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Don’t Make This Mistake in Your Marketing Messages!

A friend sent me an example of a marketing message that bombed. Here is how the email started:

Subject:     directed me to you


I was recently in contact with  , who referred me to you.   suggested that you would be in charge of evaluating a web conferencing service that helps reduce costs, increase productivity and drive sales.

In three places the writer left out the name of the referring contact–three!

We all make mistakes. But this national sales manager's mistake presented him as someone who lacks attention to detail–a bad quality for a person who sells expensive products and services. Even though the remainder of his message was fine, his beginning killed his chances of getting positive attention. He presented himself as a spammer.

If you use an automated emailing program or service to contact people, always run a test in which you send a message to only yourself. I send a monthly e-newsletter to over 9,500 subscribers. Before it goes out, I test it several times rather than distract thousands of people with any errors.

This month's e-newsletter features marketing techniques to use in your everyday business writing. If you don't yet receive the free newsletter, Better Writing at Work, subscribe here.

Have you received marketing messages that left you amused or miffed? Please share examples.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

8 comments on “Don’t Make This Mistake in Your Marketing Messages!”

  • I think the worst marketing email I received was one that was addressed “Dear Sirs” not only do I object to the general assumption that a company is run by men, but the most cursory research of my company website would have revealed that the MD of this particular company was a woman!

  • Thanks for mentioning “Dear Sirs,” Liz. That greeting can instantly ruin a message.


  • Great post, Lynn!

    I manage a twice-monthly e-mail list at work and an occasional poetry mailing from my personal blog; and I can say from painful experience how easy it is for something to go wrong. The only way to be really sure is to send yourself a copy first, print it out, and proof it carefully before sending.

    Fortunately, this sort of care sets a professional mailing apart from an amateurish one, so it’s definitely worth the effort.

  • Thanks for your admission, Lester.

    I agree with your comment about a professional mailing vs. an amateurish one. I have received several e-newsletters with embarrassing errors from a book-writing coach. The errors always make me question her ability to do her job well.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • Looks like a mass mailing gone wrong. I’ve received those messed up mailings on occasion from Internet Marketers. On the other hand you could have gotten a “Dear {firstname}, {referrername} referred me to you.”

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