Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Dirty Work, but Someone has to do it!

Enough is Enough!I’ve started to ruthlessly cull my emails without even opening them. A very proper friend is quite concerned that I am not showing the courtesy of a reply to someone who has obviously reached out to me. But I say enough is enough.
When I get emails that read (and I’m really not kidding!):
“We are currently looking to build traffic for our proprietary and other direct lead gen offers in the Education and Student space…”
It is obvious to me that the sender doesn’t deserve the courtesy of a reply.

My first response to that stream of gobbledygook is “huh? Is that English? The words look familiar, but…”

Scrabble LettersA closer looks tells me that the writer is a jargon junkie. Consider “proprietary and other direct lead gen” Wow! He got 3 patois points in only 6 words. If we were playing scrabble, I’d give him a double word score for “direct lead” and “lead gen.” And let’s not overlook “Education and Student space…” or the so-cutesy use of “gen” as if deleting three syllables noticeably shortened his copy. Ha! This guy is a master. In his own mind.

The email droned on and on, with a full page of un-paragraphed copy. It was unrelenting. It was boring. I deleted it with prejudice. After all, somebody’s got to discipline these guys.

So what did he do that was so terribly wrong? How do I count the ways?
  1. Write clearly.

    • Avoid jargon. If he’s “looking for traffic” he should go play in the street!
    • Keep sentences short. I stopped at 21 words. He didn’t. Most people zone out after about 11 words.
    • Use spell check! I can’t tell you how many emails I get with misspelled words. It’s an automatic turn-off.
  2. He forgot his audience.

    • I don’t really care that his marketing plan calls for him to “build traffic.”
      What marketing plan doesn’t have that as its basic premise?
    • Nowhere did he mention ME. As close as he got was “traffic.”
      How can he help me? He never says.
    • Know the audience. He clearly didn’t have a clue about me. He never asked if I was interested in the “Education and Student space.” Just because he is interested in that market, he assumed I was. Wrong again.
  3. He forgot that things have to look interesting.

    • A full page of un-paragraphed copy is great in a dense Victorian novel.
      Not so much in a 21st-century email.
    • Allow for white space. It gives the mind a chance to regroup.
    • Illustrations and artwork reinforce the message and let the mind rest.
  4. He failed to tell me the benefits of working with his company.

    • He never mentioned what his proprietary software could do for ME.
      The first rule of sales is that it is about the customer. Ignore the customer at your own risk. The delete button is close at hand.
    • He started at “We” and he never got beyond it. It is an egotistical approach, and a total waste of my time. I might want to know what his company can do for me, but he never got me there.
Bottom line: Email may be fast. Email may seem cheap. But it is not without risk. Email done wrong can damage the sender.

Slow Down! Take your time.Slow down. Best write the copy then put it aside for a day or two to percolate. Only then go back and look at what you’ve written. Maybe even ask someone else (someone in public relations or marketing?) to look at what you’ve postulated. If the second set of eyes agrees your comments are valuable, let ‘er rip.

It’s too late to edit once you’ve hit “send.”

My proper friend notwithstanding, sometimes a quick delete is a courtesy. It limits the embarrassment the sender should be feeling.

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