Risk taking and rule bending (when does going over the line work?)

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risk signHere are two examples of risk taking/rule bending on a warm June Saturday, as our family enjoys a four-day long weekend in Northampton, Mass., Rochester, NY, and Toronto.

In the first, a new contractor has sent a spam-fax promoting his window installing service. The impressive thing about this fax is the writing quality — far beyond what I think anyone just starting a window installing business would be capable of producing. This suggests that the contractor (a) hired a professional copywriter or (b) bought some franchise/business opportunity deal, with this professional writing in the can. Nevertheless, I admire the initiative. I will check things out further, and report on what I find. The contractor took a risk, and got my attention. Good.

Second case, a sales rep for a reputable industrial/commercial/institutional (ICI) lead generation service posted a comment on a thread describing some of the problems encountered with residentially-oriented lead generation services (which I also have blogged about, here.) There were some good thoughts in the message, but the offer of a “free sample,” the blatant identification of the company and other advertising-type details simply earned the guy a “delete” and a firm note from me telling him he broke the rules regarding advertising/solicitation on the forums.

Was the sales rep wrong for trying to use a forum posting to market his honorable service? Was the window installer (I don’t know if his service is credible) right to use a broadcast-spam fax to sell his services?

The answer, in my opinion, is there is no easy answer, but obviously the spam-faxing window installer has succeeded — in that (a) I couldn’t delete his message from the other fax in-baskets it went to and (b) I sensed enough merit in the initiative to follow up and possibly give the guy some positive publicity.

The lead generation guy, meanwhile, pissed off me (a forum moderator) and his posting, once zapped, is gone for good.  So I suppose he failed.

This leads to observations about risk-taking (and going over the etiquette line).

  1. You don’t want to be in the position where one gatekeeper can stop your marketing message. Of course, if you try to spam by email, you may end up with the gatekeeper — your ISP — shutting your service down — but there are ways around that problem. (No I am not defending spam, I’m just suggesting that if you want to do it effectively, you should really learn how to work around the barriers before doing it. In other words, this is not an action for rash and impulsive behaviour.)
  2. If you are going to sell, be aware that intelligent selling often requires a patient and respectful attitude. Yes, the lead generation rep might have thought he was posting an appropriate comment on an appropriate forum, and he could continue to do that, over and over. Maybe, however, he would be better off thinking about some thoughtful ways to deliver his message, and maybe he could cool the self-promotional talk, leaving that to a more subtle signature line or other softer approach.

But maybe his risk-taking is still worth doing — after all, it didn’t cost him any cash, and he wouldn’t have achieved much by doing nothing, either.  What do you think?

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