We’ve all gotten them – and promptly tossed them in the trash folder. Bad email pitches make us cringe, but is there perhaps some hidden value in them?
After sifting through dozens of poorly written email pitches – from requests for links to guest posting opportunities to various products and services – we were reminded of the approaches and tactics we don’t take in our pitches.
Our media relations, or public relations, department corresponds with writers and editors at top-tier publishers every day. They build relationships with them through proactive and personal communication. And we’re rewarded with coverage of our campaigns.
Since they know how to write a pitch email to a journalist, we asked Senior Media Relations Specialist Kip Wright to critique four email pitches we’ve received. Check out his practical (and quite candid) advice below.
Note: To protect the culprits’ identities, we’ve changed the names of the individuals and companies in the following emails.
Bad Email Pitch No. 1: Requesting a Link
First, let’s look at the raw email:
The subject line wouldn’t be too bad if proper grammar were used (repurposing vs. repurpose). On the plus side, Kip likes the “and a proposal” part. It makes it clear right away that Gloria is pitching us (and thus not getting our hopes up that it’s genuine fan mail).
Of course, the impersonal greeting is a big letdown.
Next, instead of wasting your introduction by telling us your name (which we already saw in our inbox), Kip recommends getting on our good side by explaining why you loved our article.
Gloria then tells us she thinks our article is “amazing.” But why? What’s her favorite tip? She’s an editor, so we’d imagine she has experience with repurposing content. Share that with us!
Based on the formatting of the sentence, it appears this email pitch is a template.
The following sentence – which is missing a comma – gets to the point of the correspondence: Her “team” wrote an article about content too. We’re not sure if Gloria read the article because, at 838 words, it doesn’t qualify as “comprehensive.” (Our article is 1,739 words.)
It would’ve gone a long way if Gloria pointed out what aspect of their article we missed in ours and how we could incorporate it. Simply saying our audience would appreciate it doesn’t cut it.
Finally, let’s look at the link request:
While we link to other sites in our blog content, we only do so when it’s of significant value to our readers – not in exchange for a favor, such as a social media blast of our content.
How to Improve This Email Pitch
The biggest downfall to this pitch is its lack of personalization. The subject line is on point, but our name isn’t even used in the greeting!
It’s clear Gloria crafted a template, gathered articles about repurposing content, and plugged in the link for each email pitch she sent. (We did some digging and found the company tweeted out two random blog posts about recycling content, so our hunch was confirmed.)
Our live-or-die advice: Find the gap of what we missed in our blog post and pitch us that. This takes more time, but it’s a better strategy.
Email Pitch No. 2: Selling Our Services to Your Clients
This is a tricky sales pitch to make successful, but it can be done. Before we explain how, check out the original cold email:
Let’s start with Manny’s subject line.
As you may have guessed, sending an email with “Marketing Services” to a marketing agency such as ours will make us think you’re a prospective client. It may be tempting to make your pitch email subject line something you know will get it opened, but it just puts a bad taste in the recipient’s mouth.
In addition to not saying “Fractl,” Manny’s intro sentence is also misleading.
His next paragraph is too wordy and lacks specificity.
Overall, this email pitch shows that Manny knows nothing about Fractl. If he did any kind of research on us, it certainly doesn’t show.
Another critical criteria missing is a link to his company’s website. Sure, we could’ve gone to Twitter and then found it, but who does that?
Precisely 48 hours after sending his first email (automation, anyone?), Manny follows up:
The first sentence tells us again that Manny knows nothing about Fractl, and it’s all about him.
Next, we finally get some links to their site, but we would prefer a little bit about how these webinars apply to our agency. We also don’t care for how they “will educate” us.
The final sentence of your email pitch is your last chance to impress prospects. Manny didn’t get that memo.
In addition to Kip’s solid advice above, he says: “Personally, I feel this contact suffers from poor targeting more than anything. It’s rather clear this was blasted out to many people.”
How to Improve This Email Pitch
Manny would’ve gotten a lot further if he did his homework. Yes, we understand the sole purpose of email sales pitches is to sell your product or service, but you can’t do that if you don’t know what our needs are.
Also, these emails are too pushy. An email pitch is like a first date: Leave us wanting more, not batting away your advances.
Our live-or-die advice: Don’t tell us your service is stellar; show us how it will benefit us specifically. For instance, look at our list of clients and use one as an example.
Email Pitch No. 3: Pushing a Product/Service
This next one intrigued us, but it missed a big mark – we would never want/need what they’re selling. However, if we were in the market for it, we have some improvement tips.
Again, we’ll start with the subject line:
This subject line is so general, and it led us to believe it was a prospective employee trying to reach the HR department. Instead, make a connection with us.
“If I have a Twitter account, see what I like and comment on something I enjoy or have tweeted about recently,” Kip says.
Phil opens his email pitch with what seems like an exhausted plea:
The second paragraph catches us off guard as Phil doesn’t ease us into it. He goes from stumbling around to full-on pitch mode. It feels like the email was spliced together.
The information Phil includes in the paragraph above isn’t bad (aside from the blatant typo “trucks in means”) – but it’s way too much for a sales pitch email.
As Kip suggests below, this email should be customized to our business. We’re a B2B content marketing agency that specializes in digital PR and SEO. Outdoor advertising (no matter how innovative it is) wouldn’t make sense for us as we’re not marketing to consumers or the general public.
Moving on, did you catch Phil’s next error?
Errors that could’ve been prevented with a simple spell check are the worst, and they tell your recipient that you’re sloppy.
Phil goes back to being overly concerned and frustrated about reaching the right person:
He misses his opportunity to leave a good impression and a final reason why we should put our logo on his trucks.
Kip has one last suggestion:
This might seem nitpicky, but a lengthy signature can seem overwhelming when somebody is reading an email. Also, it’s not necessary. Does he want a letter in the mail telling him who to contact at Fractl?
We received a follow-up email that says: “Hi Kelsey, do you have a few minutes to connect today or sometime next week? If so, when’s a good time to talk?”
Is it wrong that we considered snail-mailing him with a day and time that would’ve passed by the time the letter arrived?
How to Improve This Email Pitch
Most importantly, make it shorter. Our Tell-All Guide to Digital PR has some great tips on how long emails and subject lines should be. It’s focused on email pitches to writers, bloggers, and editors at media outlets, but the advice can work for general outreach marketing pitches when you’re trying to stand out in a crowded inbox.
What we do is send a newsworthy piece of content on behalf of our clients to targeted journalists that might want to cover the story for their audience.
We also suggest making media pitches skimmable. To do this, keep the paragraph short, bold, essential phrases, and use bullet points.
Our live-or-die advice: Don’t waste your time contacting the same business multiple times that wouldn’t use your service or product. Figure out who your target customer is and focus on email pitches that resonate with them specifically. Try to build a relationship with them first, before you sell.
Email Pitch No. 4: Wanting a Phone Call
The final email pitch we’ll deconstruct is from a “business manager” in Australia.
As you can see, Cam doesn’t say what service his company offers. The time it takes to read the email is included instead (insert eye roll).
It’s also apparent this is a form email pitch sent to who knows how many people. What’s surprising is it came from a large company with offices around the globe!
Let’s dive right in to see where we can learn from the plethora of mistakes in this pitch.
Aside from missing our name in the greeting, the introduction is void of any personalization and has hyphens randomly placed throughout the sentence. Kip doesn’t even know what to say!
The next sentence seen above uses a smiley face as a period. There are many reasons this is wrong, but the lesson to be learned is: Don’t use emojis in professional email correspondence. The only exception is if the other person uses them first and you’ve established a friendly dialogue.
Together, these first two sentences tell us nothing about the sender, his company, or the value they offer.
The next paragraph tells us a little bit:
Kip offers some great advice above about what this paragraph should’ve included to give insight into the benefits we’d receive.
Another tip: Don’t say what you’re not offering as there’s no point to it. It’s like a car salesman pointing out the Lexus features missing on a Kia.
Moving along, we’re reminded again of the seconds we have left before our time is done being wasted.
Another clue you’re reading a sales pitch template is the reading time gimmick.
Next, Cam uses a lot of words to say he wants to set up a call. But the biggest problem here is his request for our Australian phone number. FYI: We have one office, and it’s in Delray Beach, FL.
What we’re really astounded by is it may not even be Cam who will get in touch with us if we replied! Is Cam even a real person, or is he a fictional persona created to send out these horrible email pitches as not to tarnish an actual employee’s reputation?
OK, we’re definitely eager to share our recommendations for improvement on this one.
How to Improve This Email Pitch
Our advice is pretty straightforward: Throw this email pitch away and start over.
This might sound harsh, but we have a hard time believing recipients even read the whole thing – let alone respond to it to set up a call about a mystery service.
Our live-or-die advice: Research the company and person you’re pitching and customize your email, showing how your product or service would positively change the way they do business or how their customers would benefit.
Mastering the Craft of Pitching
We totally get it: It’s hard carving out time to make your email pitches personalized for every prospect you send them to. However, this is a must.
Email pitches that look like a template tell recipients they’re not worth the effort to research who they are and how their business operates. The more custom you make your pitches, the more impressed your potential clients will be.
Even if the person you’re pitching isn’t interested in what you offer, a tailored email ups the chances of response since they’ll appreciate your effort. You can begin to establish beneficial relationships in the future. This gives you a chance to have a dialogue about why they’re not interested, which will help you with your pitches in the future. And, or course, a bad pr pitch could damage your reputation.