Can we please start thinking more carefully about the marketing messages we use? I just received the following e-mail (identifying traits removed to avoid embarrassment for the sender):

“Good morning Ron,

I enjoyed working with your company when I was employed by (COMPANY) in (CITY). (COMPANY) closed in June of this year. I am employed by (NEW COMPANY). I have attached information about the company for your file.” The e-mail went on to tell me about this new focus group facility and why I should consider them for business.

The fascinating thing about this is that I had never heard of this person before. I had never heard of this company, and I have never set foot in this state, no less this specific city. I guess maybe I should consider them for business because they’re so good at marketing and customer relationships?

I got a similar e-mail from a sample broker last week. According to this person, he got my name “from a colleague at CASRO.” Only problem is, I’m not a formal member of CASRO. I seriously doubt anyone at CASRO gave him my name, or for that matter is even aware of my existence.

In an attempt to catch my attention or make it sound more personal, these people have simply made themselves look foolish and inattentive (at best), or like outright liars (at worst). I’m obviously a name on a list somewhere; just part of a particularly clumsy attempt to personalize a form letter. Frankly, this kind of “personalized” marketing is no different than the e-mails that occasionally slip through the spam filter from someone in Nigeria telling me that she got my name “from a trusted colleague” and she wants to deposit $30 million in my account.

I learned the dangers of personalization attempts a long time ago, when I tried to personalize a form letter to a number of clients and contacts. I figured a friendly, throw-away opening line like “Dear Doug, How are things in (CITY)?” would be a nice, personal opening. Well, I heard back from Doug, who happened to work in Phoenix. His message was essentially, “Uh…I would think you know how things are in Phoenix, since you live here too.”


I learned right then how foolish I can make myself look if I fail to consider all the ramifications of a marketing attempt. Please, if you’re going to contact me, don’t open with a line that demonstrates you either are inattentive or an outright liar. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective way to start a business relationship (although it is a great way to become the subject of a blog).


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