Swatted by Sergeant Swat!

A month ago, I blogged about the quirky and hilarious marketing for the 92 cent flyswatter, the Sergeant Swat. In the comments section, many of you shared some great ideas for how Willert could leverage social media in the marketing of the Sergeant Swat, and I said I was going to email the company about these ideas.

I went to Willert's website, hoping to find an email address for a brand or marketing manager, but the best I could do was a generic 'info' email contact. I emailed and explained who I was and that I had just blogged about Sergeant Swat, and included a link to the post. I added that I had some ideas for how the company could use social media to improve their marketing efforts, and asked the appropriate brand or marketing manager to please contact me as I'd be happy to help.

I didn't receive a reply, and soon forgot about the email, and the post. Then a couple of weeks ago, the good folks at Marketing Profs were kind enough to feature the post in their Get to the Point! email newsletter that they send out. I asked Ann Handley, and she said the newsletter has around 80,000 subscribers. And still, no contact from anyone at Willert.

Let's do some quick math; my blog has a total readership of about 3,000 a day. Add in 80,000 subscribers from MP's newsletter and we hit 83,000. The post and newsletter were also both bounced around Twitter and when the smoke clears, it's not unreasonable to say that one blog post could have resulted in 100,000 people being exposed to Sergeant Swat, and its parent company, Willert.

And yet, no answer from Willert.

Now at this point, it's easy to beat up this small company and say they had a ton of free publicity dropped in their laps, and that they are totally blowing it. But are they? Should they response to my email? I have my own idea, but what do you think? Do you think that Willert even realizes that any of this has occurred? Given that my post and then MP's newsletter MUST have resulted in a spike in website traffic, I would have to assume that they could tell that something had happened.

So did Willert blow it, or not? How would you have handled this if you were a brand manager for Willert?

UPDATE: More reactions to this post and companies responding to bloggers here on Plurk.


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:45 AM,

18 Comments:

At 10:40 AM, Blogger A.M.Sall said...

Maybe these guys have never heard of Social Media, Web 2.0 - or even Web 1.0 (LOL)
Nor do they want to learn!

Their campaign - however successful it may have been in 2008 - might have been devised and implemented 100 years ago for all I know.

Why are they still reluctant to pull themselves into the 21st Century?

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

Assuming they DO know about it (and how could they not?), at the very very least, they should have responded. It's only the polite thing to do!

 
At 11:32 AM, Anonymous John Gillett said...

Here's some possible scenarios:

One marketing person is saddled with finding retail outlets across the country for the swatter, while one assistant tries to keep up with emails and answer phone calls.

These folks may be trying to keep up with orders and have never even seen the emails that came from unknown parties...

On the other hand, they may not be thrilled with a blogger telling the sergeant how to swat...

OR they may not care about the blogosphere, unless it becomes infested with flies...

 
At 11:56 AM, OpenID cmiles said...

It would have been nice if they had responded, and passing up good nearly-free press is hard to imagine! On the other had - you found them at Walmart and their "Where to Buy"/"Product" pages make there focus seem like basic/commodity products distributed into big boxes and mainstream grocery chains... I have to admit, for Willert's distribution model I am having trouble imagining your press having a huge amount of impact. Am I failing to think of good examples of companies like Willert's who have turned Web 2.0/Social Media into large/profitable gains?

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger sara mc said...

A company should never post a generic info email on their web-site if they aren't prepared to respond to it - period.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Good points all. I'm also wondering if they saw the post and noticed the traffic spike and thought 'don't rock the boat!'. But even that doesn't explain why someone couldn't have answered the email with a simple 'Thank you', as Kelly and Sara pointed out.

I fear this speaks to a larger issue, that the company probably is doing no traffic-tracking for their site, and never noticed the spike, and probably never had a 'real' person read the email, either.

 
At 1:04 PM, Blogger lisa rokusek said...

Is it normal marketing procedure to lob an email into a generic email address with no research or forethought and say "the ball is in their court"?

I expended a minuscule amount of effort and found contact information and actual names of people working for this company in a sales and marketing capacity. If one wanted to actually open discussion, wouldn't it make sense to target those people specifically? One could make a phone call, or even send email to *their" email address after getting it from the home office. Sometimes I actually have to follow up in sales. Miss Manners doesn't dictate a return call to every unsolicited email that shows up in my inbox.

Unless, of course, you only wanted to create a situation where you could poke fun at a company who was seemingly unwilling to to engage with you.

I do not mean to be unkind, but it seems like you are subtly dismissing Willert for not leaping at a chance to talk with someone of your influence. Just my opinion, but I would say your sale activities were way too lax and unfocused, not that Willert "blew" anything.

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"I expended a minuscule amount of effort and found contact information and actual names of people working for this company in a sales and marketing capacity."

Interesting Lisa! Just curious, did you find the contact information on the website itself? I checked on the website and only found a generic 'contact/info' email address. Where did you find yours? But I'll admit that I haven't looked at the site in a month, so maybe they have added more info?

"Unless, of course, you only wanted to create a situation where you could poke fun at a company who was seemingly unwilling to to engage with you."

Well Lisa if that was the case, wouldn't I have come out and stated that Willert blew it, instead of asking you and my other readers what they thought? If I was trying to use this post as a way to slam Willert, methinks I was much tamer than I could have been!

"I do not mean to be unkind, but it seems like you are subtly dismissing Willert for not leaping at a chance to talk with someone of your influence. Just my opinion, but I would say your sale activities were way too lax and unfocused, not that Willert "blew" anything."

First, my 'influence' is meaningless. If I have one reader, or a million a day, it doesn't matter. I'm a blogger that wrote a glowing post about a Willert product. Why wouldn't a company want to thank and encourage that? Can you see a way in which they could do themselves a disservice by doing so? I can't.

How did 'Willert' blow it? IMO by....

1 - By not having contact information to a REAL person readily available. Again, I haven't looked at the site in the last month, but when I did, all I found was a generic 'info/contact' email. I wanted to send one to a real person, but couldn't find one. And no, I didn't spend an hour on the site, I barely spent 5 mins. Willert blew it by not having contact info to a REAL person readily available. Again, if you found it, I would be very interested in how and where it was. And I would point out, that it's not my job to hunt down such info. Just like I don't have to offer free advice (worth every penny) to a company on how to launch a social media strategy.

2 - Willert 'blew' it by either not monitoring site traffic, or monitoring site traffic, and not responding to something that prompted a spike. Again, two traffic spikes likely occurred, one a month ago, and another much larger one 2 weeks ago when the MP newsletter went out. Willert apparently didn't act on either source of positive exposure for their seemingly small company.

I think they blew it. Others, such as yourself, might disagree, and that's why I asked for your opinions, instead of coming out with both guns blazing.

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger lisa rokusek said...

I googled the company and came up with names. I also made a phone call to the main number on the web site and asked for names. That type of activity is bare bones research for me as a recruiter selling my self/services, not sure about anyone else.

A key word in my comment is subtly. I think asking the question of whether they blew it is itself prejudicial. I think if you were going to use them as an example you should have done a better job. How do you know your lone email didn't end up in a spam folder? I know a lot of companies who do not track internet traffic spikes, or who use generic buckets for emails - sometimes they get checked monthly. Missed opportunity, room for improvement? You betcha.

But I firmly believe it is my job as a salesperson to explain to a potential client how I can help them be better. The burden of proof is always on me. That is sales. Sales is not shooting an unannounced missive over a wall and then trying to make an example of how the potential client ignored it, and thus made a mistake.

I think there is some inherent arrogance in your assertions. I think that kind of viewpoint mimics (or is at the heart of, I am not sure) the us vs. them attitude of "new biz" vs. "old biz". That is simply my opinion, and should be taken with a large grain of salt.

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"I googled the company and came up with names. I also made a phone call to the main number on the web site and asked for names. That type of activity is bare bones research for me as a recruiter selling my self/services, not sure about anyone else."

Ah, I think this may be where part of the disconnect may be happening. I wasn't viewing Willert as a potential client, I was viewing Willert as a company that had potential in social media, that I would have been more than happy to offer free advice to. If someone had answered my email, I would have been happy to give them a fairly detailed overview of what they could do to get a social media strategy off the ground. The type of info I would normally charge for. I love making money off what I do, but I also love helping companies that are smart enough to monitor and engage bloggers, and wasn't approaching Willert as being a potential client.

If I had been, then yes, I would had done the extra legwork that you apparently did, and tried to get in touch with a real person.

But again, one of the joys I find from my expertise is that I can afford to give it away for free when I choose. But the potential recipient still has to be smart enough to receive delivery.

"I think there is some inherent arrogance in your assertions."

So be it. I think that Willert left money on the table, and will likely continue to do so going forward. Monitoring the blogosphere and engaging bloggers that draw attention to you and your products is one of the smartest (and cheapest) means of promoting your product.

BTW I just did a Google search for 'Willert sergeant swat', and this blog post is already the top search result. The MP newsletter is #2.

Good thing I didn't want to 'make an example' of this company, eh?

 
At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Elizabeth Able said...

Maybe they are not used to being conversational online. Sometimes I find that a first response to the idea of enabling comments is defensive. I once heard this: oh, we wouldn't want to bother with that kind of argumentative chit chat. Another response, to the idea of an online press release: but, how would anyone find it on our site?

Translation: they both had a near total disconnect about even the idea of an online information distribution channel.

Some hearty soul who can converse well for traditional media could adopt a company blog and make it a good, responsive read, but if they don't have a clue to start with, they won't make the transition.

 
At 9:50 PM, OpenID geekmommy said...

Correct me if I'm wrong - but wouldn't the fact that they linked to your blog when putting out the Willert newsletter at least indicate that *someone* from their marketing team had visited the blog? Especially as they listed bullet points?

They read your blog - ignored your email - ignored you entirely, but used your review to bolster their product.

Yeah, not the savviest bunch.

Sorry, but Lisa's "I did the research to find a better contact" argument falls apart in the face of "they came to your site" evidence. Someone there was aware that you were posting about it - they just didn't have a clue on how to maximize that.

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger Amber Naslund said...

I have to say that I think the point about having to research the company to find contact names is interesting.

From a customer perspective, if I want to contact someone there, I might not have the interest (or even the knowledge) to "research" to find someone. Strike #1 - not having contact information directly on your site and easily accessible.

Also from a customer perspective, Mack's experience points to me about something much larger than whether or not he is a blogger of "influence". First and foremost, he's a potential customer to the company. And he happens to be one that's saying great things about their brand. That in and of itself warrants them paying attention. Strike #2 - not listening, and not responding, regardless of who's doing the contacting. And I don't take what Mack was doing as sales in the least. I call it reaching out, and getting bupkis in return.

Sergeant Swat clearly has a listening issue on many fronts, which is a dangerous game for any company or any brand, especially in our super connected, entwined, and opinionated world.

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger tinku said...

Mack,
As a small business owner, with a million things to do, I would still disagree with Lisa that you needed to go a step further to follow up on your very generous blog post and email contact. If they can't read their email, then they shouldn't publish it. Yes, perhaps the email ended up in their spam folder, in which case I guess the stars were not aligned.

I didn't feel your blog post was arrogant. If anything it is a reminder for companies that are short staffed, to make it simple to find out who is talking about them. I set up a Google alert for my gallery just for that purpose. That way when you write a glowing post about me, I will be sure to hear about it immediately. :)

--Amrita

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong - but wouldn't the fact that they linked to your blog when putting out the Willert newsletter at least indicate that *someone* from their marketing team had visited the blog? Especially as they listed bullet points?"

GeekMommy, Marketing Profs featured the post in their Get to the Point newsletter.

Oh and BTW, I've never seen a referral here from willert.com, so I assume they've never been here. Which suggests to me that they aren't monitoring the blogosphere, and aren't reading email sent to the email they list on their site, since I emailed them a link to the post I wrote.

And Amber, I do agree that they have a 'listening' issue. Amrita thanks for your comment, I was hoping to use the post as an example to other businesses of the value of monitoring the conversations that are happening about them online.

 
At 9:56 PM, Blogger Beth Harte said...

Mack, In a recent discussion on Plurk the consensus was that only 15-20% of marketers understand or know about social media. That said, having worked for many small companies in the past, several thoughts come to mind. 1) Yes, they have a website, but most likely no analytics for it (this does still happen). 2) They might have a 'marketer' who is also the admin or HR manager (anyone can be a marketer, right?!) 3) Perhaps whoever got your @info e-mail (most likely the outsourced webmaster) didn't understand what what you were talking about and deleted it. Or, it went to the admin, and he/she deleted. It's unfortunate that these things happen, but they do. In the past, I have been the very frustrated marketer who had to watch it all take place. Sometimes management binds your hands just because they can or because they don't want to spend money on 'needless' marketing when there are sales to be made. Your efforts are not wasted on the rest of us...I liked both posts and I think there are valuable lessons to be learned. Thanks for the insight!

 
At 4:17 PM, Blogger Words For Hire said...

I think they missed a great opportunity. Sadly many businesses grasped the importance of having an online presence but failed to learn that you must take care of those customers too. These days it's pretty easy to monitor conversations about you. A simple Google Alerts would have enabled them to respond to your original post. No one would ever open a bricks and mortar location, leave the door open and then simply walk away but people seem perfectly comfortable doing this with their online locations.

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Words For Hire said...

P.S. If you ever want to start a viral campaign on my behalf, I will respond to your email. :-)

Karen

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home