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You’ve Got 2 Hours To End Ultimatums!

The Longman online dictionary defines Ultimatum as: ‘a threat saying that if someone does not do what you want by a particular time, you will do something to punish them.’ The recent debt ceiling debate was an example of ultimatums run amok, and neither side was ennobled by the rhetoric.

I’ve always hated ultimatums and usually refuse to respond to them. It is a bullying tactic–“You do what I want when I want you to do it or else.” But the most insidious and annoying example out there in today’s online culture is the marketing ultimatum. And it greatly diminishes those who use it, and mildly diminishes anyone who responds positively to such an approach.

So I am suggesting an Ultimatum On Ultimatums. And two hours seems reasonable to me, but you are welcome to make up your own deadline. Here is my personal pledge, which you are free to borrow, modify, use in any way that serves you. “From now on, I will not respond to any ultimatum given me by anyone trying to talk me into or sell me or enroll me in anything.”

One thing we often see online is perhaps the most egregious use of the ultimatum, the phony deadline. This is the ploy whereby someone says an offer is absolutely going to end in one week and you will miss your opportunity forever if you don’t take advantage before that deadline. This is almost always a blatant lie. Usually, the marketing “genius” behind this campaign has already prepared the extension to the ultimatum before its first appearance. A particularly annoying form of this is the pop-up window that appears when you attempt to leave a web page or marketing email. You know the one I mean, that says something like, “Before you leave this page, here’s an even better discount if you respond right now.” And then you are almost forced to read the copy in the window to figure out how to get rid of the damn thing.

You’re right, I am being rigid in my prejudice against this practice. I find it condescending in the extreme, as if the person giving the ultimatum thinks I am too stupid to take advantage of a really interesting or beneficial or useful offer without the threat of it being withdrawn by a specific time–in other words, without an “or else.”

Let’s face it, if someone is trying to sell you something with an ultimatum attached, do you really think it’s possible they will have taken their marbles and gone home if you come back to them one day past the deadline and offer to buy their product or service?

There are, of course, some legitimate deadlines in marketing. These are usually found, however, more in retail sales than online. They often involve companies or stores having to get rid of merchandise to make room for new inventory, and are always date specific. These deadlines are usually firm, except for the fraudulent “going out of business” sales that drag on for months and sometimes years. One store in Times Square in bygone years had a GOING OUT OF BUSINESS! banner flying for over forty years.

I recently had a deadline for the Moneylove Club audio subscription series. I offered a substantial discount for three weeks, to be cut off on a specific date. And it was cut off on that date.  One of the reasons I did not extend the offer is my basic commitment: I will say what I am going to do and then do it. It’s about personal integrity and self respect. In a time and culture of less and less people sticking to their word, honoring their commitments and promises, I want to stand out. And a very simple way to do this is, again, saying what I am going to do and then actually doing it.

Not that I want to become too rigid, or be in a place where I stick to something that just isn’t working. But I think in our fast-paced, short-attention-span environment, there is much value and much to be gained by being persistent, consistent, and resistant to wishy-washy flip-flopping. And this is particularly true now that our leaders have abandoned their position as role models in this area.

So I am giving you two hours to eliminate ultimatums from your life, or else. Or else you will no longer be allowed to read this blog.  See how silly it can get?

Jerry

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