Homogeneous Marketing and
Learned Resistance

Mark Frasco - President


We gathered around. There was a location set up in our office that had the feel of a business machine altar. Atop this altar was a new device that we were sure was going to change the world, maybe replace us. I was a young inside sales person for an industrial distributor in Southern California. The year was 1981 and the machine was the facsimile, or fax machine.

The fax was an incredible advancement in business communication. Using phone lines, it was able to send copies of documents to a recipient (later multiple recipients) with simple push button entry of their phone number, dedicated to the recipient’s fax machine. Much like a photocopier, you place your message on the machine, enter the fax number of the recipient and within seconds your message prints on their fax machine. Wow, just think what we can do with this thing!

So it started. Sure, the fax was used to send contracts, drawings, and other official communication. But, marketing had a different idea. We could use this technology to send promotional messages to our prospects around the world, for the cost of a brief phone call. The term fax blasts entered our work vernacular. We prepared marketing sheets and sent them by fax to hundreds of recipients. Well, we solved that problem. All we have to do now is wait for that special ring and the fax orders would just start rolling off the machine.

As it turns out, many of the responses were variously written responses that asked us to please cease and desist from sending that recipient any further fax messages. From, please stop. I’m sending you my paper bill. To, I don’t know you or your company. I’m not interested. As you might imagine, some were saltier. We learned pretty quickly that this technique was not creating a positive impression in the market. But, I’m not sure that is the headline.

Every evolution of technology has featured a business-to-business marketing epiphany; we can do this cheaper and to larger and larger lists of prospects. Direct mail, telemarketing, fax blasts, email blasts, text blasts, and more. By themselves, none of them work. In fact, even in thoughtful combination, they rarely work.

Cheaper marketing to larger lists trains your prospects to resist. It doesn’t take long for prospects to learn how to resist your blasts, and they do; learned resistance. But, even more troubling, you may be damaging your brand.

I haven’t said much that you don’t already know. You’ve done this. You’ve learned to resist homogeneous, cheaper, untargeted, impersonal marketing touches. As a prospect, you’re not learning much, you’re not interested; you have no strategic use, or emotional attachment to the sender or her company. Right mouse click, delete, or worse, file as junk or unsubscribe. I wish they’d stop sending me this. That takes care of them.

So, what’s the answer? First, the more technology-based our business interaction becomes, the more genuine human interaction stands out from the crowd. Human interaction features phone calls that are helpful and handwritten notes that are thoughtful and genuine – hopefully, memorable.

Next, to assure you have the bandwidth to make your campaign helpful, thoughtful and genuine (you might say, human), be sure that your target list is strategic and of the size that allows your campaigns to be supported by human interaction. This is why we work hard to make our clients’ prospect lists as strategic as possible. Most business growth campaigns bog down under the pressure of sheer size of the list.

Third, do your best to try to teach your prospect something that they don’t know or hadn’t thought about. Moreover, teach them to care for you or your company by showing that you care for them. Help them understand why your new product or special could be important to them. Help them know what you know, if you expect to learn what they know.

Lastly, mix it up. Not every prospect learns from one form of communication, alone. Some learn from direct mail. Some learn from newsletters. Some learn from advocacy or product video. Don’t fall into the current day trap of sending email after email; doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Prospects have learned how to resist homogeneous marketing campaigns.

I can’t remember the last fax I received. I’m not sure how long it will be before we say that of email, but it is interesting to think about.

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com.