Probably The Worst Email Marketing Campaign I’ve Gotten


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I’ve refrained for some time whining about bad marketing.  After a while, it gets to be writing about the same bad practices time after time, we don’t learn much.

I, also, reserve my critiques for “professionals.”  It would be unfair, though possibly not unreasonable, to use a bad marketing campaign from and industrial products company, or a an ERP software company, or similar organizations.  They simply may not know what “good marketing” looks like.  I tend to reserve my critiques for professionals—those who should know better.  For example, marketing services companies should know what great marketing looks like and execute it themselves in everything they do.  Likewise people selling something having to do with selling should be demonstrating best practice in everything they do.

Yet, unfortunately, some of the worst marketing I encounter comes from people who sell marketing services.  Some of the worst selling I encounter comes from people selling sales stuff (services, consulting, training, software tools, etc.)

This campaign started yesterday:

Subject: 2016 is the year for Kcd Enterprises Inc

2016 is the year of digital marketing and you need to get on board..

Hi Doris,

It’s 2016 and the year of digital marketing. Are you on board, yet? Our Executive Producer is in Pottstown this week, and we want to talk about marketing goals that we have for Kcd Enterprises Inc, to make sure that 2016 is your year to remember.

[Marketing Company/Link] is a video marketing company that produces beautiful, on-brand commercials for your business, and then digitally distributes them to your target customers.

Please let me know what time works best for you this week, for a 20 minute creative meeting, and I will make it happen!


Charlotte [Last Name Withheld]

[Marketing Company]

Where do I start?  There is nothing right about this email!

  1. KCD Enterprises Inc. is a holding company that has no presence other than a Corporation Registration in the state that we Incorporated the company, Business Registrations in the places we have to register the company, and in the tax records of the IRS and states/counties/cities where we are supposed to pay taxes.  KCD enterprises currently has 4 operating companies, with their own websites and other presence.  Other than writing here, none of the websites refer to KCD Enterprises. We don’t have and we don’t care about a marketing strategy or goals for KCD Enterprises.  We do have those for the operating companies, but apparently Charlotte didn’t take the time to understand our business or any of the operating companies.  Apparently she was content to buy a list of business registrations.
  2. 2016 the year of digital marketing???  Hello?  This is old news, where have you been, where do you think, we’ve been?  Oh, I forgot that you didn’t take the time to research and target your customers.  I’ve always thought of that as a fundamental of effective marketing.
  3. Hi Doris!  My name is Dave,  enough said.
  4. Our Executive Producer is in Pottstown…….  That’s nice, I’m in Southern California.  According to Google Maps, I have to go 2714 miles to meet your Executive Producer.  Our closest people are 148 or 794 miles from Pottstown.  Thank you for sharing.
  5. I’m glad you have established the marketing goals for KCD—even though we don’t want to have marketing goals for KCD.  Had you ever considered learning what goals we have and how you can help us achieve those goals?
  6. Video’s cool, we do a lot of video, usually heavy on the content side.  “Brand Commercials” don’t fit our businesses (well maybe one, but you don’t know that), it doesn’t present us in a way that resonates with our target customers.  Other types of video do, but you’ve already developed our marketing strategy without understanding what resonates with our customers.   By the way, do you know who our target customers are?
  7. A 20 minute creative meeting……….   Well 2714 miles is a hell of a long way to go for a 20 minute meeting, but are you willing to pay for my Airfare/Travel expenses?  Or since your corporate headquarters is 40 miles from our office, perhaps we can meet there (if I wanted to).  Of course, if you had done your research, you would have known that already.

There is nothing remotely right about this email.  Generally, I like to find something positive to say.  I suppose I might compliment Charlotte on her spelling.

Today I get a follow up.

Hi Doris,I saw that you checked out our website recently and I just wanted to follow up and see if I could schedule a time for our Executive Producer to stop by Kcd Enterprises Inc, while he is in Pottstown this week?It’s always a fun, creative call that lasts about 20 minutes. Let me know what time works best for you if you’re interested. Thanks!Cheers,Charlotte [Last Name Withheld][Marketing Company]

Before you start screaming at me, I know.  I saw they were tracking me when I clicked on the link, so I knew I would get a follow up.  But I couldn’t restrain myself, I had to learn more.  It’s kind of like rubber necking at an accident.  You know you shouldn’t slow down and look, but you just have to.

Sure enough, I hit their home screen.  A video starts playing, it’s so grainy and unfocused, it’s hard to tell anything (though the second scene had something to do with pole dancing).  I hung in long enough, to see it was legitimate, video on consumer product advertising, events, all sorts of stuff, though the production value is among the worst I’ve seen. 

I thought, “what a great way to showcase your capabilities and expertise……”

In getting Charlotte’s email this morning, I felt compelled to respond:

“Thanks Charlotte.  I was just intrigued about your approach.  You may be interested in looking at this:

This is a legitimate company, trying to build its business.  It’s a marketing company, that claims to have great expertise in helping its clients attract new business.  If this is the way they put their best foot forward in representing their business, do you want them representing yours?

Great marketing is and must be so much better than this.  There are great tools, there are easy methods to segment, research, target customers with relevant and impactful messages.  But you have to do the work!

Rather than going for volume, perhaps we need to focus on fewer.

Taking a lesson from my friend Stu Heineke, imagine the results that would have been produced if instead Charlotte had considered:

“Hi Dave!  We love how you present your ideas on your blog site, Making A Difference….We’ve made a special video for you…”  Imagine complementing that with a link and a 5 second video, Hi Dave, thank you for visiting us, we love your blog and think video is the perfect complement.  We have some ideas…… (it could have been a selection of a few videos from their portfolio, the first 5 seconds is what would have captured me.)

I suspect if Charlotte took the time to focus on 25, 50, 100 prospects, the results would have been so much greater.

Instead, she and her company join the Hall Of Shame.  Unfortunately, her example isn’t uncommon.

Thanks for hanging in, had to get that off my chest.  I feel so much better.

(Just saw this at Hubspot:  How To Email Really Busy People)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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