When Personalization Becomes Impersonal

impersonalIn my daily work, I end up on the receiving end of many solicitations. Often I am not the person they really want to reach, and more often than not what they are pitching has little relevance to my business or my industry.

Sometimes, those pitches are the source of very unintentional humor.

In this case, I will do my best to protect the less-than-innocent.  If you have gotten the same pitch, you might recognize it. Please don’t out them in the comments, but I am very curious to see if you see what I found…

The Pitch

The email itself starts off in a standard way:

Hi Isaac, Southern Company came across our radar for using [name of non-pitch service redacted], so I thought I’d reach out and see if you’d like to make your audience data more actionable.

I’m from [name of vendor redacted], and our platform uses your readers’ behaviors to automatically create the most relevant experience possible via email, on-site or mobile.

So far, so good. But something was gnawing at me. Something was off.

Here is how it appeared in email (again, with identifying pieces redacted):

font 1

I proceeded to get busy, and promptly forgot about it.

Terribly Sorry to Bother You…

Then the second email came in, just three days later:

Hi Isaac, I know how quickly emails can pile up, so just following up on my previous one.

According to VentureBeat’s research, 57% to 98% of your audience is totally anonymous. How valuable would it be to be able to personalize to them, too?

We’re the only personalization company in the market that can personalize to anonymous users on your website — and continue to use that data once they become subscribers.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, just let me know. I’m available Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

A little presumptuous, but it did make me revisit the earlier email. And when I did (on my phone), I saw clearly what had bothered me.

font personalization

Screen capture from phone, blown up for clarity

In case you are not a font nerd, please notice the change. “Hi Isaac” is in a sans serif Helvetica variant, probably Newhouse DT. The remainder is in Times New Roman. More than likely, that salutation was pasted in from some other document prior to sending. Which is a little funny, when you think about this claim:

We’re the only personalization company in the market that can personalize to anonymous users on your website

Rather impersonal, if you ask me. Details matter.

Update: Jenn Mattern has seen the same phenomenon in bad copy/paste “let me ghost write your blog!” pitches.

10 Reasons Your Guest Post Pitches Get Ignored

(You probably ought to follow her tweets, and sign up for updates from her site. She’s been sharing smart things online for more than a decade.)

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  1. Maybe they were using split fonts to highlight your name, to show how important you are to them? 🙂

  2. Thanks for the shout out Ike. Form letter pitches of all kinds are a big pet peeve of mine. They’re a lazy outreach strategy to begin with, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that these “marketers” are also too lazy to look at what they’re sending.

    On the plus side, it lets me know to delete those emails quickly. If you won’t take the time to actually write a tailored email, I’m not going to waste my time reading and responding to it.

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