Tackle the ‘invading my space’ dissent or be permanently shut out

Don’t call me, I’ll call you. No, seriously, don’t call me. Or knock on my door. Or make any unauthorised approach. That’s what people are telling companies via escalating complaints about unwanted sales tactics that ultimately affect brand perception and undermine the best marketing strategies.

Branwell Johnson

There’s nothing new about public dissatisfaction with these invasive techniques and the “No Hawkers, No Circulars” notices on front doors have been around since before the telephone, I’ll wager. But there does seem to be an increasing sense of righteous anger from annoyed householders and a willingness to voice that annoyance, demonstrated this week by the annual complaints report from the Fundraising Standards Board (FSB) and Which? research on failures in the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), run by the Direct Marketing Association.

The FSB found that complaints against charities carrying out doorstep fundraising increased 93 per cent with comments focused on fundraisers’ behaviour and the public’s “general dislike” of the method. Meanwhile, rather bafflingly, Which? discovered that households which had asked not to receive marketing calls received on average twice as many as those that hadn’t opted out. Basically, people are telling sales teams: “You are invading my space. Get out of my face.”

The same level of hostility regarding digital communications is not so apparent – yet. No doubt it seethes beneath the surface. Unsolicited emails and other digital comms are probably just ignored or blocked by clever software. All brands see is a fall in the number being opened and their efficacy, rather than the drop in favourable sentiment.

But the issue of unsolicited approaches rolls into the larger issue of data collection and privacy – the latter in its widest definition of not being unnecessarily disturbed or having one’s private data accessed. This issue is in the spotlight this week given the furore over the US National Security Agency and its access to internet data records.

The smart marketer should be keeping a watchful eye on the sales tactics used by their company, be it offline or online, and what level of complaints are coming back regarding their techniques. As we know, the irate householder can easily mis-attribute an unsolicited approach, so whole sectors are tarred with the same brush. Trade bodies need to lobby regulators tasked with ensuring such practices are stamped out before the public decides en masse it does not want any kind of conversation with brands.

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