Manipulative Marketing: Please Stop Blaming the Website Server

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If you are tempted to use your server’s performance as a scapegoat to trigger action, please don’t. There are enough people out there who understand how the Internet works, even if you don’t.

Marketing is every bit as much about the words as the product. Huge amounts of time and money have gone into researching language triggers – words, phrases, or context that put buyers in the mindset for action.

You don’t have to be a Fortune 100 company with a massive research budget to figure out what these triggers are. As consumers, we are subjected to them daily. As business owners, we observe trends and see what works, not only with our own competition, but with marketing in general. Everything boils down to (not so) simple human nature.

Part of human nature is mimicry. If we see a trend that works, or that works on us, we tend to try it. Sometimes the tactic is so successful (on us) that we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Regardless of what you say, how you say it, or how well it might work on you, it still needs to pass the credibility test. Otherwise, you end up looking…. well… stupid. Or worse, manipulative.

There’s one such particular tactic I’ve noticed lately. It seems to be growing in popularity. Thankfully, it seems to be limited – for the time being – to entry level or early stage providers of downloadable content. Hopefully, it will stay there (or even better, disappear) because this is the only place the tactic logically fits.

The tactic is subtle and tries to be self-deprecating, a way of triggering the social proof lever of influence. It comes during an announcement or reminder for a downloadable product. It usually reads somewhere along the lines of “the website/server/service provider may be slow… ”

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Here’s how this is supposed to – and sometimes does – work.

1. Marketer drops the phrase into an email, presentation, or other message.

2. Audience exposed to message will then:

  • Mentally engage subliminal information processing.
  • Determine that if service is slow, demand must be high.
  • Respond to the social proof impulse.
  • Download the product.
  • Rejoice that service was fast.
  • Assume that we beat the rush.

I’ve seen this in photography, in course creation, in lead magnet promos. The implication is that this product is so amazing that there will be a massive response. The poor server will resemble that scene in ‘World War Z’ where the zombies are scaling the wall into the city. It will fall over from the load.

If you want it, you’d better get in there for it before the zombies storm the city.

And here we pause for a breath…

If this is the programming that your mental info processing runs, then the zombies have already eaten your brain.

Think about it. You really are smarter than this.

Unless the website or access point for distributing this material is sitting in someone’s garage, basement, or a machine reaching the world through the owner’s consumer level Internet service, everything is going to be just fine.

Because that’s not the way the Internet works. The levels and layers of redundancy that keep the world wide web spinning are quite maddening. Even the single website that displays in your browser is feeding in from multiple servers and locations across the planet. It’s called the information superhighway for a reason. And superhighways are built to keep traffic moving.

It is true that even though the pipeline is diverse and massive, there are times when demand for data through the pipeline is greater than the available space. However, It takes an almost inconceivable amount of concentrated, simultaneous, persistent traffic to knock a server a-kilter. It takes organized attacks or truly exceptional events that create sudden, organic demand to make this happen.

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Of course, we’ve seen this, but it isn’t usually on a small to moderate sized website on a shared hosting environment sitting in a bunkerized server farm.

Platforms that are designed for content delivery, such as photography gallery sites, file repositories, and education providers, are deliberately robust or they wouldn’t exist very long. If variations in traffic create genuine problems for your website, you – and your entire network – have bigger problems. Change providers. Now.

So if you happen to be a content provider, here is some advice. Feel free to imagine that your lead magnet is so phenomenal that the very back of the Internet will break.

If you are tempted to use your server’s performance as a scapegoat to trigger action, however, please don’t. There are enough people out there who understand how the Internet works, even if you don’t.


Photo credit: Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay


For reference:

A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away, my first solo business was an Internet development company. This led to a larger company, and finally to Director of Development for a privately held ISP (Internet service provider) in the United Kingdom until that company was sold. We still handle all our own technology in the photography companies we run today.