can request invitation).