I’m used to receiving prospecting emails from companies that claim they’ll lift response rates, help me be more productive, and provide other kinds of help to a small business like mine. But sometimes I so dislike their marketing techniques or style that I write about them as cautionary tales instead of having anything else to do with them.
Exhibit A: Don’t Pretend I’m Your Friend
Occasionally, these irritating communications come in series. A recent email’s text was poorly written and punctuated:
But the thing I hated the most about this recent email was the subject line, which read: Have a minute? (Lizkislik.Com)
The fake congeniality and false courtesy are a tip-off that the content is not really about me or for my benefit, or the subject line would at least allude to its value for me. Because email is an asynchronous medium by definition, I don’t read it until I actually do have a minute.
Plus, the words triggered a memory from years ago, when I had a colleague who would pop into my office. “Got a minute?” he’d ask. And whether I did or didn’t, he would then carry on with whatever he wanted to discuss, review, or analyze for the next 45 minutes or so.
A cold subject line, asking me, in that offhanded way, if I have time, is nowhere near the same thing as asking me if this is a convenient time — or presenting me with something that is clearly of value. Thanks, but no thanks.
Exhibit B: Don’t Treat Me Like a Function Instead of a Person
My weekly blog is syndicated to Business 2 Community, a content aggregator that publishes information on a variety of business-related topics. As my readership has grown, both in-house and agency publicists contact me with increasing frequency about reviewing their products or services.
I usually ignore badly written or obnoxious requests and answer only appealing, well-crafted inquiries. One appropriate, informative email resulted in several pleasant interchanges with Sabrina Browne of Burson-Marstellar, and an interesting interview about employee engagement with their client, Jean-Louis Van Doorne of Dale Carnegie Training.
Shortly after my interview with Jean-Louis went live, two emails arrived. The subject line read Biz 2 Community Editorial Guidelines, and it was sent with high importance by someone at a PR agency who didn’t bother to identify what kind of writing I actually do, or that I’m not primarily a media outlet.
Barely 25 hours later, as I was thinking about drafting a kind reply, explaining that I don’t represent Business 2 Community and I don’t write about healthcare, I received a second email:
Poor Tara is barking up the wrong tree. I’m not the right person, I don’t have anything approaching her sense of urgency, and she’s not creating enough relationship for me to respond out of compassion, as I often do when I get personal appeals from people who want to guest-write for my blog, or untargeted but otherwise pleasant requests for various kinds of support or participation.
Please, people, when you want something from a stranger, it’s worth investing a little effort to make a relevant ask in a well-crafted way. As Burson-Marstellar’s Sabrina Browne can tell you, it’ll get you a much better outcome.
Onward and upward,