email marketing

How NOT to Ask for Something in an Email

I received a direct message on Twitter today from someone who just recently followed me (I followed back). I thought it would be a really good exercise to analyze it in order to extract an important lesson in marketing and sales communication.

According to his Twitter bio the sender is “Co-Founder and Director of Customer Success” of a company. He doesn’t say what the product or service is (he should probably do that). Here’s his opening message to me:

Hi arnie, I’d love your feedback on our new platform for landing pages built for mobile optimization & speed. Open to talk?

Now, I think I’m a pretty nice guy (at least according to my wife) who’s always looking to do the right thing. But something in his message really rubbed me the wrong way. He’s asking me to give him “feedback” on his new platform, and he wants me to have a conversation with him about it.

No big deal, right? Well…wrong. I’ve got a list of about 38 things I need to do for MY business. And you want me to stop working on paying the mortgage in order to help you pay yours?

Dude, if you want me to help you then give me a reason to do so. Show me how helping YOU will benefit ME. If you want something from someone, especially if you don’t know them well (or at all), make sure to show them how you will help them before asking them to help you.

It seems like common sense, but most people asking for favors or work or whatever seem to ignore it. I ignored it too for the most part, until I learned the lesson from Noah Kagan. It’s one of his primary rules of emailing, and it’s pretty fundamental…and brilliant. (You can grab his 33 Email Templates here. Super useful.)

What our Co-Founder should have done is at least offered me a free subscription to his soon to launch product. That might have been worth me spending a few minutes of my time. It would also show that he valued my time and input (and it wouldn’t cost him a penny!).

I could have just ignored him, but I felt like I might be able to teach him this lesson for his own benefit. So I responded to his message:

Really busy these days…

I thought this might make him understand that my time was valuable and he might get the message. Here’s his response:

No sweat, thanks for the quick response

Ok, so he didn’t get it. But I could just leave it there and let him continue making unreasonable requests from innocent Tweeters. So I replied with this:

Not trying to be a jerk, but what would I gain by spending time talking to you about your platform? Something to consider when asking…

There, I said it. Crystal clear. But did he get it? Here’s what he replied:

If you use landing pages as part of your business you could increase your conversion rates:)

Seriously? So now he’s selling me on his product, which is obviously better than what I’m already using or the other 100 landing page tools on the market. And it isn’t about feedback anymore is it? He wants me to become a customer. Fair enough, but don’t try to fool me with the feedback ask.

I couldn’t resist:

So what feedback are you looking for? Sounds like you know that it works.

His response:

We’re opening private beta soon and looking for beta testers. If you have a full plate I get it…

Yes, I do have a full plate but maybe if you told me you were looking for beta testers up front and sent me a login and the promise of getting it for free once it launches…maybe I’d try it.

Instead, you gave me some great material for a blog post and reinforced the lesson that I learned from Noah:

If you want something from someone, make sure to show them how you will help them before asking them to help you.

Are you already doing this?

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