The Age of Interruption Is Over

I recognize that I am a little biased on the subject but I think marketing is a noble profession. Helping organizations connect with customers and providing a channel for the exchange of goods and/or services helps both the local community and the economy at large. However, like all lines of work, there are bottom feeders in the industry that define the low end of the profession. In marketing this position is reserved for the interrupters.

While Christmas shopping last Friday, I was doing the usual frantic walk through the mall. As I looked from storefront to storefront, scanning for ideas for those elusive few gifts I had yet to acquire, I was witness to marketing interruption at its worst. It was a familiar scene.

A woman on a mission similar to mine was being followed by someone, who I first assumed was shopping with her. As I got closer I could hear more of the conversation. “Ma’am … Ma’am … Isn’t this a rough time of year for skin? What are you doing for skincare?! Ma’am!” Like most of us would have done in the same situation, the woman said nothing and avoided eye contact – you know, those affirmations that you offer others when you’re actually interested in what they have to say that give them permission to continue.

As I passed them both, I shook my head at the idea that, in the broadest sense, this pest from a mall kiosk is in the same industry that I am. I then puffed my chest out haughtily as I reassured myself that neither I nor any smart marketer would would ever do anything as annoying as interrupt an unsuspecting individual in the hopes of making a pushy and accidental sale.

Not any of us, right? After all, this is an amazing time to be a marketer. The shifts brought about by social media and digital marketing have provided tools that allow brands to forge powerful and personal relationships with their community of customers. We are no longer relegated to shouting through a one-way megaphone at poor, unsuspecting targets like the one I happened upon in the mall. Instead, we are able to have rich, multi-directional conversations and build long-term relationships. As Seth Godin has said, “You can’t yell your way to winning” anymore.

And yet many of us still do. We have the opportunity to create helpful content with our blog posts, videos, and podcasts and instead many of us opt only to sell. We have the opportunity to show up in a Facebook feed among friends and family and too many of us treat the medium as simply another channel to push press-releases through.

This is an incredible time to be a marketer but it’s also a critical juncture. How will you spend your time? Building relationships or chasing people down and interrupting them? Remember, the latter doesn’t just happen at mall kiosks anymore.

Photo via Flickr user floeschie