I doubt any of you are strangers to spam. My favorites, if you can call them that, are all of the terrible pitches I receive from marketing and design firms as well as other freelancers. Here are the most common I see:
- "Your website isn't ranking on the first page of Google," (followed by all of the reasons I need their SEO services to get me there). Yet I seem to get these most often for my sites that are on the first page of Google for their most competitive keyword phrases.
- Pitches for Web design services that note it might be time for an "update" -- for domain names that have never had a site developed on them in the first place.
- Emails from other writers, who have never been in touch before, asking me for work. I don't mean they want me to hire them to write for my sites either. They don't even ask me for subcontracted work or referrals if I hear about a gig I can't take on (neither of which I would give anyone who isn't a trusted member of my network anyway). Instead they flat out want my clients; they ask who my clients are and how they can contact them to start working for them. Needless to say, I ignore them.
These are far from the only ridiculous pitches I get. Don't get me started on the lousy guest post requests I receive from people who can't be bothered to read my guidelines much less compose a coherent email.
Sometimes the pitches are obnoxious. A lot of these spammers troll WHOIS records and hit up anyone they find who recently registered a domain name. Others take it a step further and look up all domains registered to an individual. I currently have between 60 and 70 domains. And when these folks come-a-calling, I get dozens of the same spammy pitches all at once.
At other times, these email pitches are downright funny. That includes one I received yesterday. It was from some firm pitching services for my business site where I advertise things like copywriting services.
The pitch was littered with typos. It was so bad it became unreadable.
I brushed it off and tweeted that I was tempted to counter that email with one pitching my email copywriting services to the company. Several followers joked that I should. I was tempted to write an open letter to crappy email marketers here on the blog instead, but as it turns out I deleted the email. So instead, I thought it might be nice to see what we, as freelance writers, might actually learn from these incompetent marketers. Here's what I came up with.
1. Triple check your email copy.
A design firm might be able to get away with a few typos (not that they should try). An SEO firm is less likely to given that so much of their work revolves around content. Freelance writers get no slack. If you contact a company or editor pitching writing services, your email might be the first writing sample they see. Make sure it's pristine.
2. Know who you're contacting.
Untargeted email marketing isn't going to bring about the results you're hoping for. Most of your emails will go ignored. And you run the risk of pissing off more people than you pique the interest of.
Targeting goes beyond avoiding spammy mass mailings though. Make sure you know something about each individual you contact. For example, don't pitch another professional copywriter your own copywriting services for their website. They'll likely find you ignorant or insulting. And this is someone who might otherwise have been a beneficial member of your network.
Each prospect has specific needs. Your email pitch needs to address those needs and show how you plan to meet them. If you're sending the same email to each prospect, you're doing it wrong.
3. Don't get lazy about follow-ups.
The only thing worse than a lousy email pitch is receiving even more poorly-targeted follow-ups to those pitches. For example, I recently had someone email about advertising opportunities on one of my sites. The email was clearly a group email, with his list name appearing in the recipient field rather than my email address. Despite that, it was a far more legitimate request than most I receive.
I responded, letting him know I wasn't interested. Well, wouldn't you know it, I received another email from this guy about a week later. It was a follow-up, reminding me of his previous email and mentioning that he never heard back. Only he had. Again, it was clearly a mass email. I suspect he just sent the follow-up to everyone on his original list.
If you send an email pitch to a prospect, following up once can make sense. But if you're ignored again, stop hounding people. Either your emails are being flagged and they aren't even getting through, or you're building name recognition, just not in the way you want to.
Now it's your turn. What are some of the most common email pitches you receive? What ones bother you the most (if any do)? And what could you, or other freelance writers, learn from some of these poorly-written pitches? Tell us about them in the comments.
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.
She owns 3 Beat Media -- a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.
Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.
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