Breaking the Bad Habit of
Robotic Emails

by on 2nd July 2014

I come from a background that consists of customer service, sales, and social media marketing. Needless to say I naturally love talking to people. But when I joined the world of SEO a little over 2 years ago I found myself suddenly forgetting all that I knew about connecting with a human being. So for my first post on the Builtvisble blog I thought what better than to write about the first thing I had to conquer after joining the team.

This may sound like a simple fix but it was not an easy thing to do. I had no idea that my method just plain sucked until I was faced with the task of doing really targeted outreach. It was then that I realized my emails just weren’t going to cut it. So, after a few harsh words to myself, I just wanted to figure out how I got so robotic in the first place in order to fix it.

The Problems:


Template Email

It all started at the very beginning of my outreach career. I had one goal and 1000+ contacts. I guess after hitting send over 1000 times and saying the same thing over and over again I started to become the template. Anything I did beyond that even if no template was involved, started to actually sound like it came from one.

I honestly thought it worked. But in reality it was the mirage of line dropping. If you drop a ton of lines, one is bound to bite. But I was sick of catching the yuppies!

Blowing Smoke

I learned early on in my sales role that someone can detect if you’re being insincere even over the phone. Yet one of the most common mistakes in outreach that I was guilty of, was insincerity. I was trying to flatter these people into thinking I was worthy of their time. It’s what people in our industry like to call “ego-bait” and it’s vastly overused.

If someone can tell through the words you use over the phone that you are faking it, then it must be even more obvious in plain text. Moral of the story: Don’t tell someone that they’ve influenced your whole piece when in reality you just discovered their writings 5 minutes before typing up that email.

I Barely Knew Them

Who Email

I didn’t know the people on the receiving end of my emails at all and in return they had no idea who I was. Because I didn’t know them, it was really hard to try and write something out of the blue that I thought they might respond to. How is a complete stranger going to feel comfortable responding when I haven’t shown any type of genuine interest?

The Solutions:

I did my research

I started to simply do a little research on who I was contacting. But one thing lead to another and I discovered going beyond basic research really pays off.

So, I started “social stalking”!

You will probably see this term pop up in a lot of my posts. This is a step I used to skip but now it is no longer just a task to me but more of an at work hobby of mine.

My goal is to find out as much as possible about the person and social media allows me to do that. Not only do you learn the basics like their name and location, but you now have a window into their social lives. You can see who they are engaging with, when they are conversing the most, and what gets them to respond to others. Those things alone should give you enough insight into how to approach this person in a way that merits a response.

Tip: Most of your stalking is best done on Twitter. Facebook is more personal whereas Twitter gives even an average day person the chance to interact with some of the biggest names. Rather than wasting time scrolling through tweet after tweet, I use Just plug in their Twitter handle and it will generate all their tweets including retweets and replies. The goal here is to look at what they are sharing along with who they are talking to. So make sure you filter out the retweets and pay extra attention to the replies.

AllMyTweets Preview

I would write to someone I know

I started to write up emails with the intentions of sending it to a friend or family member rather than an editor or writer. Why?

  1. I was no longer using a template! Speaking to a friend comes natural, so naturally you are going to sound more casual and comfortable with the person on the other end.
  2. There was no need to blow smoke and I started to trim the unwanted junk. I also noticed I was ditching the awkward self-introduction and didn’t have to explain my motives as much.
  3. I know them! Everyone knows it is easier to talk to someone you know over a complete stranger. And if you have done enough social stalking then even someone you don’t know at all will feel a bit more familiar than before.

You may also find that they give some of the best feedback. Starting out I sent so many emails to family and friends with my request. They would then come back with feedback or questions so I knew what to change or better explain.

I celebrated my success

I’m big on this one and definitely see this as a solution!

A lot of the time, people get stuck in the depths of a bad habit because they aren’t celebrating even the smallest of successes. Whether the response is positive or negative the fact that someone thought you were important enough to respond to, means a foot in the door. For us ex robotic folk a response is a nice way to be recognized as a human again. No matter how big or small, success is success!

Now, do your research, write up that email, hit send, and fist pump!


  1. Well said!

    It kills me when I get these super templatey, robotic outreach emails – something a *tiny* bit more personal, empathic and much less wooden goes a long way.

    I really also much, much prefer a one liner that gets to the point in an email. I’m telling you now, if what I read in the first 2 seconds of an outreach email isn’t absolutely to the point – it gets deleted.

    I know you have some wicked outreach skills (and the data to support the theories!) – so I’m really looking forward to hearing more. Thanks for the tips and a great post!


  2. Great ideas! Time to rethink some emails I was about to send. I am getting adept at the social stalking though.

  3. Thanks Richard! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    I agree and sadly I used to be one of the worst culprits of robotic emails. I just couldn’t let go of the temlated tone. But now, I am all about one liners! Some of my most successful emails come from one simple line with a straightforward message.

    Thank You Jim!

    Social stalking can be so useful and so addictive at times (I mean that in the least creepy way possible).

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