Transparency vs. TMI: Know the Difference

Marketers are constantly reminded to be transparent. And I wholeheartedly agree. But there’s also a line you must remember not to cross as a marketer.

According to Carolyn, she doesn’t think this marketer had clients cancel projects. She points out that the email, based on its format and style, had been sent through an email platform, as opposed to a 1:1 personal email from someone at the company. She found it to be deceptive:

“I don’t think I want to ever start a new relationship based on a lie, so I find this message leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. Not only would I not respond, but I certainly would NEVER refer a company I’ve never done business with to another business colleague.”

My response back to her was that, even worse, if the loss of projects was true, then the marketer’s choice of messaging left with me with very little confidence in them. For me, the line from being open and transparent was very quickly crossed over into TMI territory.

Why not put a positive spin on a situation? Your email subscribers don’t need to know you lost business and are in a pinch. For many, this may be a first or early impression of you, and let me tell you, it’s not glowing. Instead, why not offer up a promotional discount to new clients, hoping that could drum up enough interest to make up the lost revenue, or at least close the gap?

What do retailers do when they need to move inventory? They have a sale. Similar idea.

I mentioned this to Carolyn who told me I was “dead-on” and “and, if [the marketer] really did lose a project, shouldn’t they be talking to people they at least have a past relationship with?”

Thanks Carolyn for making me feel so smart.

Then one of my copywriting mentors and Target Marketing columnist Pat Friesen chimed in:

“The email struck me as being odd, awkward and lacking authenticity.  A very strange way to ask for referrals. NOT 1:1. To Carolyn’s point, it’s uncomfortable to be asking for a referral from someone who doesn’t have personal experience working with them.”

Uncomfortable MemeIf your email communication makes multiple people uncomfortable … I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you’re doing it wrong.

It’s a shame when projects fall short. But you’re not going to earn trust, support and business with a plea like this. To be frank, it seems desperate.

But I think Jeff Molander, another blogger I work with regularly and a digital sales prospecting trainer and coach said it best:

“It’s funny. We put words into emails and send them. But we would never consider actually showing up in a crowded room, stand up at a podium and make a plea like this. Would we?”

Well, would you?

Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

12 thoughts on “Transparency vs. TMI: Know the Difference”

  1. This email is probably more transparent than the writer intended. It says, “I’m desperate and not creative enough to find a way to solve my own problems. Help me!” It doesn’t make me want to recommend my friends to them because they seem incompetent. The only feeling this email elicits is pity. Yikes.

    1. I agree that the tack taken here is … off. I cringed when I read it, and it obviously stuck with me long enough to feel the need to write about it! Thanks for reading 🙂

        1. Simple: You’re my go-to resource when it comes to prospecting emails, and this attempt as “prospecting” needed your take on it!

  2. In moments of weakness, every copywriter has played with similar (well, maybe not too similar) copy strategies. The secret after you write something like that is to sleep on it, read it the next day and realize, “WTF was I thinking!” Then destroy the evidence.

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s better to spit it out, clear your mind, and then go back and write something that accomplishes what you need and want, without losing face with your subscribers/prospects.

      I’d be interested in seeing if this marketer had increased email unsubscribes following this particular message … and if so, did they learn anything from it?

  3. Thanks for the insights. As a fairly new self-employed freelancer (October 2014), I’m always looking for information to help me do my business the right way. Even I can peg the superficial and unprofessional spin on this approach.

    1. Hey Rhonda, I hope some of my sassy insights can continue to be of use to you as you continue with your freelancing! If you’re looking for a more serious — yet still fun — approach to copywriting, read through Some of Pat Friesen’s articles. She’s fantastic!

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