When you go into a store, do you like for a salesperson to immediately approach and offer assistance? What about if three or four different salespeople offer to help you in the space of, oh, about five minutes?
There is also the opposite problem: you need to ask a question, but can’t find anyone who seems to work there to help you. You stand patiently, waiting for someone to walk by or to notice you, then start wandering around searching for someone.
It’s even more complicated because people vary in what they consider the “right” level of helpfulness. Some people like that immediate greeting, others want to be able to find you instead of ever being approached.
Both problems happen on web sites, too. You click a link from Twitter or Facebook to read an article, get two sentences in and BAM! a pop-up interrupts. Or, you want to tell a blogger that you have been lurking for a while, reading posts and that you really enjoy the site. You’d rather send an email leave your compliments inthe comments but you can’t find an email address anywhere.
Striking the perfect balance between helpful and annoying is like performing a magic trick. You want to be available but not in the way.
When I begin approaching prospective clients, I try to make sure we’ve talked about something other than business first. Partly to find out if they already have a source for what I offer, partly to find out if I like them, partly to learn a little about their style or personality.
Later in the relationship, but before the person has become a client, I struggle with staying in touch without being annoying. I try to call, in case the person prefers the phone to the internet, then a week or two later, I send an email so that my contact information will be handy. Sometimes people approach me through Facebook and I will try to communicate with them there, where they seem to be comfortable.
There are as many ways to handle the conundrum as there are people. My question is:
What do you prefer as a consumer? How do you like to be contacted? What forms of marketing are acceptable to you as a prospective purchaser?