A lifetime ago I was dining at my then girlfriend’s parent’s home. It was Summer and hot. We were all casually dressed without shoes.

My girlfriend’s father was seated at the head of the table. I sat in the first seat to his right. My girlfriend sat in the first seat to his left – opposite me. The rest of the family was spread down the table.

Her father was a butcher, so dinner was no doubt a good meat dish. During said meal, my girlfriend decided to play footsies with me under the table. This was accompanied by a flirt with the eyes, which was damn frustrating as she lived at home with her parents.

As any well mannered Aussie bloke would do, I decided to reciprocate and started playing footsies back. I gave her my best flirt-eye and subtle head nods, but got no response. So I proceeeded a tad more enthusiastically trying to elicite an acknowledgement of delight from her.

After a couple of minutes of under-the-table foot snogging, her father leaned over to me and said “I think you’ve got the wrong foot Malcolm”.

It was all I could do not to spray wine through my nose across the table at my girlfriend. So I feigned a rapid desire to rush to the loo, politely excusing myself for as long as possible.

You've got the wrong foot Malcolm

You’ve got the wrong foot Malcolm

I tell you this story because recently it occured to me that many marketers think they’re playing footsies with their customers, when in fact they are missing their mark completely. I own an email marketing business and have been reviewing replies my clients get to their email campaigns. These are the replies where people ignore all instructions to the contrary and just hit “reply” and start typing in response to a bulk email.

The reply that occurs most is about online payments. Customers are complaining in droves about the fact they are being forced to pay for services online. And for numerous reasons – lots of people don’t have credit cards or they don’t trust the security of the interweb. They even claim vehemently that it’s against the law to restrict payment methods to online. They get very aggressive and threatening in their correspondence. Damn rude in fact.

I suspect like many comments I see on social media, these people are happy to write angrily across cyber space, but they would not have the guts to say the same thing face-to-face to the recipient.

But in case you didn’t know, despite the digital world in which marketers live, many consumers still live very happy analogue lives and don’t want to change – or need to. I even know people who have never used ATMs for fear of being robbed, or concerns over fraud, or possibly losing their card.

I run seminars and even though we offer online bookings, close to half our bookings still come via mail, fax or scanned documents emailed to us. That’s because finance departments still like to see pieces of paper before allowing staff to pay for things. And many staff don’t have company credit cards to use for online payments. BTW – direct mail is still the most powerful media for selling seminars.

So don’t assume that just because you think you’re doing the right thing by forcing customers to online payments, that the customers agree. You might think you’re onto a good thing because it suits you, but you may in fact just be playing with yourself so to speak, rather than with your customers. Ask them what they want. Give them choice. If you don’t, you may really put your foot in it and lose customers instead of improve service.

And in case you’re wondering, ‘no’ her feet weren’t as big as her father’s, but they certainly felt it after dinner. Took a while to live that one down…

you thought my feet were how big?

you thought my feet were how big?