Smarmy Subject Lines

By , Follow-Up & Stay-In-Touch Marketing Strategist

Solo-E Certified Solo Entrepreneur Expert

Marty Marsh - Follow-Up & Stay-In-Touch Marketing Strategist

A friend of mine vowed that he would never rant nor complain about anything at his blog, and while I admire him for being able to do that, this friend is not in marketing.

And these days, sadly, it seems there is so much to rant about when it comes to some of the smarmy tactics that some people who are marketing online are doing. Even worse, most of these people are teaching others how to market their business.

The latest seems to be a rash of smarmy and bogus subject lines. Now I’ll be the first to advise you that you should strive to have a provocative, creative and compelling subject line whenever you send out your ezines and email promotions but I feel that some of these folks have stepped way over the line.

It gets worse….

And even worse is that these are people that I have actively followed and bought some of their products. Now I’m finding I want nothing to do with them simply because of these subject lines.

It started a few weeks ago when I got an email from a well-known marketer and someone that has a membership program that I belong to.

The subject line read: Your renewal transaction has been declined. I quickly checked to see why and found out that the transaction had not been declined at all and had nothing to do with my own account but rather, was a pitch to buy a report that would help avoid having so many credit card declines from your own members.

Clever? Maybe. Did it work? Absolutely. Was it smarmy? I think so.

Then lately I’ve been getting a rash of emails with subject lines saying things like: “Order Confirmed” when I know I’ve not placed an order with them. Another one making the rounds: “Confirmation Required” as if I’ve requested something I have not; “Deposit Notification: $6,911.01 Cash Advance” as if I’m the one that got a big cash deposit to my bank account.

In both instances I find that it is just a ploy to pitch me on buying a product which they’ll ship as soon as I confirm with them that I want it (by ordering, of course.)

Clever? Maybe. Did it work? Absolutely. Is that smarmy? I think so.

I’m reminded that some years ago I received a phone message from someone at the Better Business Bureau saying to me, “This is so-and-so with the Better Business Bureau and I need to speak with you about customer complaints.”

Well you can just bet I called him back right away only to discover that this was a ploy to get me to call back and hear a pitch about joining the BBB to head off any possible future trouble that I might have with “complaining clients.” There had been no real customer complaints.


After I told him what I thought of his sleazy marketing tactic I hung up on him. Then I sat there pondering, “who do you complain to about the Better Business Bureau?”

Clever? Maybe. Did it work? Absolutely. Is that smarmy? I think so.

I see these kind of subject lines I’m talking about all the time in SPAMMY emails that I seem to get more and more of every single day, but I don’t expect to see this from marketers that I — up until now — trusted, and — up until now — respected.

If they are using some form of trickery or deceit to get me to open their emails, then I wonder, how else are they tricking and deceiving me? Is what they claim to be offering really true and legitimate?

In your own email marketing be provocative, yes. Be creative. Be compelling. But don’t be smarmy.

Marty Marsh believes that your successful business is the catalyst for creating massive positive change in the world. To that end, he specializes in helping you, the entrepreneurial change-agent, to attract your perfect clients and to grow your business quickly and with ease so you have the resources to truly make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. For more business development and marketing strategies for staying in touch with your ideal prospects, visit

© Copyright 2010 Marty Marsh
One comment on “Smarmy Subject Lines
  1. Trish Lambert says:

    Thanks Marty,

    I’m glad there are others out there yelling foul about the tactics that some (and some pretty well known) marketers are using. As your example from BBB illustrates, this kind of ploy has been around a long time in telemarketing, and also direct marketing, and it’s now seeping into online marketing. I’ve had my own experiences with “intentional miscommunication” and had the same reaction as you.

    Let’s get prospects’ attention without deceit…it CAN be done!!!

    Trish Lambert
    4R Marketing & Success in Sweatpants
    .-= Trish Lambert´s last blog ..Big O #4 of 4 =-.

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