Are You Making This Colossal Mistake with Prospects?



Acquiring new customers these days is a challenge and a half. Marketing messages bombard your prospects up the wazoo.

Your first point of contact is critical. It can make or break your ability to get a response.

So, how can you make it count?

I receive countless email pitches as I’m sure many of you do. When they clog our inboxes, many of us discount them and click delete before we even read them.

So, when it’s you attempting to grab a prospect’s attention, there are some best practices that can improve your odds in getting a response. But, if you make this colossal mistake, you’re likely doomed.


Here’s the email I received last week.

Hi Elaine,

Been following your org for a bit as my communications firm works specifically within emerging media and tech niche. Have been really compelled by your value prop, but certainly believe you could be hitting more strategic press on a weekly basis from the niches  to larger mass market pubs like Forbes,Wired and TechCrunch.There is certainly a thought leadership play here as well to engage the industry with via bylines,earned panel positions and awards. Our media relations practice is second to none and we have multiple proprietary content marketing and b2b branded content platforms to supplement it with. Let me know if you are game to chat, at the very least, we could provide some exceptional outside perspective to your current comms teams.

Let me evaluate this for you. First, the message itself.

I am an individual, not an “org” and therefore do not have a “current comms [communications] team.”

I am not involved in the tech niche.

What value “prop” [proposition] is compelling this salesperson?

Wired and TechCrunch are certainly not within my target audiences… at all.

What does this mean?: “There is certainly a thought leadership play here.” Shouldn’t it read: “There is certainly thought leadership at play here.” ??

There are punctuation, typo, and spacing errors in the message which I have highlighted in yellow.



This salesperson could never get a positive response from me because he did not do his due diligence. He could not have possibly been “following my org” or he’d know more about me.

Since email spam laws prohibit mass distribution to people who have not subscribed, he had to send his messages one at a time. Now, you can ask me: “What if he had hundreds of prospects on that email list? How could he possibly research each one?”

My answer: I truly believe that you can get better results by knowing your recipients and sending fewer emails. Personalizing your messages demonstrates your insight and can lead to more responses.

The interesting thing is that I have been contemplating working with a PR firm to build more buzz for my book. So, his timing was good. But, he blew it by not checking me out first before using his generic message.

Now, I could surely have deleted the email without a second thought. But, I replied.

Thanks for reaching out, [name]. I took a look at your site and don’t doubt that your firm has experienced success for your clients. However, in reading your email, I doubt that you have been following “my org” for a bit, or you would know that I am an individual – a professional speaker and author – not a B2B or tech business.

Since I am a branding specialist, I am very finicky about presentation. Although I realize that you work in business development and may not have PR campaign responsibility, your pitch message represents your firm’s brand. Because it includes punctuation and spacing errors, and sounds like a scripted appeal, it can erode your credibility with prospects. What confidence does it build that any news releases or PR your firm creates on my behalf would not be similar?

My intent here is NOT to embarrass you. The purpose of my reply is to be helpful. Unless you have researched each contact to learn his/her pain points and challenges, it may be challenging to get the responses you want.

My three cents for whatever they’re worth.


As the clichéd saying goes: “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” If your job or company depends on customer acquisition, it makes sense to make that first impression the best you can make it.

Do you agree or do you think I’m being too picky?



  1. Hi Elaine,

    This is a very powerful piece. It teaches the marketer how to pitch prospects successfully. It teaches potential clients what to expect from genuine salesperson.

    And, it provides marketers with insights on how best to reply emails without sounding so unprofessional. These are my lessons from this post!

    The mistake made in this case study sounds familiar. It is, indeed, colossal, and must be avoided!

  2. Hi,

    Great sharing

    Totally I`m agreeing with you in terms of the first impression lasts longer in your prospects mind, and that`s what the subject line of the emails should perfectly reflect.

    I think that if you have awesome content in your message, you just need to prove it in your subject line.

    All my best

  3. Hi Elaine,

    I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the email you received. You did good with your reply.

    It’s even likely the email was written and sent to many people like you by the staff of the “communications firm” without the leaders knowing about the low quality of it.

    That’s why every email sent by staffs in such promotional or outreach processes should be carefully screened by the leaders before going out.

    Or every serious “communications firm” should spend more on getting better communications staffs 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day.

  4. No, you are not being too picky!

    The highest conversions I ever saw on an advertising campaign were from someone who actually cut their target business’s ad from the newspaper, and then Googled the main keyword for the business, printed out the first page of search results (with the business not present) and then added annotations to the print out.

    The whole package was sent in a folder with “The Truth About On The Internet” on the front. The newspaper ad was paper-clipped to the search print out.

    As soon as the prospect opened the mailing, they knew that it was directly aimed at them – the first thing they saw was their own business name on the front of the folder. As soon as they opened it, they saw their own ad from the newspaper and a search related to their business.

    It was a very expensive and time-consuming way of marketing, but it got results. When you are selling high-ticket services to businesses, you can afford to spend on the advertising as long as it converts.

    By the way, I delete spam which is not directed at me without even giving it a second thought.