Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
As a head of marketing, I get a lot of unsolicited emails. Because of the exploding marketing stack, and Gartner’s now well known prediction that CMOs will soon have more IT budget than CIOs, I sit in the crosshairs of thousands of eager software sellers. Many of the emails I get are really bad, and have about a zero percent chance of converting. Every day, I get more and more of them, the best of which are punchless, and the worst of which are downright annoying.
I’m not here to shame the companies who send them, so I am not revealing company names (pardon my clunky redaction). I do think that the marketing teams or the sales managers that make their sales development representatives send these out should be ashamed. My goal here is to let you sales development team leads, sales managers and marketers out there how I react when I see your bad SDR emails, and encourage you to find other ways to market to me.
Before I begin, one final public service announcement. There’s this new technology that was just developed you should all be using. It’s called a spell checker. Please use it. I mean, come on.
Without further ado or reproach, here is my top six. The best of the worst.
“Is something wrong?” No, actually nothing is wrong. Sales are booming. My son just made the honor roll. The fact is, I’m just really busy, and I don’t have time to reply to an email with this obnoxious title. I really dislike this tactic. I’ve seen it repeatedly over the years. It’s an effort to shame the recipient into responding. I’ll tell you what: If you’re trying to make me feel sorry for you, I do. But only because your emails are so lame.
“Dear Tim, my CEO’s going to be in town next week, wanna to meet?” Let me think about that. You, who I don’t know, and the company you work for, whom I’ve never heard of before, and your CEO, whom I haven’t met, wants to sell me a technology I know nothing about and don’t know if I even need. Well, by all means. Let me just clear the decks and open up my schedule for you. This tactic doesn’t work. I’m supposed to drop everything I’m doing because somebody is flying into town, which is part of their job?
“We sell excellent SEO services, and can make your website top Alexa Top 10,000.” If you’d checked you’d see that my site already is in the Alexa Top 10,000. This is sloppy, sloppy work. Take some time and actually figure out if your targets are already achieving the goals you say you can achieve for them. The thing about emails of this ilk is, not only won’t they generate a lead, but they actually hurt your company, because now I think that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I probably won’t take any more emails from you. Ever again.
“Did you not get my last email?” Well, Jim, I have no idea, but what does it matter? You’re saying, essentially, that I’m ignoring you. Which is possibly true. Or maybe I just didn’t get it. Or deleted it while cleaning out my Inbox at my son’s lacrosse game (he wasn’t in the game at the time, of course). This is another attempt at guilting the recipient into responding. (See my first rant above.)
“Hey, Tim, we’ve got a great marketing automation system I think you would love. Do you have five minutes to talk about [redacted]?” That’s funny, because we already use [redacted], so you’re trying to sell me a project we already use. This is, I think, bad on the marketing team. Not only don’t they know who their customers are, but now I know their dedupe feature must be pretty weak. Why don’t you do yourself a favor and suppress your existing customer base for these prospecting emails?
“This is my last email to you.” Really? Do you promise? That’s awesome because I’m getting tired of deleting all your emails for a product I have no interest in. I’m not sure what the tactic is, here, exactly, except to close out your weekly quota of outbound emails. Listen, I know sending cold emails is hard. I’ve got an LDR team myself. But this subject line will never work.
Just so you don’t think me an angry scold, there are emails I reply to, or forward to someone on my staff. How can you make emails that have a better chance at getting though to someone like me or any other busy buyer? First, offer something of interest. Clearly, ‘Is something wrong?’ and ‘My CEO is in town’ don’t fit the bill. Offer something that would pique my interest. Not these generic emails.
Second, offer me something I can’t get on my own. Do you have a unique study? Or do you know a way I can actually jump my website up 5,000 spots on Alexa? I would like to hear about that if it’s credible. If you have some real data to offer, then by all means, share it. If you are touting an event, I may be interested in going to a breakfast or a seminar, but it really depends on who else is going. Who could I meet? My peers, or just you and your sales people?
To help you write better subject lines, I recommend a book that Hiten Shah turned me on to, called Tested Advertising Methods. The author, John Caples, writes about the importance of advertising and direct mail headlines targeting the self-interest of the reader. Think about if your cold email subject line is in the self interest of you and your manager, or me, the customer.
If your subject lines offer me something interesting and unique, chances are I’ll open it, and maybe even reply. If not, you may end up in one of my future screeds.