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Don't make this dumb mistake promoting yourself
Last Updated June 5th, 2014

Earlier today, I received a HORRIBLE EMAIL from someone who’s looking to build their business:


This email is so bad, and so prevalent nowadays that I skipped the Social Triggers TV video this week to share it with you.

…Because I don’t want you to unknowingly make the same mistake. I don’t want you to burn bridges before you begin building them.

It’s also why I’m hosting this webinar all about “how to promote your business the right way.

(Seating is limited. Go reserve your spot right now. It goes down June 10th, and sats are filling up fast).

More details on that in a minute. First…

When you’re just getting started, cold emails (to prospects, to bloggers, to journalists, and etc) are a great way to move the needle.

And when done right, you can propel your business (or blog) from obscurity into the mainstream.

But this guy did it wrong. REAL wrong.

Here’s why:

First, do you see the subject line?

He wrote, “Can you point me in the right direction?”

When I get an email with that subject line, I’m expecting to point someone in the right direction.

To a person. Or a website. To anything.

But the content of his email has nothing to do with being pointed anywhere. Instead he’s asking for a sales call.


Tip #1: Misleading subject lines might get people to open the email, but they won’t get people to respond positively. Use descriptive and honest subject lines.

Second, do you see where he wrote “I noticed you use tools like…”

And he’s right. I do use that tool which I censored for the purpose of this email.

Here’s the thing though… I just started using that tool YESTERDAY. How did he know?

Maybe he’s on my email list?


Maybe we’re connected on social media?


Maybe we’ve emailed back and forth before?


How did he know?

Who knows…

…But I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a Google Alerts set up for competitor companies and prospects their new customers as soon as they get them.

I’m not saying that’s what he did, but it certainly feels like that’s what happened.

But I won’t fault him for being a cut-throat salesman. It’s not my style, but hey. To-mato. To-ma-to.

The real problem is that he said: “I noticed you are focusing on growing your revenue from your online store.”


I don’t run an online store.

Tip #2: If you email someone, don’t make it abundantly obvious that you have no idea who you’re talking to. Do 5 minutes of research.

Finally, do you notice the content of his first email?

When you’re looking to get in touch with someone you don’t know, there is one thing you should NEVER ask for on the first email.

What is it?

You should NEVER ask for their time.

You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. We’ve got deadlines. We’ve got families. We’ve got personal engagements.

And the last thing we need in our lives is a time thief.

I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you want to get in touch with someone you don’t know, your first email shouldn’t request their time. In any capacity.

Instead, you should provide a helpful tip, or a link to an article (not necessarily one that you wrote) that you think they’ll find valuable.

Tip #3: When contacting someone you don’t know, don’t ask them for their time. Give them something instead.

Now let’s talk about this webinar.

Next week, on June 10th, I’m hosting a webinar all about learning how to promote your business.

Reserve your spot right here.

More specifically, you’ll see:

How to use this simple, yet powerful 3-step strategy for promoting your blog and business.

Combine that strategy with these proven conversion principles so those fans become lifelong customers.

And finally, use these proven principles once, twice, or as many times as you want to attract 100 (or even 10,000) prospects with a blog.

There are limited spots. So sign up for one right now and I’ll see oyu next week.

(You’ll notice I have two times available. One at 12:00PM Eastern and one at 9:00PM Eastern. No matter where you are in the world, one of these times is convenient for you. ;-D)

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29 comments Leave a comment
Pierre Eustache

I found that post really interesting! First, the email was bad as you point it out! But what really surprised is that ” Now, Let’s talk about THAT webinar”! I scrolled up to see if there were mention for it before! And, then, I saw it!

And I said: “Wow! That is a great way to get the attention to the main point”! Good work!


A good book is how to win friends and influence people which has a whole chapter on this subject.

Alex Arkhangelskiy

Great comments. I don’t necessarily agree with the super negative comments calling this guy a moron or sayimg his email is disgusting. I think we have all made a mistake like that once or 100 times. Maybe not all of these at once, but still.

I did learn a lot from your breakdown of the email, Derek. I know you have written a how-to for doing this type of thing properly. Could you please share it with us in the comments?

Hpw well does it work for when you send someone you don’t know a link to something? I am always extra cautious in opening links from random people (viruses, etc.). What else could you give or do to have the right first impression in a cold email to a prospect or maybe just someone you want to help you in some way? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Keep up the great work man!

Rashedul islam

LoL, How could people send some nonsense email to promote something.
Thanks derek for letting me know. Before i used to think that spam message never crosses it’s boundary. it remains in spam, but i was wrong 😀


Approaching someone for the first time in business online is, for the most part, like approaching someone in person. The big difference, of course, is that you need to convey that you are trustworthy and likable without the benefit of a friendly smile or handshake. I believe being especially generous and helpful is the best way to overcome the risk of sounding like you are all about your agenda as a salesperson looking to fill your lead sheets or quotas. Thank you, Derek, for focusing on this. And, yes, time is so incredibly valuable that you would hope a cold emailer would appreciate that!

Karissa Baca

I agree with everyone so far on the (bad) email…no idea how my emails measure up though, can I say I absolutely cannot stand emails that end with “Cheers” what is that? I mean, I am no prude, I enjoy a good beer, good times but, “Cheers”? I worked with someone when I was a Marketing Manager and he would sign all his emails that way, “Cheers” drove me batty….kinda like a slimmy used car salesman, used furniture salesman, anyways, just my penny

Steve Faber

Derek, Nice post. The first step in sales is qualification. Anything else is a waste of time; yours and theirs. As you point out, a mere 5 minutes of research would have shown online stores aren’t your bag. Oh, well.

So many sales people take the old adage “Sales is a numbers game.” to heart, without ever stopping to think about how they can improve the percentages, instead simply upping the numbers. Maybe reaching out to you first jus to say “Hello” would have helped, maybe not. It’s not like you’re tough to find.

As you point out, we’re all busy today; too damned busy. You’re right… gotta go! Thanks for the post.

PS – AJ, I get those Indian SEO / web design emails too. Don’t answer them.

Neil Roach

I get a lot of these emails, especially in my current professional as a technology consultant – buy this, we have that, have you seen this, and so on. Whilst I agree that it’s a terrible email, perhaps we should look at it from the salesman’s perspective too!

In my experience these sort of emails come from a salesperson who’s driven by a poor manager. The manager is asking ‘how many calls/emails have you made today?”. The guy sending the cold email isn’t then focussed on getting the ‘message’ correct or building the relationship in the right way. He’s just hoping he can say “I’ve found over X contacts today on the Internet and emailed Y of them all”.

It’s just about numbers, almost like spam!

As we all know, this then bites him in the ass a few weeks later when the same manager asks why he’s not getting responses or conversions, but that manager takes no responsibility for developing the salespersons skills and just asks him to send more emails, or make more calls.

And these companies wonder why they aren’t doing as well as those that focus on the long term relationship. It’s like a total schoolboy error, but happens so frequently across many industries.

I’m just starting out on my own journey as an internet entrepreneur, but still know, through receiving these cold messages, that it’s about the long term game plan and not focussing on making money ‘today’.

Bill Kinkaid

I thought about sharing my blog, then after reading this I can now see why certain things come of as completely impersonal. Thanks for the article.

Alex Morris

I agree these sorts of e-mails are often idiotic, but I have seen far worse. At least the guy had a go at it – I think some people are sincere with their efforts, whilst others are merely spam. The former deserve some consideration, even if they did mess things up a bit.


I get some emails like that from time to time. They bait me into clicking on the email with the Subject Line.

They do some sneaky marketing stuff with these emails and they do make you think about how easy it is for someone to find your email and know things about what you are doing online.

It is weird how “they know” what tools you are using, and how they can help you “boost” this and that. LOL

I do get that – that is their “job”, they are marketers, right. But using un-ethical ways to “stalk” someone and try to pitch them real hard on something – is just not right anymore.


You got some great tips here and you turned that email you got into a valuable lesson/post to share. Nice!!

Thanks for sharing Derek! .. you rock bro!


AJ & Serenity Services

Hey Derek my partner and I appreciate you sharing this! We get so many cold emails that it is really annoying!

What really irritates us is when a web design/SEO company from India sends us a cold email stating that they could take care of all our web design & SEO needs (when we actually do this ourselves). Or that they’ve already looked at our website and have ideas on how we could make it better.

These people are total idiots! Like you’ve mentioned, you have to take the time to at least build some rapport in a cold email. These people could have done something to demonstrate that they are interested in more than just my business (a helpful tip, an article, or some valuable resource).

I know my partner and I take the time to build rapport with our new clients and let them know that we’re about long term business relationships. We definitely know not to send any ridiculous cold emails like this one. We do believe in giving before getting.


I have been getting more cold emails lately, and it is frustrating because it wastes time from being productive in other areas. They promise so much from the cold email and most of the time they do not deliver. Good Luck to you and the readers.


I hope you responded with a link to this post and maybe he will be able to find some useful tips out of this. 🙂 Great post, Derek. I’ve seen a lot of emails like this in the last few months.


It shows that you are giving of your time, just in the fact that you opened the email to help. Respectable. The problem today is that there is no respect for other peoples time. This way of thinking comes from a mindset of trading hours for dollars, which this person obviously does. The problems that I see with this email is manipulation driven by greed to try to make a buck. The lack of consideration for your time. The only way to build a business that is going to last is to build it honestly. My only thought is that if the email is this bad, then I would be afraid to see the quality of the product being offered.

Bryan Harris


I wish people just realized what spending an extra 30 minutes to write a legit email would do for them. 5 really well written and thought out emails out preforms 1,000 of these pieces of crap.

John Shea

It’s obvious this is a copy and paste email. It’s kinda like those people on Facebook who send me the exact same message about their MLM opportunities.



Great article. The biggest question that arises for me is what are the stats for your email marketing campaigns, open rates, conversions, etc.?

Would love to know more.



We’ve all had those kind of emails and binned or blocked them, but I’m curious – how would he know if you signed up to a service from Google Alerts? Or was it just a random guess in a standard cut/paste email?


I’m no marketing exert by any means – that’s why i come to this site!
However, even I can tell that you need to do a little research on the person you’re contacting before you get in touch.

Shannon Hernandez

I love getting these types of emails…..riiiiiiight!

I get at least 1 every couple of weeks! They drive me insane! It gives guys like all of us a bad name when we’re trying to do the right thing. It makes people distrust online marketers.

I suppose we all have to fight the good fight and continue to build the right type of trust! I’ve learned a lot from you Derek and when it comes to talking about the right type of marketing, you’re one of the guys I reference.


Hi Derek,

I actually put a post on my facebook page this morning about a message that I got from someone on linkedin today. Total turn off. This is what the message said:

“I would like to discuss a business opportunity with you. We can execute the Web Design & Development or Mobile Apps development projects on a white label basis for you. Do let me know if you are interested and I would be happy to share our Methodologies, past work details and client Testimonials and Prices etc…”

I responded with a no thanks to this. I definitely don’t have time to waste with someone that I don’t know who’s clearly only interested in themselves and what they want.


Hey Derek,
I hope I don’t ever piss you off 😉 My first reaction is maybe this guy just doesn’t have a good coach and isn’t sure what he’s doing.

But it is a total bonehead move to put in one subject line for the open and then have a completely different topic in the email. Who really thinks you’ll get great response by ticking off the reader!

And I agree on doing 5 minutes of research instead of sending a boilerplate email that has nothing to do with the person they’re emailing.

I think this person needs a really really really good coach. Not even sure if that would be enough….maybe 2 coaches 🙂



Wow!..He must be really lost..


What a moron. He’s a shitty marketer and probably has a very low success rate.
Great article to teach what NOT to do!!

James Lewis

Having spent 15 years in sales and only about 4 in marketing, I find it frustrating when I get bad sales emails like this one.

I often feel like I need to reply and point out the problems. Instead, I’m just sending them this link!

Tor Ivan Boine

Just had to write a reply to MSI Sakib.

The email isnt totally disgusting. How is it disgusting? Its a direct and poorly crafted cold email. It may be bad. Well, it IS bad as Derek explained. But disgusting? nope.

anyways, I would let you know that I am making an email filter that can filter out those kind of emails. Interested?

nah, kidding! 🙂 But thanks for all the great tips you´ve shared with us. For free nonetheless!

Jerry Novick

This was extremely educational, Derek! On my first read through the letter, I thought to myself “what’s wrong with this letter? It seems chock-full of information!”

Then I read your comments on the letter and I said to myself “Wow – I would have made every one of those errors, all innocently enough, and then wondered why I didn’t get any response.”

This is a print & keep post!

MSI Sakib

This email is totally disgusting. I think the person who wrote this email has no idea about what he or she is talking about.
Thanks Derek for sharing this mistake with us. Hope not to make this kind of mistake in the future.

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