Don’t spam– earn the right to my attention

If you’re like me, you get about a dozen of these per day. They’re cold-call emails from companies that want you to hire them to help you do sales. Can you spot what’s wrong here?

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They start with feigned interest.

From the obsequious (I hope you’re having a good day today) to the robotic (Are you having a good Thursday), they are all still canned.

Great marketing starts with love— interests so aligned that we can’t help but respond.

They lack personalization.

If you’re going to sell yourself as being killer at generating sales leads, demonstrate you have looked up each prospect and can write a one sentence introduction that no robot, however clever, could do.  So if you look at my profile, you might mention something we have in common about our joint love of chicken wings, how you played Ultimate Frisbee in college, or some anecdote that clearly shows you did some research.

The headline is canned.

If you title it “cold-calling services” or something like that, you might as well call it “broadcast spam: I hope you will open it”. Actually, that would be a pretty good subject line to try to test the impact of reverse psychology. But you better have a killer body paragraph that is personalized. Still a risky strategy.

They also pretend to be a social media marketer.

If you’re going to be in “social media”, which is already a confusing term, make sure you practice content marketing, which is about generating inbound leads. If you have to resort to mass emailing (force marketing), then your lead generation engine is weak.

Some extra tips…

1. Never say you’re in sales.

That’s the quickest way to kill a conversation- since no one likes being sold to.

2. Always provide value.

Ask yourself: how does this person benefit from my message / product?  If you can’t name 3 solid reasons, then don’t try.

3.  Do your homework.

Research who you’re speaking with before contacting them. This ties in with the above.

4. Give it time.

People are busy, so don’t follow up constantly without first hearing back. It makes you appear eager to make a sell, and we all know desperation is a smelly cologne.

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5. Practice what you preach.

If you claim to be an expert, you’d better be able to back it up. Even if you’re not, you should still be able to demonstrate results before attempting to sell to others.

6. Don’t base your pitch on disparaging other brands.

Every so often, we’ll get an email that says “X competitor sucks, here’s how we’re better” – it dilutes your own brand by making you look like a bully, and the person you’re contacting might be a big fan of the product you’re slamming. You are unlikely to get a competitor’s fans simply because you downtalk them. Let your information speak for itself.

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7. If they’re not interested, remove the domain from your list, not just the address.

Don’t just move on to the next person’s email from that domain, because chances are, they’ll notice you’re blasting, and won’t be happy about it.

8. Teach them something new.

We all have knowledge about our topic that isn’t always common knowledge. Share a piece of that with them.

9. NEVER use all-caps for your subject.

Overhyped subject lines land you quickly in the trash bin.

10. Don’t create false scarcity.

“Claim this offer before it’s too late” Makes people feel unnecessarily pressured to buy something.

11. Watch your overall tone.

Your emails should not be naturally read in a car salesman’s voice.

12. Over-excitement is a buzzkill.

When you understand the value of your information, you won’t feel the need to fake excitement about your own product/service.

13. Focus on the customer, not the product.

The product is just a way to help the customer, the customer is the important part.

14. Make one clear, simple goal.

The customer should not have to guess what the purpose of the email is. Should be very straightforward

15. Keep them short and sweet.

Do not write a novel, provide only necessary information, no fluff.

16. Show only appropriate authority.

An email about your product should not include that one time you shook Oprah’s hand once. Only a few, relevant sources should be used.

17. Don’t forget to nurture your audience.

Sending a single email is like expecting somebody to marry you after a single date. It won’t work.

18. You are here to serve.

Show them how awesome they are, more than how awesome you are.

19. No wild claims.

Only claim what you can prove.

20. Make unsubscribing painless.

Don’t annoy potential clients by trapping them. Unsatisfied customers almost always speak up, so you should listen…

21. ALWAYS listen and respond promptly.

You should run your campaigns from a “live” box, which you receive messages to- never use “no-reply”. Respond immediately, which shows that you are both prompt, and care about what they have to say, even if it’s just “I’ve received your message, and will have an answer for you shortly”.

22. Never Cold-Call in the first place.

You should always start from a “warm list” of people who have opted in. Any form of unsolicited contact, no matter how you frame it, is spammy and unwanted.


Do you have any tips for cold calling? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Dennis Yu

About the Author

Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is the Chief Executive Officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that partners with schools to train young adults. Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone.

He’s an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook Marketing and has spoken in 17 countries, spanning 5 continents, including keynotes at L2E, Gultaggen, and Marketo Summit. Dennis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, CNN, Fox News, and CBS Evening News.

He’s a regular contributor for Adweek’s SocialTimes column and has published in Social Media Examiner, Social Media Club, Tweak Your Biz, B2C, Social Fresh, and Heyo. He held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines and studied Finance and Economics at Southern Methodist University as well as the London School of Economics. He ran collegiate cross-country at SMU and has competed in over 20 marathons including a 70-mile ultramarathon.

Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you.

You can contact him at