When Email Marketing Turns to Stalking, A Personal Story

12th, 2015
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Email Marketing
12th, 2015
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Email Marketing
When Email Marketing Turns to Stalking, A Personal Story

Read on to see our personal story of how email marketing turned to stalking.

The last several weeks, I’ve had a rather odd experience play out in my inbox and my voicemail with a to-remain-nameless company that would like to partner with me. In essence, they’d like for me, as a content marketing agency, to use their product in order to drive more business opportunities, better report results to my clients, and develop more sustainable income.

It all sounds good. And I would have been open to a conversation about the partnership…until the weirdness started.

It All Began Rather Innocently

Here was the first email I received:

Date: October 25
Subject: Partnership Check In

Hi Joe,

I hope all is well! I just came across the Keyhole Marketing site and realized that you previously had a conversation with someone on my team about a potential partnership.

After reviewing your site, I was hoping we could chat for a few minutes to check in and see if maybe the timing is better for this discussion.

Either way, let me know what you think!

Relatively harmless, but I wasn’t able to respond right away. First of all, it came through on a Sunday, and I have no interest in checking work emails on the weekend. Secondly, I had a major client event happening at the end of that month, which needed my complete attention.

But this person had no interest in waiting patiently for a response. Instead, I got this email one week later:

Date: November 4
Subject: Hoping we may align!

Hi Joe,

I hope all is well! I just came across Keyhole Marketing and was pretty intrigued by your site.

I work over here at ************ on our agency partner team and I wanted to see if you'd be interested in connecting for a few minutes. I would love to learn a bit more about Keyhole Marketing and tell you a little about ************  and determine if we may be a good match.

Let me know either way if you think it makes sense to connect.

Your emails don't belong in the spam folder.
17 ways to keep them out.

Then two days after that, I got the email below, followed immediately by a message on my voice mail:

DATE: November 6
SUBJECT: Catching Up

Hi Joe,

I wanted to check in and see when you are free to catch up and chat for a few minutes.

I am interested to learn a bit more about Keyhole Marketing and see if maybe we have the right alignment to work together.

Let me know what your day tomorrow looks like!

Then the Weirdness Started

It had all become rather comical to me. I initially had no time to reply, but then I had no interest in replying. At some point, I wanted to see where it would go. Would this person pick up on the silence I was sending or just keep pounding?

It was the latter. Three days after the last email and call, I got this odd email:

Date: November 9
Subject: Everything ok?

Hi Joe,

I hope everything is ok! I've reached out a few times now and haven't heard back from you.

I am still really excited to chat with you to learn more about Keyhole Marketing and discuss a possible partnership.

Let me know what is going on.

Is everything ok? Ha, I might expect such an email from my mom if I’d been quiet this long, or even a colleague who I’d previously met or spoken with at least once. But this was someone who’d simply found my name appear on his/her business development call sheet. We weren’t friends or colleagues. We were complete strangers.

The next day, I got another voice message (there was no way I was going to answer the phone for this person.) And the day after that, I got this email…

…prepare yourself…


Date: November 11
Subject: Feeling blue? Like puppies?

Hey Joe,

Hope everything is ok! In case you're feeling a bit blue and that's why you can't respond to me, I've attached a cute puppy picture.


I’m sorry, what? Did that e-mail really just happen? There’s so much wrong with this email that I’m not even sure where to start. Somehow I didn’t succumb to the puppy’s panting face and maintained my personal vow of silence. This person did not reciprocate.

Two days later, one final email (final for now, at least) dropped in my inbox, followed by one final voicemail (final for now, at least):

Date: November 13
Subject: Yes or no?

Hi Joe,

Hope all is well.

I wanted to grab your thoughts on a potential partnership between ************ and Keyhole Marketing. We work to solve three main business objectives.

1. lead generation (qualified, inbound leads)

2. moving from a project based business model to a retainer based model

3. increasing those retainer sizes (our partners charge between $4k-$12k a month per client)

Should we have a chat about this- yes or no?

I haven’t been asked to check a “Yes or No” box since I was on the playground in elementary school.

The Content Marketing Lessons For Us Here

I get that this all could have been avoided if I’d simply responded to the first, second, or third email. I know that I could have told this person that I was presently busy, but open to a conversation in the near future.

But in my defense, it all escalated so swiftly that, before I knew it, I’d gone from busy-but-interested to slightly-interested-but-mostly-cautious to we’re-done-here. And at this point, I don’t believe it’s reparable with this particular contact.

Don’t do the same with your content marketing. Instead…

1. Be Patient

Give people a chance to respond to you, especially when you’re reaching out to them cold—as was the case here. It’s like dating. You never call the person you just met that same night. (See the movie “Swingers.”) Give it time. Make first contact, and then be ok with waiting. Proceed on their schedule and not on yours.

2. Stay Off Autopilot

It’s tempting to schedule email campaigns and walk away. But we need to follow the signs our contacts are giving—especially with these one-to-one emails. If someone’s showing no interest, don’t just proceed as normal. Be nimble and always ready to deviate your messaging from the original plan. Pay attention, pick up what your contacts are putting down, and respond appropriately.

3. Know Your Audience

Speaking of appropriate behavior…stay true to yourself in your email marketing, but don’t make assumptions about your audience. This person may very well be hilarious…maybe even as hilarious as I am. (See, a joke.) But he/she assumed that I’d pick up on that fact via email and therefore forgive the weirdness in emails. I didn’t. In fact, I ended up getting even more turned off. If you don’t know the personality of your contact, tread a more cautious road. As your relationship grows and you discover more traits about your contact, then you can write your email marketing with a more colorful, more relevant tone.

Incidentally, I do plan to reply to this person…unless he/she contacts me again.

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