I volunteered this spring to be an assistant coach for my son Evan’s little league baseball team. Unlike the head coach, whose job involves actual managerial responsibilities, my role is restricted to the more subtle aspects of the game. Things like administering Band-Aids, looking appropriately concerned when our team falls behind, and continually hollering proven baseball phrases such as, “Sock that apple!”
And so you can imagine my excitement when on opening day, the coach asked me to run out to home plate and warm up the team before the start of the game.
Picture this scene: It’s a beautiful day and the sun is shining high overhead; parents and siblings are watching excitedly from the stands; the opposing team is eyeing our boys for a pre-game look at the competition; our players stand ready at their respective defensive positions. Meanwhile, I’m at home plate — bat and ball in hand — preparing to knock some hard grounders around the infield so the team can warm up.
I throw the ball up in the air and swing. . . I miss it completely and it hits the ground. I bend down, pick it up, throw it in the air and swing again — strike two. Again, strike three, and AGAIN, strike four.
I don’t mind telling you that at this point, I was starting to worry. I’d hit the ball easily in practice many times before, but for some reason I was now completely unable to make contact, and I was all too aware that everybody in the immediate area was now watching me. Toddlers on the neighboring playground stopped seesawing. Cars driving by slowed to a halt. Squirrels put down their nuts, watching and waiting.
Telling myself not to panic, I made the conscious decision to give it two more swings. If that failed, I was fully prepared to fake a pulled groin muscle and quietly slip away in the resulting confusion.
And then, fortunately, the gods of baseball smiled down upon me. I suddenly realized that I had neglected to remove my prescription sunglasses.
The problem you see, was that although my world was more in focus with the glasses on, they completely distorted my depth perception. It appeared to me as if I were right on target, but in reality I was several inches behind the ball with every swing. With the glasses now off, I hit the ball on the next try (much to the relief of my wife, my son and local paramedics).
Here’s the point. I see the exact same thing happening as I watch experienced marketers publish their E-Newsletters. They come into the relationship marketing game already wearing traditional sales and marketing “glasses,” and as a result, they make decisions and take actions that appear on target, but more often than not yield less than optimal results.
This difficulty in bridging the gap from traditional to relationship marketing is revealed in many ways, however the most common mistake I see is something we like to call, “Overt Marketing Aggressiveness(or “OMA,” for those of you keeping score).”
Some real life examples of OMA:
• Weaving explicit statements about how wonderful the organization is into nearly every sentence or image,rather than allowing the value of the newsletter content itself to make the case for a company’s expertise.
• Hitting readers over the head with multiple “calls to action,”rather than working to develop a reputation as a trusted source of useful information, confident that when the prospective client has a need they will call you.
• Prohibiting hyperlinks in the newsletter from going anywhere other than the company web site,even if it would benefit readers to know about a third party book, event, web site, or resource.
Don’t get me wrong — these tactics are fine and effective in many situations. An E-Newsletter however, is not one of them. Unlike most of the other things you do to get the word out to the world about your products and services, when it comes to email, the end user holds all the cards.
You can’t trick, buy or force your way in, and are completely dependent on the reader’s willingness to hear from you. Focus therefore, on becoming somebody worth hearing from.
Bottom Line: The strange thing about my baseball experience was not that I couldn’t hit the ball. It was that the very thing that should have helped me to hit it more easily — my glasses — was ultimately what got in the way. Not only that, but since the glasses made the world in general seem more in focus, it didn’t initially occur to me that they were the cause of the problem.
If you’re new to the world of relationship marketing — but well versed in more traditional approaches — I encourage you to keep an open mind, and do your best to “raise your glasses” before jumping in. It may slow you down a bit at first, but believe me, it’s a lot better than wasting a ton of money, and significantly less embarrassing than faking a groin injury.