“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet …”

–Romeo and Juliet, Act II. Scene II.

In my line of work, I get a decent amount of cold prospecting emails. With the explosion in information and marketing technology (and promises of actionable insight from your data), everybody and their mother has some software that theoretically makes my life easier as a marketer. And despite cries from marketing gurus to be human (i.e., warm) in your sales and marketing, cold prospecting is decidedly un-dead. Why?

I’m not Louisa.

'Louisa' prospecting email

‘Louisa’ prospecting email: An instant classic for my archives of outbound failures.

Thank you, Captain Obvious, you must be thinking. But that’s the thing: The fact my first name is Paul wasn’t obvious to some eager conference sales rep who recently sent me not 1, but 2 messages seeking my company’s sponsorship with that salutation. The tragedy for Mr. Cold Prospector is that my company actually might have been open to sponsoring said event, on account of our sponsorship of one or two of these types of conferences in the recent past. I’ve even personally been on the phone and exchanged emails with one of its other (less mistake-prone) sales representatives. Knowing my prior history, it would in ordinary circumstances potentially not take as much to get me to read/respond to this kind of email due to the strength of the past relationship. But not when you call me Louisa … twice.

Again, I’m not Louisa.

Most remarkable is that this sender did not even get in the ballpark of the correct appellation; Paula, Rich (given my last name), Paulo (Italian heritage) or some standard human typo would all be somewhat tolerable, if laughable. But ‘Louisa?’ Where does this come from? A.) It bears no relation to my current name. B.) It bears no relation to whatever data might be out there on me in the lead collection and info-harvesting universe. Last time I checked, Louisa is a name typically limited to the 60+ grandmother set (no offense to all you young people potentially bearing this name). Granted, I’m not 20 anymore, but I think my digital record and behavior are far from the typical retired woman’s profile. What happened, data lords?

The trouble with dirty, dirty data

This faux pas with my name also underscores the dangers of automation. If your data is dirty (and most data is), your automation might be helping you actively turn away prospects or worse, current customers. Talk about losing the volume/numbers game! What if 1% of your outbound fishing expeditions (er, prospecting campaigns) addressed people by the wrong name? 5%? 10%? What if the wrong name your data supplied for an ideal prospect were so ridiculously far from the real name that the recipient wanted to laugh at you as opposed to merely ignoring you?

Mockery over ignorance? Now we’re talking about an outright negative: Your investment in massive impersonal email campaigns killing potential revenue AND wounding your reputation. And reputation is a major, albeit fragile, element of brand equity. See Law 5 in The 48 Laws of Power (“So much depends on reputation—guard it with your life.”)

Another one of the 48 laws of power is avoid the negative. Getting someone’s name spectacularly wrong in an email greeting certainly does not leave a positive impression. Maybe we need to add a 49th time-honored law: Always look before you hit ‘send.’

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For other installments in this series, check out:

Paul Richlovsky

About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy and editorial direction. He is an enthusiastic marketing automation practitioner and active member of the Cleveland Marketo User Group. He has written/edited multiple marketing guides, including those aimed at healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing audiences. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He is particularly interested in usability, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

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