March 9, 2023

The Side Effects of Mass Marketing (Part 1)

By: Jay Dipietro

Would you ever take a medication without understanding its potential side effects?

Sales and marketing teams do it all the time.

I was recently cleaning out my inbox and notifications, and it occurred to me that as marketers, we make the best of what we can track and don’t often think about the impact of what we cannot track. We focus on the positive and ignore the potentially harmful side effects.

Let’s take two easy examples most are familiar with:

  • The batch and blast sales email
  •  The “follow my company on LinkedIn” request

The first: the batch and blast sales email   

This takes me back to a spirited debate with a former coworker many years back. We had just implemented a new marketing automation tool, and the sales team wanted to leverage it to send a “quick question” email to literally every prospect in the database. The idea was: “This is a numbers game and if we can hit everyone the total number of prospects converted will grow.”  Sales was measuring purely on the number of conversations they had, and the more conversations the better. Maybe this sounds okay at first? 

The reality: Your Total Addressable Market (TAM) is finite

We identified and invested a ton of money to source and identify the majority of that TAM. When we sent out a generic batch email, we exhausted the entire known TAM. They now knew our brand, but their impression was negative: “This brand is spamming me.” Sales conversations increased for a short period of time (the tracked metric), but positive brand sentiment (really hard to track without spending a ton of $) likely dropped significantly.  

The perception of our brand was becoming negative, but because we couldn’t actively collect and report on that data, ignorance was bliss, and sales leadership considered the program a success. It was not. 

“But what about unsubscribes? If that is low, clearly it’s not a problem.” False. People aren’t great about unsubscribing to emails. But they will remember you, and when you hit them with that follow-up email, their negative sentiment only begins to compound. It’s a slippery, slippery slope to be sliding down, especially when you think you’re actually climbing.

The second: the “follow my company on LinkedIn” request

The same logic holds true here. Often, new hires are encouraged to invite their network to follow their company’s LinkedIn page. They do it in a batch and blast fashion: Invite everyone in your network and whoever converts, great!  Doesn’t it feel great to see the follower count increase?!  

Yes, but that is only part of the picture—the part that is measurable and tracked. What about the hundreds or thousands of connections who find that practice spammy? What about those who lost a bit of respect for their connection who would send that out knowing they likely wouldn’t be interested, and the brand by association?  

Our brands’ reputations are sacred assets. They drive long-term growth, trust, and community.  When we focus only on the positive metrics we can track, we lose sight of all the ways we may be creating a negative impact, without the ability to understand to what magnitude.  

So what do we do – what’s the takeaway?

Always think about the flip side. When developing a program and estimating the positive impact we can generate, we must also try to estimate what the potential negative impacts can be. 

For example:

  • Generic emails result in low engagement, and your click-through rates will suffer. Also, more people will unsubscribe and some may report your email as SPAM, which will hurt your sender’s reputation and raise a red flag to your marketing automation platform.
  • Posting too much superficial content or sending spammy LinkedIn connection requests can generate negative brand perception and disengage the individuals you are trying to reach. If you really aggravate someone, they may speak poorly about your brand to others in their network or feel compelled to comment on your posts to warn others about your aggressive marketing tactics.

So, next time you’re about to hit “send”, ask yourself: Does the positive outweigh the negative? What is an acceptable level of negative impact? Depending on the program, tolerance levels may slide significantly. Only commit to programs where you have confidence that you are generating net positive impact, and the potential negative impact is within a tolerable range. 

This is similar to the conversation you have with your doctor when starting a new medication: The medication will help solve x, but the side effects may be y and z. Sometimes it’ll be worth dealing with those potential side effects to get the desired positive result; sometimes the side effects will be too severe.

When setting your OKRs and KPIs this year, be sure to keep this in mind. Growth at all costs is sometimes too costly. This is a topic we will continue to explore in our “Going, Going, Gone to Market” content series. Take a look at the next article to learn how businesses can segment their target audiences with account intelligence.

Subscribe to our newsletter

We value your privacy. We don't spam.