I’ve decided to write a periodic series about bad prospecting letters. Every week, I receive dozens of just horrible letters. Fortunately, Outlook does a pretty good job a sending them to SPAM, so I don’t have to deal with the “I’m following up with the terrible prospecting letter I sent last week with another terrible letter.”
They are from sales people who are just executing poorly. Maybe they haven’t been trained, they are getting bad templates or materials. Even though they are bad letters, there are too many to single out. An in some sense, it may not be fair. They are doing what they are told to do.
This series, will focus on bad prospecting letters from people who should know better. They’re from sales and marketing experts. I always study their communications, thinking it’s a demonstration of their prowess and philosophy around sales and marketing effectiveness. I think, if their approach is so bad, do I want to buy their services to have them teach me terrible approaches?
Recently, I wrote about a sales expert who wanted me to promote his books. You can read that here, “The Perfect Prospecting Letter (???)”
This week, I get a note from a “Digital Marketing Agency.” Their website talks about their deep experience in developing impactful, relevant content, engaging customers and prospects in relevant ways. The email, in it’s entirety, is below
We’re big fans of the blog over here at [Digital Marketing Agency x}! It just so happens that we’ve been working on some really exciting content with our friends at [One of their partners] that we think would be right up your alley.
This particular piece is a really detailed article all about creating a sales team that’s titled “[Article Title.]” We’re looking at everything from [everything about sales including the kitchen sink (I've never really figured out how to use a kitchen sink)] This is a killer, easy to publish piece of content that we think is a perfect match for your audience.
I’m going to attaching the URL in case you guys decide to run with this. [URL to the killer article.]
Keep up the awesome work and feel free to contact me with any questions! We’d love to hear your feedback!”
First, in fairness, the article wasn’t bad. It would be one I’d tweet because the ideas were interesting.
Frankly, the letter itself wasn’t bad. Except for one major thing, which made the whole effort hollow and meaningless.
When you are asking someone to “buy” something from you, do you really want to use a “Dear Occupant Or Current Resident” approach? If you are able to get the email for sending something to me—you have to scroll to the very bottom of the page, why don’t you pick up my name. My name is plastered all over the blog (as well as my smiling face). Even bots/scrapers have the intelligence to scrape that information.
Mail merge programs are have been very sophisticated for years. Every email program, every email marketing service allows for personalization. We know personalization is important in prospecting–at least using a name, perhaps a company.
So the lack of personalization makes everything else in the letter seem a little disingenuous. “We’re big fans of the blog here….” Yes, along with the 500 or whatever number of emails you sent out. I would have been really impressed if they had inserted the name of the blog–even if they sent out 500 emails. It would have made it feel more like they were addressing me. The problem is not the 1, 100, 500, 1000 emails that are sent out with the same message, if you want to engage me, address it to me, personalize the communication. Make me feel like you are talking to me, not that I’m just one person in the crowd.
Likewise, the second compliment, “Keep up the awesome work….” seems a little hollow. Again, I know it wasn’t addressed to me, it was addressed to the crowd of people they were mailing to.
So just doing the basics personalizing the prospecting letter could have had such a different impact. Personalization is so easy, there are so many tools that enable us to do this. It takes virtually no time. So the absence of personalization shows thoughtlessness or laziness.
Prospecting is difficult. Finding customers, effectively engaging them, creating interest and developing a relationship is tough. People are deluged with too many “fantastic offers.” They are overloaded and overwhelmed. So we have to do something to stand out. We have to have meaningful, relevant and impactful communications. We have to target the right people, at the right time, with the right message. If we want to stand out, we have to execute with precision.
The simple omission of any kind of personalization can take an otherwise good message and destroy it’s impact.
Professionals–people who sell their expertise in this area should know better.
Every sales and marketing professional should know better.
Connection, relevance, impact, authenticity resonate in the minds of everyone. Make sure you are doing the best you can, don’t settle for anything else—it simply doesn’t produce results.
Finally, more as “fine point,” leverage some sort of service that enables you to track the prospecting email. There are all sorts of them out there–those that can track mail from your email client, email marketing providers, even some embedded into your CRM systems. It’s great to know that someone received your email. That they opened it, that they clicked on a link, how much time they spent on it. It gives tremendous insight into behaviors. This email from a content marketing expert had none of that. So they couldn’t track the results of their marketing program.
Understanding our customers’ behavioral styles is critical to our effectiveness in connecting with and communicating to them. There are a number of tools that help us understand the behavioral style of our customers (and colleagues). They go by the names of DISC, Meyers Briggs, and others.
Each of us has a behavioral style—our styles are neither good nor bad, they just tell us how we tend to hear and engage, how we process information, what influences our abilities to make decisions.
If we want to connect effectively and impactfully , it’s critical for us to understand the behavioral styles of the people we are seeking to influence. Communicating with them in a way that maximizes their ability to “hear” and “understand” is critical.
So I might communicate with one person, leveraging lots of data, with another helping them understand a broader vision and their role in implementing it, with another I might focus on building the relationship. Our ability to connect effectively is dependent on our ability to understand their behavioral style and communicate in a way that complements their style.
But we forget, conversations are two ways. We have our own behavioral and communication styles. We react in certain ways–based both on what people are saying and on the way they are communicating. Our own behavioral styles impact the way we engage and communicate with our customers and colleagues.
I’d always been aware of the importance of understanding people’s behavioral styles in communicating with them, but had never realized how much my own behavioral style clouded my own ability to engage and be engaged. But a number of years ago, I was concluding a conversation with my VP of Sales Ops. As we finished up the conversation (it happened to be a very good one), she said, “Dave, I’ve learned that I have to speak to you in bullet points……”
She understood my own style and was aligning how she spoke to me in a way that maximized my ability to “hear and be engaged.” She wanted to make sure she was communicating with me in a way that engage me and made sure I understood her point.
All of a sudden, it struck me, regardless how well we may leverage behavioral styles in communicating with others, our own behavioral styles impact the effectiveness of our communications. Stated differently, a customer may tell us something, but we hear it in a way that it very different than it was intended.
Just was we have to be sensitive to how to communicate with customers and colleagues, so they really “hear” us, we have to be sensitive to how we listen and hear–and our own unconscious filtering.
Engaging our customers and colleagues, making sure we both understand and are understood is important to our ability to accomplish our goals. We have to realize it’s a two way street–we have to understand how the customer’s behavioral style and our own impact our conversations.