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5 Examples of The Worst Outbound Marketing I’ve Seen...And What To Do Instead

by Doug Davidoff | Mar 16, 2016 11:00:00 AM

bad-outbound-marketing-examples.jpgI have to admit that I am both dismayed and frustrated. For quite some time now, I’ve been defending the intelligent use of outbound methodologies to drive sustained growth. While I am a fan (and practitioner) of inbound marketing, I also think it’s foolish for most companies to ignore outbound.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve commented on many posts that have claimed death to outbound efforts, saying that phone prospecting is a better fit for the Jurassic period or simply claiming that inbound and social are so superior that outbound should be ignored. I maintain that outbound marketing, done properly, not only works but drives intangible benefits like creating awareness and thought leadership.

However, I’m finding it harder and harder to defend my position when there is so much crappy (and that’s being nice) outreach taking place. Pete Caputa from HubSpot has recently been on a rampage on the topic, recently questioning when spam became the de facto sales tactic.

Download our Sales Development Playbook Workbook here to learn how to create an effective outbound approach.

I used to say that I didn’t mind all of the bad emails sent and voicemails left because they just made it easier for the good ones to stand out. That is no longer true. The explosion in volume of communications is increasingly causing people to just shut down.

When I started thinking about this post, my first idea was that I would gather five of the worst communications I’ve received. Then I started getting emails and voicemails and what I found was they all sucked. There was no point culling through various communications. Instead, I would simply just share the five most recent leading up to this post.

Be prepared. The communications I’m about to show you are bad. But, that’s not the worst part. These communications are not coming from small companies whose salespeople are merely trying something. These are all from large, reputable companies; many of whom are supposed to be leaders in this space.

What you see below are the actual emails or transcripts of voicemails that I received, with no embellishment. The only thing I’ve done is hide identifying information. Below I share the communication, followed by my comments. At the end of the post, I share some tips for how to make your communications work.

Communication 1 - Email

Hey Doug,

Companies that have sales and marketing in sync have witnessed an average 31.6% year-over-year growth - looks like you’re on your way too!


Thanks for downloading our Sales and Marketing Alignment book. I’d love to have a conversation around the book and the structure of your team. What's the best way to get 15 minutes on your calendar?


P.S. We’re not the only ones who recognize how important it is for sales and marketing to be on the same page! Check out this ---------.


  • I love Barney as much as the next guy, but seriously, you’re going to fill my inbox with a ridiculous gif? Humor is fine so long as you’re being funny. Also, the gif is so distracting I wouldn’t have even read the content were it not for this post.

  • There is absolutely no value shared in this email.

  • He’s asking for 15 minutes on my calendar:

    • For what?

    • What has he done to earn my time?

  • The one good thing done in this email is at the end I was given a way to advance without necessarily having to respond to the email.

Communication 2 - Voicemail

Hey Doug,

How are you doing? This is xxx calling from xxxx (side note, took me 3 times listening to this to understand what they were saying). Just saw you had signed up for our platform so I wanted to check in and see how everything was going so far and see if you had any questions. Feel free to go ahead and call back. I’m going to go ahead and send over some documents containing best practices. Alright have a nice one. Bye bye


  • When leaving a voicemail, it’s important to enunciate so the prospect can understand what is being said.

  • I did not “sign up for his platform.” I downloaded an eBook. I have no interest in his platform and didn’t even consider it when I downloaded the ebook. His message makes it clear that a) he has no idea what I did, and b) even if he did, the only thing he’d be interested in doing, were I to talk with him, is to sell me.

Communication 3 - Email

Subject: Faster Data

Hey David,

Hope all is well at Imagine. If you are spending too much time wrangling data in MS Access or Excel, we can help. Our customers are Sales and Marketing Pros like yourself who need more analytics than their stretched internal data teams can handle.

Do you have time for a quick call next week? Looking forward to hearing from you!



How we helped the Director of Marketing at LHW get faster:


Cold emails suck, but hope as a Sales/Marketing pro you understand the need to keep the funnel full. If not, click here and I won't bother you again.


  • It would be nice if they started with my name

  • No value here whatsoever.

  • Again asking for time on my calenders...for what?  What’s in it for me?

  • This email has nothing to do with me. Even the simplest buyer personas would have provided insights to hit on points that would matter.

  • I’d take his last line to make my point - cold emails don’t suck...sucky emails suck.

Communication 4 - Email


By letting my group handle your customer service calls, order taking, or even scheduling and sales calls, you can generate more business.

I represent ---------, a call center network that is U.S. based.

May I send some info about how we can generate your new customers?

If so, please tell me what you are interested in seeing:

-telemarketing (we make outbound calls for your business) or

-call center (customer-service, order taking, phone answering, lead qualifying).

Best regards,


  • See comments from above.

Communication 5 - Email

Dear David,

Being "connected" in the call center nowadays goes way, way beyond answering phones. To have the strongest impact on customer satisfaction and productivity, your agents need to be:

1. Connected to all the information they need

2. Connected to your preferred business apps

3. Connected through all communication channels

This recorded webinar, -----------------, and our 14-page eBook show how you can create a more connected workspace where customers can communicate via voice, chat, web, social media and mobile, and your agents have all the customer information they need at their fingertips.

Spend a few minutes watching the webinar or reading the eBook for valuable ideas you can leverage in your call center now.

Best wishes,



  • Okay, there must be a list out there somewhere that has my first name as David.

  • This email has absolutely nothing to do with me.

  • If I had a contact center, there’s nothing here that teaches or creates value.

  • Watch a webinar? Seriously?!  A cold email with the only call to action to “watch a webinar”? Wow. This is bad on so many levels, not the least of which is that it creates no action.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  These examples are not proof that outbound marketing doesn’t work.

This is proof that if you do not spend time or put any strategy toward the development of your outreach, you are not only wasting time and creating negative equity for your offerings, but you’re making every other salesperson’s job a whole lot tougher.

So I beg, please stop sending crappy, spammy emails or leaving useless voicemails.

Here’s a simple recipe for creating effective emails:

  • Begin by focusing on your buyer personas. Personas are as (or more) important to sales as they are to marketing. Frankly, I’m tired of writing about personas (we’ve written a ton). You can read a bunch of it here.

  • Identify compelling business problems or issues that are prevalent for your personas.

  • Develop your teaching point-of-view for each of those issues.

  • Draft your emails. Make them crisp, written for humans and valuable. Before putting the email into use, ask yourself how you would feel receiving that email. If you wouldn’t feel good, rewrite it until you do.

Here’s an example of an email we created for one of our clients (again taking away identifying information). Oh yeah, please don’t just copy it and write your version. This email was written for one client, for one market segment. It works there. I share it so you have something to compare your efforts to.

Hi Jane,

I noticed that your company currently has contracts with DoD, Dept. of Labor and GSA. I know you regularly deal with cost compliance and reimbursement procedures. One of the common complaints we hear from government contractors is the inability to pull cost data from multiple sources quickly, accurately and efficiently.

Having worked with gov’t contractors like [share sample clients] we’ve enabled them to recover costs that would not have otherwise been reimbursed, increasing their margin on the business of 1 - 3%. Key to this is a well-designed process for information flow and a platform that provides data in real time.

Let me know if this is an issue that you’re dealing with and I can share our experience. Just reply to this email or call me at xxx.xxx.xxxx.


P.S. We recently published a cheat sheet on designing financial workflows for government contractors that highlights some key issues you can address quickly. If you’re curious, you can download it here.

Creating content like this certainly takes time and effort. I have to admit that I hate writing emails. The attention required gives me headaches. It’s certainly easier to skip the effort. Of course, that option means dismal response rates, poor engagement rates and a whole bunch of negative karma.