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Are you trying to help your customers? Or fool them?

You’ve probably heard about this social media stuff on the Interwebz. Your customers are talking about you when you screw up. You heard about that, right? Well, it means that you might want to screw up a lot less than you used to. Now, I don’t mean mistakes. We all make mistakes and, if anything, I advocate trying things and sometimes getting it wrong. No, it’s not the mistakes that will really hurt you–it’s the crappy stuff that you are doing on purpose.

Photo credit: LarsZi

In the old days, we loved to have fine print and terms and conditions and and any number of lovely little “techniques” to get what we wanted at the expense of our customers. Some industries have become famous for this kind of thing. Think credit card companies or the famous software “shrink wrap” licenses. These are the kinds of practices that are not sustainable in the long run, because your customers talk about you now.

Take a look at this approach from CNET below. Ostensibly, it follows all of the rules. You can opt out. See that grey Decline button?


Is this a terrible thing? No. It’s not terrible. But it is based on the old-fashioned “fool your customers” approach.

The customer comes to a trusted website for a free download and this pop-up looks like the standard terms of service box that you accept without reading. But this one is actually installing software on your computer before you even get the download. Is that software awful? No, it seems OK to be donating money to charity, but why the big green accept button and the greyed-out opt-out?

Someone not paying attention would think they are accepting the terms for the software download that they came for and just click Accept. Again, is this an awful thing? No, but why do we persist in trying to fool our customers into doing as we want rather than persuading them to do what they want?

When you play straight-up with your customers and avoid these precious games, you get loyal and happy customers. When you pull the old “greyed-out opt-out” trick, you get blog posts like this one. Which would you prefer?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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