An unsolicited e-mail I received today from a technical-training company began with this:
Dear Jim Hinckley, I am writing to check if “JH Web Marketing” is seeking external help in BPM related services.

How about that: two major blunders in the opening sentence of a B2B e-mail. First, what should I think when someone puts my company’s name in quotation marks? Are they suggesting that the name is an alias, or that my business isn’t even real? Feels that way to me. Misplaced quotation marks tend to cast doubt on whatever is inside them.

In this case they also seem to emphasize that my company name is just one of the hundreds (maybe thousands) being slugged into this position in the e-mail by their software’s “personalization” function.

At first glance it’s a small thing, but look at it from the reader’s point of view: If you highlight the spots where you’re inserting data variables into the text, it doesn’t feel personal. It’s more like a total stranger calling you by name and trying to get chummy with you: just plain creepy.

And then there’s the jargon: “BPM.” I think it stands for Business Process Management, but I don’t really know. And sure, if I worked for a bigger company, in a certain job, I might throw around the term “BPM” all the time.

The larger facts are (a) not everyone on their mailing list knows what BPM stands for, and (b) there’s simply no reason not to spell it out the first time it’s used in the e-mail. Then use the acronym throughout and every reader is on an equal footing.

But they didn’t do that, so my first impression of this e-mail (and the company sending it) is that it’s for someone else, a jargon-speaker . . . not for me. No doubt the writer could have included a sentence or two about what BPM is and why the (“newbie”) prospect should care, without losing readers who have more BPM savvy.

The more complex a service or product is, the more its marketing communications need to educate (at least a little) while selling or attracting leads. If your copy makes the reader feel uninformed or “out of the loop,” your chances of selling to that reader are greatly reduced.