We Read This Crap So You Don’t Have To: “Bad News” E-mails

October 13, 2011

There’s an interesting blog on the AWeber site by Danny Iny titled “Can ‘Bad News’ Lift Response Rates?” You know: The subject lines in e-mails that announce “Bad News.” Iny suggests that it meets three criteria for effective headlines:

  • It’s question-based, rather than answer-based.
  • It’s problem-based, not solution-based.
  • It evokes curiosity.

But Iny notes that the technique doesn’t always work, and that there are two major problems with “bad news” subject lines:

  • No context: You might receive bad news from family, friends, business partners, or clients. There’s already care, concern, and a relationship. You don’t care about e-mail marketers, you con’t care enough about them for any news to be particularly bad.
  • Destroys credibility and trust: You run the risk that your audience will stop trusting you. Often the audience will feel (correctly) that either you’re manipulating them or you’re lying to them.

Iny says he’s used “bad news” twice in his career. It failed once and worked once. He’s planning on using it a third time. He advices: “Use with care.” Iny argues that “Bad News” subject lines can work if you’ve built up a solid relationship with your audience, provided lots of value, and that you actually have news to share that could be legitimately seen as bad.

Yeah. Right. And marketers who share legitimately bad news occurs about as often as pigs flying.

We read this “Bad News” crap so you don’t have to. Here are some excerpts from just a few recent offenders:

Lots of Bad News today: 1st Warning: Closing down in 8 hours

#1 I just spoke to Nate again. There’s good news and bad news. Good news is Nate has about 10 – 15 spots open for his MONEY MATRIX PLATFORM which funds and sells your properties for you to his buyers.

#2 I also just spoke with George and Gary. Today is also the very last day to watch the webinar training I did with George about “The Bankers Code” Way To Building Passive Wealth Thru Private Lending.

Josh Cantwell



This is an urgent update for my long time subscribers only.
Please read the entire email carefully as it is time sensitive.

We ALMOST had to deliver you some bad news, but it looks like we had a small (but high impact) miracle occur that you need to know about now. [Comment: I wonder if Larry did an A/B test with the headline “It’s A Miracle!”]
You want to do more deals and create more freedom right? Keep reading…
You ALMOST lost your chance at free VIP passes to an exclusive event where deal makers are born. It happens only once a year and is invite only.
Bad news is there’s only 10-15 spots open and he’s closing down as soon as they are filled so YOU HAVE TO GO NOW to get a spot in the Money Matrix. If a complete wealth building platform is what you have been looking for then here you go

Larry Goins


Bad News.

If you have a 401K that is now a 201K, believe it or not, you can still safely earn above-average double-digit
in this market. How you ask?

By being, “the bank.”

Too good to be true? Think again.

Now, while this might sound a little strange right now, let me assure you that many folks just like you
across the US, are self-directing their investment dollars into things like, real estate, or small businesses etc., and they are earning very high returns.

Craig Fuhr

[Comment: I couldn’t find even a whiff of bad news in this one.]


Good News, Bad News . . .

Over the past three days I’ve shared a short video presentation about the most valuable skill any entrepreneur, business owner, or marketer can possess.  Today I’ll share some good news and some bad news.

First some bad news.  It took me 10 years to develop and hone the skill of creating copy that sells.  10 years of studying and testing to figure out what works (and what doesn’t work). [Comment: That’s the bad news? That it only took you 10 years to become a copywriting expert, and a very, very highly-paid one at that? I’d have thought the bad news was the decades you spent selling suits before you moved into marketing.]

The good news is that you don’t need to spend a decade of hassle and frustration wasting your time and money figuring out what works.  I’ve already done that for you and I’ve created a “step-by-step” system that removes all the guesswork, waste, and frustration out of “Creating Copy That Sells” Once and For All so you can be creating profitable marketing campaigns FASTER than you imagined possible.

All you have to do is click on the link below to watch this short video presentation:


More Bad News…this video will be removed at MIDNIGHT EST on Monday night so I recommend you watch it NOW.

Dedicated to Creating Copy That Sells,

Bill Glazer


All “bad news” e-mails are crap. I don’t think I’ve ever received a legitimate one. Even ones with “Only 4 slots remaining” isn’t bad news . . . except for the promoter who hasn’t yet filled up the program.

As I said, those are only a few samples of the muck that gums up my in-box. As for Iny’s blog, the only criterion a marketer should use when deciding whether to put “Bad News” in the subject line is: Is it really bad news? Truly bad news? Honestly bad news? If it isn’t, don’t use it.

A Really Dumb Marketing Promotion: Dung Beetles and Skunk Cabbage

September 9, 2009

There are all sorts of rules for marketing, whether by direct mail or e-mail. There should be a guarantee. (“Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.”) There should be urgency. (“This offer expires in 48 hours.”) And so on.

Sometimes the marketing can include a suggestion of exclusivity. (“This offer isn’t for everyone–just those who want the best.” Or “We’re only making this offer to a select few.”)

One thing I haven’t seen–and I’m an avid reader of marketing advice from Glazer-Kennedy and a slew of others–is: Don’t deliberately insult the recipient. Nor have I seen: Don’t cast the product you’re marketing in a bad light.

Maybe we can learn something from the folks at eTapestry.com. That company’s latest e-mail promo compares its potential customers to dung beetles. But, hey, that’s not the end of it. It compares its own product to skunk cabbage.

Mutualism.  It’s what they call it when two things benefit each other.  And just like the dung beetle and skunk cabbage help each other out, so too do eTapestry’s fundraising software and your cause. 

eTapestry compares itself and its customers to dung beetles and skunk cabbage

eTapestry compares itself and its customers to dung beetles and skunk cabbage

I imagine it was an attempt at humor. Maybe.

(Now, I’ll admit that this marketing promotion didn’t have anything to do with real estate–the main topic of this blog. Still, those in real estate do a lot of marketing–direct mail, internet, paid advertising, and so on–so the takeway message is the same, even if you’re focused on real estate.)

Browsing around the Internet, I ended up at Wikipedia, which had a list of other forms of mutualism and symbiotic relationships. Among them:

  • Humans and intestinal bacteria
  • Leafhopper and meat ant
  • Acacia Ants (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) with the Swollen Thorn Acacia Tree (Acacia cornigera)
  • Euprymna squid (family Sepiolidae) and bioluminescent bacteria (Vibrio fischeri)
  • Anglerfish and bioluminescent bacteria
  • Moray eels and cleaner shrimp or cleaner fish at cleaning stations
  • Goby fish and shrimp
  • Sea anemones and clownfish, crabs or shrimps
  • Deep-sea pompeii worms and thermophilic bacteria
  • Ruminants such as cows and their intestinal bacteria and protists
  • Oxpeckers and rhinoceroses
  • Aphids and Buchnera bacteria
  • Ambrosia Beetles and fungi
  • Sharks and remora
  • fig trees and Amazon fruit bats
  • mole salamanders and Oophila alga
  • Sea anemone and clownfish
  • Hawaiian Bobtail Squid and Vibrio fischeri

Few of those are particularly attractive images. Given a choice, I guess I’d be the shark to eTapestry’s remora. Or I’d be a rhinoceros to eTapestry’s oxpecker. Or a cow to eTapestry’s intestinal bacteria. But I don’t know whether I’d prefer being a leafhopper or a meat ant. Or a worm to bacteria.

Nor can I imagine this is the image eTapestry was trying to convey. Dung beetles? Skunk cabbage?