How (not) to win customers (and get blacklisted)

Don't bother mate: I'm closed for business

I blogged recently about a publisher I’d blacklisted for its dubious ad-selling, amongst other things. It was the first time I’d done this since moving to Bristol a couple of years ago.

Just like the proverbial buses which nobody sees until another one has just arrived, a different company has given me reason to repeat the act this week.

The offending firm has approached me unsuccessfully in the past with offers to publish ‘free editorial’ in return for allowing them to contact partners and pressure them to support this with advertising.

It’s a mystery to me why anyone in the sector supports this activity, which is often produced to such a poor quality that it is barely credible. Housing has a great story to tell, and better publications understand this and will help us to do so without charging for it.

After making this point a few times, I thought they had got the message.

So I was surprised recently to discover that the magazine’s publishers had submitted multiple Freedom of Information requests asking for suppliers’ contact details in connection with a number of projects. I strongly support the Freedom of Information Act and welcome the fact that it has made the public sector more transparent. Other bloggers take a slightly different view over this point, which has led to some healthy debate. But I don’t agree with this tactic. It just seems a lazy, heavy-handed approach to generating business leads.

So, you’re a sales rep and want to know who is delivering the East Village in London to make contact with them? Try the website and get their details from the phone book before putting in a Freedom of Information request, making others do the work and getting people’s backs up in the process.

Times are tough, and many publishers are finding it especially hard as advertising budgets are slashed. I have every sympathy with their plight and have no wish to see any company go to the wall. But this is a dumb way to win new business and I certainly won’t encourage anyone to spend money with them after this.

That’s a shame, because good relationships matter, especially now. I’m sure a more collaborative, intelligent approach to building decent contacts would be more rewarding in the long-run.