The Grumpy Designer: Annoying Web Design Marketing Tactics


Since the dawn of commerce, marketing has been a part of our world. Whether it was getting three figs for the price of two at the bazaar or saving a few hundred dollars on that new electric car – everybody’s trying to sell us something.

Web designers, and particularly those who market products to them, are no exception. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this industry has some of the most annoying practices out there.

Why? I think it has to do with how and where we designers work. We’re often tethered to our desks and mobile devices for much of the day. We use email and social media to communicate. Thus, we are what marketers love: A captive audience.

TV watchers and radio listeners can simply change the channel when an annoying ad comes on. Readers of magazines can turn the page. Web designers? We’re not so lucky.

Still, we are allowed to have some fun in venting our frustrations. As a small measure of revenge, let’s talk about the most annoying marketing trends in the industry.

The Form Submission

If you have a contact form on your website, you have undoubtedly received messages from firms wanting to “partner” with you. Their main selling point is that they offer “high-quality” services at dirt-cheap rates.

On the surface, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a company doing this. Cold-call marketing has been around longer than any of us. But it’s more in the way that they do it that makes me ball up my fists and pound my desk.

For one, my particular form has a checklist of services for potential clients to choose from. These firms tend to check every single one of them, including “Other”.

Second, the same companies send the same message over and over again. If I didn’t respond the first dozen times, what makes you think I’m going to do so now? Be gone!

Person filling out a contact form.

The Repeated “Follow Up” Email

Another ridiculous tactic is running rampant on our inboxes. In this scenario, we receive an initial canned message trying to sell us something or review a product. Fair enough and easy to ignore. But in reality, the fun is just beginning.

A day or two later, a somewhat human-sounding follow-up message appears. They’re just checking in to make sure we got their first message (yes, and I happily trashed it). A few days later, you’ll get a third variation and so on. Left unchecked, it can literally go on for weeks or months.

The idea is to make you feel guilty for daring to think that theirs was just another sleazy marketing email. No, they’re reaching out because they genuinely care. How could you be so cold as to just leave them flapping in the breeze without a reply?

This one annoys me to no end, and I know why. I actually fell for it the first time someone pulled this trick on me. I ended up on the phone with some poor fellow that got an earful of my disdain for their ploy.

Woman checking email.

The “Hey Buddy” Social Media Connection

There are a number of reasons why we participate in social media. Sometimes it’s to get our design work seen or market our services. But it’s also nice to simply meet interesting people.

But lately, I’m noticing that social media marketing is getting a bit too personal. I often receive private messages that, at first, seem like a friendly “Hello”. Within a minute or so, however, it becomes apparent that I’m in the middle of a sales pitch.

For example, I recently heard from someone who said some nice things about my website. I thanked them and figured that was it. Oh, was I wrong.

The conversation quickly turned to how they could improve my page speed and other “helpful” tidbits. To me, this is akin to telling the plumber working on my clogged sink that I could show him some tools that would do the job better.

Even within the vast swamp that is social media, personal space is still a thing. While (tastefully) broadcasting your services to everyone is fine, engaging in personal conversation for the sake of sales is not.

Smartphone with social media apps.

There Are Better Ways to Market Your Services

I think there are a couple of lessons to be learned here. One is that some people have no shame. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But the other part of this is in how we choose to market whatever it is we’re selling. Among the shared traits of the tactics above, the worst is their ability to make people angry. This in itself is a reason to stop doing it.

True, it’s difficult to get your message out in a saturated market. Still, that’s no excuse to invade personal space and resort to trickery.

If you have to use underhanded “techniques” to make a sale, you might be in the wrong business. Or, perhaps you’re selling yourself short.

Building a successful business is not something that comes easily. Most often, it takes years of hard work and ethical business practices. Conversely, you don’t often hit the jackpot by bothering people.

Those who are engaged in these foolish marketing schemes would be better served by directing their energy elsewhere. Put that free time towards creating a business people actually want to buy from.

The only downside? There may be one less grumpy designer out there. I’d say that’s worth the risk.

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