I’ve walked into many crowded coffee shops. As a talker, I seem to be able to strike up a conversation wherever I go. I tend to read people’s signs: Eye contact. Body language. Tone of voice. But recently, I missed all of them.
Last week at my local Starbucks, I had a unique experience. While waiting in line, I asked a question to the gentleman on my right. He was holding a brand new phone and I was peeking to see if it was the iPhone 6 everyone had been commenting on. I haven’t gotten my hands on an actual model since the live tweet with the Pioneer Press which now seems like ages ago. When I inquired, it was clear my new friend didn’t want to talk. Mustering a smile, I soothed my ego by looking down at my phone and pretending to be deeply engrossed in someone’s Facebook post.
I realized then, that chatting at a coffee shop, was a lot like target marketing. In an instant, I knew to pivot away the man next to me, as my questions seemed to be making him uncomfortable. Most of the time, I exchange business cards, or even referrals with those I meet, but for some reason, I wasn’t hitting it off with this particular person. I didn’t think much more of it until I sat down and started working. The gentleman holding the phone ended up sitting only a chair away.
I kept focused in on my work until he asked what laptop I was using. Incredulously, I looked over and there he was, inquiring about my tech. For the next few minutes we chatted all things work productivity, (Mark hates the iPhone 6. He’s headed back to the 5s.) I loathed my Asus and it’s connectivity problems, and would be heading back to the glory of Lenovo in the New Year. We bonded. I had an attentive audience, what I failed at was the wrong time. This happens to people and marketers quite often.
How many times do we throw content out there, and expect people to listen? I feel as content strategists and PR practitioners, we are never asking the question that’s most important. The question is: Was this valuable? Target marketing is perceived to work by the sheer fact that the practitioner has done their research and therefore, the lead is warmer. However, no one wants to be spammed, even with the best of content. And, P.R. pros: No one wants a black hole pitch: (“Where does this go? Where did this come from? Am I on some sort of list now?”) If we’re not making someone’s workday better, easier or of a higher quality, we’re doing the process in entirely the wrong way.
Mark drank his coffee and headed out, but not before passing me his card. He’s an executive at a mid-sized business in the Twin Cities. We’re connecting again next week.