Let's face it, times are tough. People are pinching pennies due to the fear of potentially looming layoffs. Certain industries and governments are facing economic crisis. Pensions are potentially in danger. Folks who want to retire may need to hold off. It ain't pretty.
Given the current state of things, companies and individuals alike are looking for ways to cut costs and try to attain sustainability. Regardless of how strong our companies may be, we're all a little bit scared. That's why I find it even more shameful when a company tries to blatantly exploit those fears and vulnerabilities.
Case in point: Yesterday I received an email from Spoke, a business connection engine (or as I sometimes refer to it, a "poor man's LinkedIn"). I've never given the site much thought -- I can't even recall if I ever created a profile. So why is Spoke on my radar now? I'll tell you. The subject of the email was:
"If you want to keep your job, use Spoke"
Insert record screeching noise here. It certainly got my attention. It didn't get my attention in the "Oh, YES, finally a solution to ensure I keep my job!" way. It caught my attention in a "You've got to be kidding me?" kind of way.
Read the full email (click to enlarge):
I did my research to ensure it wasn't some phishing attempt or a spam email. It was a legitimate email from Spoke (sent through Eloqua) trying to get me to use the site. The copy of the email itself wasn't bad. It was the humongous thud of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) that made me -- and many others with whom I've spoken about the email -- lose a bit of respect for the company.
Other companies, especially Web 2.0 and social networking companies, can learn a valuable lesson from Spoke's antics. Resorting to fear marketing during the downturn is dangerous. Customer education and outreach is still critical, and by all means we have to try to grow our businesses. But in Spoke's case, its approach merely showed me that it does not understand the needs of the individual who is scared to lose his or her job. It did not give me comfort that it might have a networking solution for me should I need one. And it certainly did not make me want to recommend it to my friends or business partners.