B2B Companies: A Social Media Cautionary Tale
B to B Companies: Social Marketing and A Cautionary Tale
B to B Companies: Social Marketing and A Cautionary Tale

Dear John,

I’m sorry to have to say this to you but I don’t want you to contact me any more. The last email you sent pretty much did it for me with you and your kind.  What you said  is so annoying that although I didn’t say this to you directly (because I don’t even bother to answer your calls and emails), if I were to talk to you I would say, “You don’t have the right to email or contact me.”

In case you forgot what got me so upset, here it is:


I was hoping to get a few minutes of your time this week to briefly introduce myself and  my company.  We are the industry’s  best price/performance advanced traffic manager – helping enterprises and ISPs maximize application through a high-performance and  scalable Web Application Delivery Platform.

Is there a convenient time for us to chat so I can further explain how our solution can  improve application performance? I look forward to speaking with you.

You’re not alone, John.  A lot of you guys pull this.  Here’s a voicemail  from earlier in the same day from someone just like you.


I tried reaching you today but unfortunately got your voicemail.  Are you available  sometime this week for a brief 10 minute Webex?  I’d love to show you active  campaigns  we’re running with sites similar sites  and to answer any questions you  may have.

Would this Wednesday around 12:00pm PST work with your schedule?

Look forward to your reply.

I don’t want to sound picky, but I’m not on PST, so why would you schedule a meeting that doesn’t even relate to my time zone?  Could it be because you don’t even have a clue where I am?

John, cold calling went out the door with door-to-door salesmen and mass marketing and yet, I get an average of five emails and calls from you guys every day … often double that.  The absurdity of your approach can only be compared to a stranger coming up to me on the street and asking me to go out for a cup of coffee.  Actually, since I almost always want a cup of coffee, it’s more like a stranger coming up to me on the street and asking me to buy a toaster.

Where did you go wrong, you ask? First of all, you never really tried to establish a relationship based on being helpful.  I realize this takes time, but so does building a business.  Your cold call is to selling what playing the slot machines is to earning a living.  Second, you never tried to understand anything about my business.  Maybe if I were desperate for ways to spend my time and did decide to take your call, I know that your presentation is going to be as canned as the message I hear when I am on hold at my bank.

Stop talking and pushing what you have.  You interrupt me at my office in my email and on my voicemail and the one time I did pick up the phone it turns out you barely knew who I was. Did you even look at my company’s website, Facebook page or Twitter stream?  If you did, you wouldn’t talk to me the way you talk to every other company. Why wouldn’t you do some homework and wow me with your knowledge of my business and how you’ve found some low-hanging fruit that your product would fix?  Oh, I forgot, that would require effort.

What could you have done to make this work out?  Maybe if I heard you speak at a conference, and thought you had something helpful and interesting to say I would give you my card. Maybe if you tweeted great links that helped me understand more about the issues I am dealing with in my business I would choose to follow you.  Or, perhaps you could blog on a topic I am focusing on to build my business, and I could learn to care about and respect you.  Or better yet, maybe you are so awesome at what you do that someone who used your service told me about it.  It would be a start.

Yet, even these opportunities got flubbed.  I spent a lot of money and time coming to a conference a few months ago.  I visited your booth and asked for some information. You gave me the elevator pitch in language that may as well be Latin–something about an end to end solution that helps you leverage bla bla bla.   When you talk to me maybe you could pretend that both of us are human?  Then, to top it off, when a “more important” person came into your booth you turned away.

And here’s a tip that would really win me over: when we get down the road a bit and you know more about my business and I am clear that I need what you offer, don’t just keep following up if you don’t hear from me.  Help me justify the ROI to myself and my CEO.  If you could work with me to help me to at least give a credible projection of how I could  succeed financially by connecting with you, I’d be yours.

There are things you could have done to become interesting to me; to make me trust you; to make me want to connect with you. John, a relationship takes time and effort and you weren’t willing to do what it takes.  The fact is that you never even knew if I was in the market for someone like you.

For future reference, don’t call me, I’ll call you.  And, I’ll only do that if I’m interested  and if you’ve given me a reason to think you’re different from the other guys.

P.S. From now on, whenever I or my friends have a problem with people like you, I think we’ll just send this link instead of answering.  You won’t mind the canned response will you?

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About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz
Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.

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