Drew McLellan of Drew’s Marketing Minute recently published the worst sales email ever. Here it is in all its glory:

Hi folks,

Name here from website.com. Our network of sites reaches a business savvy audience of over 5 million people every month. We also have a million opt-in subscribers and 125,000 financial advisors ready to receive dedicated email blasts.

We’ve been in this business for over 10 years so we know what works. I’m trying to find out who handles media buys for your clients, and I’d really appreciate it if we could get an updated copy of your client roster. I think we can really make something work here.


Ms. Name
email address

You might be cringing and thinking, “My business would never send out something this bad.” However, many businesses are guilty of at least some of the same crimes in this email. Here are three things that are wrong with this message, along with tips that will help ensure that you never make these mistakes in your sales or marketing emails: 

It’s not personalized

Put yourself in the place of your reader and imagine getting a message that is addressed “Hi folks”. Wouldn’t you hit ‘delete’ as fast as you could? Personalizing your emails is a proven way to increase your open and click-through rates, so be sure to at least include the name of your reader in the greeting.

You can also take personalization further to target messages towards specific subscribers. For example, change parts of your content based on a reader’s role, location or how that person has interacted with your website. Personalizing your messages gives subscribers information that is relevant to their needs or interests, which increases the chances that they will read your message.

It doesn’t talk about the reader

This email focuses solely on the sender, not on the reader. “Our network” … “We’ve been in business” … “Blah. Blah. Blah.” For your sales and marketing copy to be effective, you should address your reader’s problems, needs or interests 90% of the time and talk about yourself only 10% of the time. It’s a good exercise to go through your recent marketing copy to see how many times you use the word ‘we’ as opposed to the word ‘you’. You can even analyse your web pages with the Customer Focus Calculator. Simply enter your URL, and the calculator will tell you what percentage of your copy focuses on your customer.

It offers nothing but asks for a lot

The sender of this email is asking for the reader’s client roster – whoa! This is a big, crazy request that raises a ton of red flags. Why would anyone give their confidential and valuable client list to some random person who sends them an email?

Although you’re probably not asking people for their client rosters, this email shows that you need to have a solid relationship with someone before you ask for anything big. Start small with new subscribers – ask them to download a white paper, register for a webinar or check out a page on your website. Once your subscribers trust you more, you can make bigger requests (i.e. try a demo, speak with a sales representative, etc.).

This email also screams ‘unsolicited message’. Even if your organization takes great care to send messages only to confirmed subscribers, it’s a good idea to remind your teams to check their databases to ensure that they have permission to email everyone on their lists.

What about you? What do you think is wrong with this email? What are your dos and don’ts of email marketing? Feel free to share your comments below.

2 Responses

  1. Hey there!

    Nice post.  I think the biggest (among many) problem with this email solicitation is that it completely forgot there was going to be a human being at the other end, receiving it.

    It was absolutely disrespectful in terms of acknowledging the receiver, having any sense of what might matter to the receiver or how the receiver might react to the content.  No one likes to be disregarded — and that’s how I felt when I received it.  I was invisible to this person — she just wanted my client list.

    Marketing, especially in today’s world, is all about making sure a person feels very visible.


    1. Hi Drew,

      Very true! I think the request is creepy and offensive. I don’t know who would turn over their client list to this person. Did you respond to them directly?