The Worst Prospecting Technique Ever Invented

By Bob Bly

This happens to me with some regularity:

A person emails to criticize something I have produced — often a book, ebook, info product, or one of my landing pages or web sites.

Sometimes they are nice … but more often, a bit snarky.

And wouldn’t you know it, almost all of these emails end the same way: “Hire ME to fix it for you!”

This doesn’t work, for 3 reasons.

First, you don’t start off any business relationship by insulting the potential client or customer.

After all, the client you are insulting may have done the work you are saying sucks — not something he is likely to take kindly too.

Second, the person emailing me has only criticized. But they have not presented a single shred of evidence that they are qualified to fix it and can improve results.

Third, they think you are unaware of the problem, and that they are somehow doing you a service by bringing it to your attention.

What they do not realize is: we already know about the problem.

We just haven’t done anything about it either because (a) we haven’t had time, and it is a relatively low priority or (b) we don’t agree with them that it is in fact a problem.

And not because we are stupid, lazy, unskilled, or unaware.

For instance, former subscriber (I unsubscribed her) PZ wrote:

“Last week I purchased Writing Brochures for Fun and Profit ebook. Please issue a credit to my Paypal account.

“I’m more than disappointed, this just feels like a rip-off.

“While some of the ideas are still good, referencing mainframes, VCRs, and tape reels is not only ridiculous it’s going to send younger readers to Google.

“Below is a copy of my receipt, and screenshots of a couple of the most absurd pages.”

And of course, PZ moves in for the close:

“If you are interested in having this and other materials updated, please do get in touch. I do a lot of editing and updating to repurpose old material.”

I immediately wrote back:

“Why would I want to hire you? I can’t think of a single reason.

“We are going to refund your money, unsubscribe you, and block you from our shopping cart and our email inbox.

“PZ, you are starving to death with a loaf of bread under each arm.

“Because what’s important is what you said in your email: the ideas are still good.

“Do you reject books like Ogilvy on Advertising, Scientific Advertising, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and the Bible because they were written years ago?

“If so, how sad for you. For you are the one missing out. That I didn’t update mainframe to distributed computing, the cloud, or whatever has absolutely nothing to do with the value of the course you bought.”

Two important takeaways if you are a buyer of business and marketing advice, a seller of services, or both:

1–Technology is transient. But human psychology has not changed in 10 centuries.

2–Criticizing someone’s business and then offering to come in and help them make it better is absolutely the worst prospecting strategy on the planet.

To me, the best I can say about PZ is that she, to turn a phrase from Coolio, is living in the “Idiot’s Paradise.”


Bob Bly

P.S. KM, another writer/ignoramus trolling for business, wrote a letter to my friend, RA.

He said RA’s direct mail package was terrible, and for a fee, he would rewrite it and make the copy much better.

RA and I had a good laugh over this, because (a) the package was selling the product like hot cakes and (b) it was written by one of the top copywriters in the country — RA himself.

And that’s my third takeaway:

3–Talking about stuff without knowing the facts is a good opportunity to make yourself look like a total idiot.

About the Author

Bob Bly has been an independent copywriter, consultant, and speaker for over 35 years. His clients include IBM, AT&T, The Motley Fool, Forbes, Intuit, Nortel, and Medical Economics. He is the author of more than 90 books including The Copywriter’s Handbook (Henry Holt).

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MaryEllen About MaryEllen

MaryEllen Tribby has helped thousands of people start a new business or grow their existing ones. MaryEllen is the Founder and CEO of, the world’s leading newsletter and website for the empowerment of the working mom. Prior to founding WMO, MaryEllen was Publisher & CEO of Early to Rise and President of Weiss Research where she added millions to their bottom lines in just a few months. She also ran divisions at Forbes, Times Mirror Magazines, and Crain’s New York Business. MaryEllen is the best-selling author of Reinventing the Entrepreneur: Turning Your Dream Business into a Reality and co-author (with Michael Masterson) of Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions For Your Business.