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How to Avoid Zombie Marketing

Barbara Wayman

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“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work. ” – W. Edwards Deming

You might have noticed, zombies have become a popular part of our cultural landscape. The continuing interest in zombie-themed movies, TV shows and even events seems to keep growing with no end in sight. As a marketer, it got me thinking about places where “Walking Dead” might be appropriate for certain marketing tactics.

Telemarketing, junk mail and mailbox-stuffing paper campaigns all meet my definition of what I’ll call “Zombie Marketing. ” These tactics are dead but they don’t know it. They may work in terms of enough people seem to respond to make it worth doing, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good strategy for a savvy business interested in building goodwill.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying all phone calls, emails or mail campaigns are bad. Just the ones that are spammy, junky or clearly bogus and a waste of time.

See, as a culture, we are moving away from interruption-based communication. We’re moving toward information on demand. You don’t want a furnace repair company to call you on a random Tuesday when your furnace is working fine. You do want to find a reliable furnace repair company quickly when yours breaks down. That requires a completely different approach to getting the word out.

As a business owner who has had the same phone number for over a decade, you can imagine how many zombie marketing lists I am on. Each week I receive phone calls from solicitors saying they are “Checking on the copier, ” when I don’t have a copier. Or they want to give me special offers on my phone account, when I have no such account with their company. When I inform them of this, they hang up and dial the next number on their list.

Zombies only think about their own immediate needs. They have zero empathy for anyone else. They’re mindless. They add little of value and their numbers can quickly get out of hand. Kind of like all the junk email in your spam folder, or the print solicitations that you dump in the recycling bin each day.

When considering marketing techniques, don’t be part of the undead horde. Ask yourself, “Does this tactic interrupt people? Does it annoy them? Have I bothered to figure out if this person is even a prospect for what I offer? Am I just putting this out in mass quantities hoping anything will stick?” It is far better to focus on providing quality information of value and making that available in as many forms as possible to those who seek it. One day the zombie techniques will truly die out. Until then, stick to tactics for the living.


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