Missing information and missed opportunities


I saw this van in Hove recently. So, ‘Hove Paints’… what do they do?

They probably don’t do painting, although they could do painting.

They probably sell paint. But what kind of paint? Is it paint for artists? Or paint for children? Is it paint for your living room? Or paint for factories? Do they sell to ordinary people? Or are they just a trade supplier?

If you’re going to create a mobile advert by painting your van, why not be clear about what you do, and who you do it for?

Error message in the real world


Love this example of an error message in real life. It’s a 404 page in the real world.

We accidentally put some glass beer bottles (some rather excellent Belgians if you’re interested), in amongst all the paper and plastic, so the curbside recycling collectors put some message tape over our recycling box, making us aware of the problem.

The nice thing is that it’s light-hearted. My wife and I spend ages cleaning, sorting and saving recyclables, so I appreciate the council not berating us for getting something wrong. Instead of making us feel stupid, we get a gentle reminder on the correct system:


Copy review: a marketing email

spam gmail

I received an email from someone selling speed networking events. Noticing a few flaws in the copy, I thought it would be a useful exercise to publicly review the content, and suggest improvements. I’m not an email marketing expert, nor do I know much about speed networking events, but there are a few universal principles for writing effective copy, so here are my thoughts on this particular copywriting challenge…

The email subject


Giving an email such a short, uncommunicative and unpunctuated subject isn’t wise. You need to give people reasons to open an email, not confuse them with a single, meaningless word. What does ‘maximiser’ even mean? It’s not a well known brand, nor is it a key feature of their service – and it definitely doesn’t explain what the email is offering. Why the hell did I even open this email?

A better alternative?

Speed networking for faster business – join the crowd next week

The opening gambit

Speed Networking xxxx bring Business People together, our events are an extremely cost efficient use of your time, energy and money.

Companies constantly cry out for quick and easy ways to find and develop new customers, so If you like meeting people, want to develop more business, also wish to build a large network of important business contacts and connections, then this is the perfect meeting forum for you.

This paragraph contains all kinds of little problems, including run-on sentences, errant capitals and a list that might do better with bullet points, but the main problem is that this email begins without any clear message. No headline. No title. No focal point.

A better alternative?

Speed networking is back in your town: join the crowds of people benefitting from lively, friendly networking that works.

The middle eight

Why should you attend?

  • Just imagine pitching your business to a different person every 3minutes.
  • We give you the opportunity to explore the possibilities of doing business with other similar minded business people in a positive business working  environment.
  • You can expect to have a one2one mini business meeting with everyone in the room.
  • In business there is no substitute for meeting people face2face, there’s a much greater chance of creating new business than relying on cold calling.

The first point fails because to some it might sound more like a drawback than a benefit. Yes, just imaging pitching your business to a different person every 3 minutes! Does that sound like fun? Or does it sound like some kind of corporate torture? This point is insensitive to many people’s feelings about networking – it’s unlikely to persuade the doubters (assuming they ever opened the email).

The second point is a big tangle of a sentence, and needs editing.

The third point includes the peculiar construction “one2one” – which is not hip, or professional.

The fourth point includes another oddity: “face2face”. It feels like this email was temporarily hijacked by a teenager using SMS.

A better alternative?

Why are people flocking to speed networking?

  • You get to meet lots of interesting people in a short space of time
  • You’re guaranteed an effective business opportunity
  • Everyone is welcomed in a friendly, low-pressure environment

The closing

* I won’t reveal the close of this email because it reveals too much information about the sender, and my purpose is to help people trying to write better emails, not chastise a business for trying. 😉

But here, in the dying embers of the email, we discover the meaning of the mysterious ‘maximiser’! Now, at long last, we learn that the ‘maximiser’ is an option to lower the cost of speed networking by paying for several sessions at once. Was the email marketer so wrapped up in their own business that they forgot that, while this maximiser deal is important to them, nobody else knows about it? The email drips to an ending, offering a link to book your desired speed networking sessions – a link which probably should have come a little bit sooner.

Lessons to take away

  1. Give your marketing emails clear, compelling headlines. What are you offering? Make it obvious, and interesting.
  2. Choose your words carefully. Step into your reader’s shoes. Who are they, what do they want, and how can you help them? Address their potential fears.
  3. Check your grammar and spelling. Get a friend to review your copy. It’s fine to use colloquilisms, providing it’s appropriate to use them (e.g. it’s okay to be flippant if you’re selling trainers to brats, not so good if you’re selling networking events to business people).
  4. Remember that your reader is not as familiar with your business as you are. Explain your jargon and use ordinary language that everyone understands.

Picture courtesy of notoriousxl

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