Don't Creep Out Your Content Marketing Leads (or, How Not to be a Scary Clown)


One of the things I remember most about my grandfather was his reminiscing about growing up without television and telling me about how lucky we are to have the technology that we have. Now that I have gotten older, I have started to tell stories to my kids and younger adults that start with “remember when?” and “when I was growing up. . . .”

My favorite story is about when I was in college at George Mason University, sitting in the computer lab till the wee hours of the morning and working on the mainframe to run some basic programs to play online role playing games with my fraternity brothers. We would stay up all night playing these games (which was really just typing back and forth to each other but it was cutting edge technology in 1995). It was truly the beginning of the Internet (thanks Al Gore). Back then, fax machines were still used regularly, and you would get an AOL CD in the mail almost every other day. In 2016, things are a little different and we can do so much more with technology than in previous generations. But we must be wary of all of that power, or we can end up being like those scary clowns terrorizing our neighborhoods this Halloween.

A New Frontier for Marketers

One of the greatest and most exciting things about working as a content marketer is all of the technology that we have at our disposal. Being able to receive notifications when one of our leads comes back to our website or knowing when someone opens an email and how long they spent looking at the proposal we sent them is simply amazing—and proof of how far we have come from cold calling and faxing prospects.

However, with access to an amazing array of new technology, we need to remember that just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean we should. You don’t want to scare off your hard-earned website visitors or prospects by creeping them out with repetitive lead nurturing emails that more closely resemble “stalking” than they do nurturing.  

Keeping Your Content Marketing from Becoming Creepy

One of the basic principles we teach our clients about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and creating content is to write for humans, not for computers. You don’t want to be writing content that stuffs keywords and repeats terms or phrases over and over again just to try and game the Google search algorithm.

This same concept can be applied to keeping your personalized content from becoming creepy. Ask yourself, “If I received this type of nurturing email or engagement activity from a company, would I be creeped out or think that it’s too automated?” Just like with your writing style and content that you are writing, you don’t want it to seem to canned and like it’s just an automated program. 

A few things that you should stay away from when customizing your content to individuals is to not overuse personalization tokens such as “first name.”  Inserting “Hi First Name,” in the first line of an email is oka, but using it multiple times within one email or in the subject line and as the salutation might be a little much.  

Another creepy marketing strategy is immediately triggering a workflow after someone visits a specific page of your website. An example of this is sending an email to everyone who visits your company’s pricing page a few minutes after they leave your website. Calling someone minutes after they fill out a form is also creepy—unless they are specifically asking to be contacted. You are best to wait a little bit before you pick up the phone and call them.

Creating Effective Personalized Content

A better use of personalized content is to display personalized content to your leads based on where they are in the sales funnel or where their interests lie. An example of this is displaying different content on your website to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) versus prospects. If an SQL comes to your website and they have already taken some actions, downloaded some content etc., there is no reason to show them content that they have either seen before or content that doesn’t help move them through the funnel. The purpose of content marketing is to be able to create and provide varying content for leads throughout the sales funnel that moves them closer to become a client.

Another example of using personalized content that doesn’t creep out your leads is using Smart Calls to Action (CTAs). These CTAs or buttons exist on your website or at the bottom of a blog post and can be created so that they display differently depending on where someone is in your sales funnel. For instance, if someone has only subscribed to your blog and you deem they are in the discovery phase, you can show them a top-of-the-funnel content offer to provide them more information about your product or service. For someone that has already been deemed an SQL, you can show them a bottom-of-the-funnel offer such as “Demo” or “Contact Us” to try to get them to take that next step.

This type of contextual customization is made possible by using software such as HubSpot and segmenting your list and rules to account for this type of activity. When you consider that the lead doesn’t even know that you are displaying customized content for them, it minimizes any creepiness factor and makes for a better experience. After all, the last thing you want to do is scare away the leads you have worked so hard to obtain.

When you are starting to think about your next marketing campaign and how you can use marketing technology, use the personalization tips outlined above so you are not seen as a scary marketer or even worse, a scary clown.  

10 Commandments of Inbound Marketing


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