Annoying Your Prospects is a Bad Thing by Rich

Annoying Your Prospects is a Bad Thing Annoying Your Prospects is a Bad Thing Annoying Your Prospects is a Bad Thing Annoying Your Prospects is a Bad Thing Annoying Your Prospects is a Bad Thing

I shouldn’t have to say this.

If you want someone to buy something, annoying them is a bad tactic. Counter-productive.

And yet, and yet, examples of this are common. There is even a strain of thought that this is a smart marketing tactic. Because you get their attention.


By survey, the most unpopular thing a website can do is popups. A 2016 survey found 97% of respondents felt negatively about pop-ups.

Ninety-Seven Percent.

You couldn’t get 97% to agree the sky is blue.

Yet you read current (2019) articles with titles like “40 Top Brands Using Pop-Ups to Increase Their Conversions.”  Missing from headline: “… and Alienate and Drive Customers Away.”

So let’s have a really serious, fundamental conversation about this. Because I don’t want you imitating all the wrong-headed things going on in marketing.

Because apparently it ISN’T obvious that you shouldn’t annoy or otherwise alienate prospective customers.

So I’m going to explain it VERY carefully. In words of one syllable or less, so you get it.

Are you getting annoyed at my slightly patronizing tone?

How does that make you feel about continuing to read this?

(No, I don’t think you’re an idiot. I will now return to my usual polite, professorial tone of voice.)


Marketing depends on TRUST.

It depends on trust. If they don’t believe you, they won’t take ACTION. That’s obvious.

But how do you build trust? There are the obvious points such as looking professional. Saying things the reader agrees with because they know them to be true. NOT saying unbelievable things, like “our laundry soap will make you live longer.”

But there is another huge aspect to this. It is almost entirely ignored, and is the whole point of this article.

If someone likes you, and likes what you are doing, they will be much more likely to believe and trust you. They will want to communicate with you.  And so, give you the call or purchase.

You may think this is not rational, but it is certainly true. People prefer to associate with those for whom they have the most affinity (degree of liking). I mean, would you rather spend time with your BFF or your mother-in-law (yes, I know your mother-in-law is probably a very nice person)?

The counterexamples are situations where a) there is no alternative, b) the alternatives are even worse, or c) you feel duty-bound to hold your nose and do what you really don’t like.

If there is only one surgeon in town capable of saving your life, you are going to see him. Even if he has the worst case of bad breath you’ve ever experienced, and he stole your wife.

Most people vote for the candidate they dislike the least.

If you SHOULD buy from the company that supports environmental causes, you probably will. Even though you hate their shoes. (Or maybe buy elsewhere and tell everyone you bought from the Eco-friendly company.)

Those situations are the exception and pretty rare IN MOST INDUSTRIES. Used car salesmen, I’m talking to you.

You shouldn’t antagonize your prospective buyers? It would probably be a good idea then to know how to avoid that trap. So I’m going to end this article with some marketing rules for making people like you. None of these come from Dale Carnegie or Tony Robbins, by the way.


  1. Be honest. Sure, you can exaggerate for effect, so long as it is obvious that is what you are doing. LIKE works on TRUTH. No one likes a liar.
  2. Get to know and understand your prospective customers, how they think, what their problems and dreams are.

You don’t insert these things unnaturally into marketing copy. Work from the understanding of who is on the other end of that web page or postcard. It makes you more effective in your marketing efforts. This reflects in many many ways, such as having a good feel for rule #3 below.

  1. Don’t be overly intrusive. You can and should be a little bit more “in their face” than they might want. People do appreciate it when a friend points out, NICELY, something they should correct. Go overboard and they will exercise their God-given right to ignore you.
  2. Be pleasant and positive. What’s the favorite section in the newspaper (if anyone still reads them)? Right the first time: The comics. Even the political cartoons are a more pleasant way of getting across a message than the never-ending drumbeat of doom, gloom and bad news.

That’s it.

Now I’m going to ask you to do a small thought exercise. On the average, people dislike most advertising. The large majority of ads makes me cringe.

90% of all advertising violates one or more of these four points. The rare campaign that follows them, is often wildly successful. Like Geico’s car insurance advertising.

Think about the ads you like and dislike. How do they stack up against these rules?

What do you think? Do you agree?

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