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Oz du Soleil responded to the most recent blog post on auto-DMs with this observation:

“I remember a few years ago online marketers were all about the importance of building relationships. Today, it’s about taking advantage of technologies that allow marketers to be invasive. Email is a miserable place because marketers made it so. Now, marketers are invading Messenger and sending DMs. Is there any place a marketer won’t go? Will some marketer find a way to legally come into our homes, unannounced, with a spiel about accordion lessons?”

The short answer is that marketers won’t go where the people aren’t. The longer answer is to think in terms of business.

What do businesses generally want?

  • More profits
  • Fewer expenses

In other words, efficiency.

Granted, that’s an oversimplification to some degree, but for the most part, businesses – especially businesses seeking to reach broad, large audiences – look for efficiency. They demand efficiency of their marketers and marketing efforts.

Social networks and their APIs and ad systems have made reaching people on those networks very efficient. Because these media channels are no different than broadcast networks, they require eyeballs – ours – to sell to advertisers as their primary business model. Thus, marketers go to these places to achieve reach efficiently. (whether reach is the appropriate metric is a separate discussion)

The good news for marketers – and the bad news for consumers – is that the mobile revolution has transformed just about every urban place and a fair number of rural places into scalable, reachable locations. Marketers may not be able to show up at someone’s home in person, but they sure can show up in every home on mobile phones (with sufficient budget).

Why didn’t online marketing focused on relationship building really accelerate, given the ease with which we can connect with each other day? The same answer: efficiency. Relationship building is inefficient. Invasive advertising at scale is efficient – especially when the cost of digital reach continues to drop.

As much as we talk about nurturing relationships and making authentic connections, the financial engines of business are fueled by revenue and finely tuned to be efficient. Activities which are efficient are rewarded by stock markets, investors, and company leadership, for good or ill.

Now, these statements about efficiency are broadly true, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. Especially in B2B marketing, where we might have a very small pool of highly-qualified, high value prospects (Fortune 50 CMOs, for example), relationship building might be the only way to reach a small, valuable audience. For the most part, however, if a business relies on scale for growth and revenue, it will market accordingly with a focus on efficiency above all else.

Thus, where won’t marketers go?

  • Places where marketing is inefficient
  • Places where ROI is negative
  • Places where marketing doesn’t work at scale

Understanding that inefficiency and negative ROI are anathema to most marketers, where should consumers who want to avoid marketers spend their time?

  • Messaging networks that are privately held and run
  • Privately run social networks
  • Any highly inefficient communications medium (such as in-person meetings)
  • Any communications medium without advertising

In short, if a communications network requires payment or significant investment and shows no ads, that’s a place marketers can’t find you. For example, if you start a private Slack group and you pay for the premium membership, the chances of a marketer invading that space are nearly zero.

We return to the most basic axiom of media:

If you’re not paying, you’re the product.

Flip to the corollary:

Marketers can’t market to you if you’re paying to avoid them.

That’s where marketers won’t go.


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