2124649379_f92897ae35_mHello, and welcome to 2014! We are starting a new weekly blog series today. Every Monday we are going to feature a column called “Bad Advice Monday.” For you fans of hashtags, you could call it #BAM! Every post is based on actual advice we have encountered in the marketing portion of the online world. Our goal is not to throw anyone under the bus – we won’t be naming names or issuing a shaming campaign. We just want to get the other side of the story out there. We think some of the advice companies are receiving about marketing is just plain irresponsible, and we want to try to explain why we think that advice is bad and more importantly, what better advice might be for different types of scenarios.

Good Guys Finish First

One tidbit of advice we run into more frequently than you might guess is the concept that if you, as a marketer, are a nice person, you’ve won at least half the battle. This advice is offered in reference to how to implement social media marketing, but it also seems to be an umbrella recommendation for businesses that are looking to grow via any marketing channel. If you are nice, the logic goes, positive buzz about your company will grow exponentially. People will hear how nice you are and will want to work with you. When the time comes to make a purchasing decision, people are more likely to gravitate towards people who are “nice” and hence memorable.

There is some truth in these statements to a point, although the type of business or industry in which you work certainly plays a role in how much “niceness” can play a role in your success. If your business is based on long sales cycles, presenting as a nice person or a trustworthy person can certainly help nurture that relationship over time. If you are a B2C business, you certainly can benefit as a marketer (or in any other position) if your company is thought of as one that hires good, kind, credible people.

The problem is that there are a few marketers out there who insinuate that being “nice” is all you need to do. Building relationships and then nurturing those relationships is all you need to do. Business will actually fall into your lap as long as you are a good person.

It’s just not (usually) quite that simple.

Being nice – with a purpose

There seems to be a growing sentiment these days that you can’t promote a company (whether it’s your company or a client) while also maintaining a perception of being nice. As Daniel Pink points out in To Sell is Human, these days the word “sales” is almost automatically equated in people’s minds with snake oil salesmen. People who sell are pushy, persistent, cold, and “on a mission.” This perception is especially prevalent in the online world. Being nice is recommended far more than going out there and trying to promote a product or service. Social Media is about relationships. Sales doesn’t belong there.

The problem, of course, is that if you just go out into the world being nice, people will like you, but they won’t necessarily even know what you do for a living. If they don’t know that, how can they think of your brand when they are facing a purchasing decision? How can they refer you to a friend of theirs? They might suggest people invite you over to a Super Bowl party, but would they suggest people use your plumbing services or purchase your products?

If you are trying to grow your business, whether online or offline, being a good person helps, just like being a good person helps in almost every facet of life one can think of. But you need to remember to be “nice” with purpose. This can be done with subtlety. You can be nice but also mention in your Twitter bio that you work for xyz company. You can network with people and on occasion mention something you have going on at work. You can be kind to people yet also throw out there every once in awhile that if people ever need a certain product or service, they can always contact you.

Being a “good person” or a “nice person” is not new advice in the business world. All of those cocktail lunches portrayed in the AMC show Mad Men were reflections of that desire to network and to be considered “the nice guy.” But those meals, cocktails, football games, and everything else marketers and business people have been doing for decades always had a purpose. It was always known that the ultimate goal was to create a business deal. As a marketer, you must maintain that same balanced approach. You can listen to advice about building relationships, but that advice simply cannot be followed in a vacuum. The technology and times have changed, but business is still about incorporating friendliness with efforts to promote what you do. That is what helps businesses grow. That is what you’re after, right?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sweet_child_of_mine/2124649379/ via Creative Commons