You haven’t bought a pizza yet

There is a worrying new trend in email mass marketing and one which frankly disappoints and infuriates me in equal measure, I am sure you have seen it as well…

Bully boy tactics

It starts with a ‘cold’ email offering their services, most often SEO or web development. The email talks about how great they are and if I wanted to discuss any project they’d be happy to do so, all I need to do is contact them. Naturally this email is deleted or added to ‘Junk’, because as a seasoned networker I prefer to develop relationships over time and an email from a complete stranger with a heavy dose of sales is not a good way to start in my opinion.

A few days later there will be a follow-up email which tries to be all ‘matey’ and informal, and mentions that we haven’t been in touch or responded to their cold email. If we were interested in their services we should contact them – nothing could be simpler! They generally will also say that if we are not interested that we should simply reply with ‘NO’ in the subject line to be unsubscribed from their list– something I never do because this may just confirm that our email address is valid and result in a stream of more cold emails…

A few days later we might get another one that says “We haven’t had a response to our emails, can you let us know if you are interested in our services… etc’

I don’t like this method as it transfers the onus to us as the recipient to respond and is intended to make us feel as though we are in the wrong if we don’t. Can you imagine if traditional direct mail took the same approach? Lets assume that a local Pizza takeaway has posted its leaflets to all the houses in the area…

Two days later they knock on your door: “Hi there, we notice you haven’t called us to order a pizza yet, can you let us know if you are interested in our service?”. No, you will find out if I am interested IF I order a pizza! I don’t have to explain my actions to you as to why I haven’t ordered one yet. Nor do I need to post your leaflet back to you with a note saying ‘No I do not wish to receive your menu’ I simply put it in the bin as I do with the emails.

Now of course if there is a proper unsubscribe system I may elect to use that, but in most cases, these tactics are employed by companies who do not wish to comply with the Data Protection Act 1988 so they don’t have a properly functioning unsubscribe link.

Marketing is about developing relationships

Taking the approach that everyone is your potential customer and trying to sell to them indicates a lack of marketing knowledge. Every business has a market (or several) and it is important to market yourself to them correctly, which involves education first and foremost. Tell your prospects what the benefits (not features) of your service are to them, show them how you operate, give evidence (testimonials) of the quality of service, and demonstrate that you understand their issues and challenges. In this way, you’ll start to develop relationships and selling your services to them will be made easier. That is why we are big fans of networking – it allows people to get to know us properly, and in the sequence ‘Know, Like, Trust’ you can’t jump straight to ‘Trust’. A potential client has to get to know you first and then – critically – get to like you (and not just your company, because people do buy from people) before any trust can develop.

In a networking environment simply throwing your cards at everyone and giving a five-minute sales pitch will get you nowhere, and neither will coming back the following week and asking every individual why they didn’t buy from you! Email etiquette should be no different…

**UPDATE: Incredibly, just as I was about to publish this blog I received a cold-call from a company who started their pitch by speaking as if we had an existing arrangement, or that I would automatically know what they were talking about. I politely interrupted the guy’s scripted introduction to ask for the company name again (he said it fast so I didn’t hear it properly) and confirm what they did. I am always polite on these calls, but I don’t really want to be sold to for five minutes as that wastes my time and theirs. So once I established they were an SEO company I said “Ok, I’m not interested, thank you” and waited for an acknowledgement so that I could politely say goodbye – there was a pause and then he hung up! The whole method of being extremely friendly at the beginning, then cutting me off when I don’t bite their hand off with whatever they are offering, suggests that somehow I am wasting their time, and is indicative of how they feel about their customers and prospects! – very poor**

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