Tips for Writing Copy From Someone Who Got it Very, Very Wrong

I had to respond to an email. I didn’t want to because the response I had conjured up in my mind probably wasn’t the most professional – or nice, and those of you who know me know I’m a giant love muffin.

But in this case, I was feeling like a little tough love was in order.

Here’s said email (with the names taken out to protect the poor marketer whose strategy I wanted to rip to shreds in this very moment – in a loving, kind hearted, well-intentioned, helpful way, of course!)

writing copy

First, let me point out the small victory she had when writing copy for this particular email. She had clearly done some research and sent the email straight to me – Kimberly.

I’m not even great about gathering first names when someone signs up to receive my free e-book. And when I say I’m not great, I mean, I don’t do it because I lazily set up my email sign up form a long time ago and haven’t updated it since.

So there, she won that round. But that’s where her winning stops and my frustrations began.

Who are you really sending this to?

The email didn’t come to my business email account. It came to the email address I use for an organization where I volunteer.

I had a hunch that this was a canned email (didn’t you?) so I forwarded it to a colleague who works in the same organization. She confirmed what I was thinking. This email was copy and pasted to me, to her, and to countless other people in countless other organizations.

Without letting me know why she was emailing me specifically (how could she with a canned email?), she got right into it.

The first line immediately started talking about her business. It talked about what her company did, who she worked for and why they were so fantastic. It even got boastful by talking about the 15,000 square foot facility.

Why should I care about a 15,000 square foot facility?

In the first paragraph she said what she was selling using the same verbiage (again, taken out to protect the identity of the sender) twice. This email wasn’t at all about what I needed (which is not what she is selling) but what she needed to meet a quota of cold sales emails sent.

She continued into a new paragraph where she started to name drop a few big businesses in the area. None of them are in the same industry as the organization where I volunteer. None of them are the same size or have the same structure. I couldn’t relate to a single one. She was using these big names to make herself look good – not me.

Who cares?

By the time I reached the line where she mentioned the wide selection of products, I was lost. Why should I click on the website? Why should I call or email her? My only question was, why is this being sent to me?

Sounds a little self-absorbed on my end, doesn’t it? It’s not.

A person’s inbox is a sacred place. People are constantly bombarded by requests flying in from every direction. It’s noisy and cumbersome. It’s also why I maintain a goal of inbox zero where no email messages wait for me to act and respond. My daily average is 25 – 30. Perhaps by maternity leave I’ll make it to zero.

To receive such an impersonal request that has zero to do with my business, my needs, or my interests felt intrusive. It felt downright rude.

I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Listen to the famous Dale Carnegie. In his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” he says, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

This is a lesson more marketers need to hear.

I see these types of marketing messages everywhere. My LinkedIn inbox has several sitting there right now (though they’re thankfully a little easier to ignore).

I’ve seen many local businesses pollute Facebook with their pushy, sales-y messages. Helpful tip: That’s not why your customers are on Facebook. They’re there to look at crazy cat lady products, dog videos and delicious quotes (gotta love the WordPorn page).

Although it’s frustrating as hell to be on the receiving end of these, marketers continue to self-promote in the most obnoxious of ways. And the reason why is clear.

Horn tooting is the easiest form of copywriting. It’s also the least effective.

You know yourself inside and out, so it’s easy to talk about how fantastic you are. It’s easy to show off your accolades and brag about your business because you’re proud.

And you should be proud! You’ve worked hard to get to where you are today. I get it.

The problem is, the bragging, prideful messaging falls on deaf ears. It makes people like me want to hit the delete (or worse, the spam) button on your message so I never have to be bothered with it again.

How’s that for a slap across the face with a harsh reality? Please note: this is a love slap. It’s meant to help you realize why your website isn’t converting and why your direct mail failed to stir up any calls.

The words you choose to sell your business will make or break whether someone walks through your doors or runs from your company kicking and screaming.

People don’t care about the last successes you had. They don’t care about how many years of experience you have. They care about what you can specifically do for them right then in the moment.

As I mentioned, I had to respond to this email because of the role I hold in this particular organization. So, I bit my tongue and replied inviting her to join our organization. I spun her messaging approach on its head and talked about how we could help her company grow. I served up an opportunity to get sales on a golden platter.

That was why she was emailing me after all, wasn’t it? She wanted more business?

Take a lesson from this lady (who I’m quite sure is lovely outside of my inbox).

When you’re writing your next email, social media post or webpage, take a step back and think on it. Are you being braggadocios? Or are you being human?

Are you showing your audience the tangible way you plan to help her become the next better version of herself?

In reality, that’s all we ever want from the businesses we buy from – to purchase something that’ll make us look good. It’s never about the business…

…Just like with your customers, it’s never about you.


  • Nora

    You said it! Great article, it still baffles me that some people use these kinds of techniques. You’re being generous calling this approach “marketing” at all. Here’s something very similar I saw in my Facebook filtered (thank you!) messages recently and that actually made me laugh:

    Hi Nora,
    I have seen your website and what you offer. I currently work for [WEBSITE LINK]. I am a web designer and our purpose is to build free tools for all web builder from beginners to advanced. We have now our first tool the [NAME AND DESCRIPTION OF THE TOOL]. Please review our site and tell me what you think. Plus, if you see our tool as useful we will be glad if you add it to your “Free Resource” page. Hope to hear from you and have a good day.

    So I’m supposed to do ALL the work for them? Seriously, I’m still laughing and I’ll keep these as two good examples of what not to do!

    Thanks for the read. 🙂

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Thanks for another cringeworthy example of what not to do! Leaving the responsibility on the person you’re trying to sell to is garbage.

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