Are You a Beggar or a Marketer?

Let me show you the single most annoying email I’ve received (and I receive it far too often).

Let me show you the single most annoying email I’ve received (and I receive it far too often).

Democratic Membership Status Email
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee … Desperate much?

Forget for a second that Democrat fundraisers sent me maybe a dozen messages yesterday alone, and that’s not a rare occurrence. Also forget that I’ve received dozens of this kind of email over the years. (So they sure ain’t “final.”)

Set aside that this message, on the surface, hits many of The Seven Emotional Copy Drivers (fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation and flattery).

Where does any emailer get off asking for money with the vocabulary of a debt collector? “Final notice”? That reeks of desperation covered by a thin veneer of bullshit.

Emotional hot-button copy is essential for driving action. But marketing is often compared to dating, and nowhere is that truer than in the fact that desperate is not attractive. When you’re acting that desperate, solicitation turns into begging. And no one wants to do business with a beggar.

In fact, the overall impression I’ve taken from years of these kinds of fundraising efforts is that the DCCC must be losing because they tell me they’re desperate every day.

It’s not just political fundraisers who come off as beggars, either. Retailers like Jos A. Bank send me “final day” offers every day for items that have never been sold for their “regular prices.” Sometimes you see an item’s “final day” stretch on for weeks!

Jos A. Banks Sales Subject Lines
It’s not a special even if it happens every day.

I bet Jos A. Bank has binders full of evidence that those emails work. But sometimes good evidence can be misleading. You may be driving the most sales per blast, but at what cost to your reputation and long-term value proposition? Saturday Night Live has noticed.

Strong brands are not desperate. It’s fine to leverage fear, desperation, greed, salvation and more emotions in your marketing. But I really believe that begging, cajoling and threatening are mistakes.

Always step back and look at the the messages you’re sending collectively. They’re painting one of the move convincing pictures of your company, and it’s not always a flattering one.

Are you a beggar, or are you a marketer?

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

6 thoughts on “Are You a Beggar or a Marketer?”

  1. I signed up for some f=ree content from not saying from who- however, as soon as I downloaded they at the same time emailed me and called and left message for the next four days. The message they would leave the same guy on both voice and email each day was that he wanted to tell me more about their services , to get back to him, trying to reach me, am I still interested, will try again- tried and still trying to reach me, keep missing me, please call JUST to let him know either way, this is the LAST time he will call..etc. I felt like he was getting annoyed that we was desperate to get me on the phone. Starting to freak me out. This was a sales call, never met this person. He stopped . Even if I wanted the service, that experience turned me off. I ran for the forest. Fast.

    1. There’s a blog post I haven’t written yet about fundraising telemarketers. Long story short, my wife donated a couple times based on phone calls, and we started getting calls form all sorts of fundraisers at all hours of the day.

      I have actually lived in a house going through the old bankruptcy horror story where debt collectors were hounding them. Fundraisers got to the point where they were calling us way more often and inconveniently than debt collectors called them. It was ridiculous.

      Now when we get those call, I explain our new policy of never, ever giving donations by phone and hang up.

  2. Like you, Thorin, I get on average 20 of these per day. If only this was really “the last notice” not the last notice until tomorrow. They may be getting the results but they must be roundly pissing off their natural constituency, people like me.

    1. Maybe they’re getting results, or maybe they’re seeing diminishing returns and upping the ante on the thing that used to work best. Just because we have the data, doesn’t mean we come to solid conclusions from it.

      At this point, I know I’m just tuning them out.

  3. It’s called a “last chance” offer, Thorin. This is a decades old proposition. It wouldn’t surprise me if Herschel Gordon Lewis had something to do with it. If such offers didn’t work, if they didn’t test well, if they didn’t pass muster during A/B testing, you can be sure they would be gone –– for almost ever. (just don’t click on it and maybe it finally will…!) That said, I have yet to see a metric that judged an email’s effectiveness not only from click throughs, but also its ineffectiveness by the number of unsubcribes it generates. Is anybody doing that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *