I received an interesting email in the Argentum inbox a few months ago. The subject line was “Invitation For Coffee For Susan Silver.” I almost didn’t open it because I wasn’t even sure what that means. But the marketer in me was curious, and I had some time to kill while I waited for someone, so I opened up the email and started to read. Was this a joke? Confusion turned to disbelief and then, finally, to glee when I realized that this was a legit email solicitation that was supremely tone-deaf, making it a great example of What Not to Do.

Hey Susan, I was recommended to contact you about becoming a founding member of a private group we are starting to support professional women located in and around Chicago in discovering the truth about the menopause and how to not let it impact your career.

We came up with the idea to create a community where women could get advice and support to prepare for or manage their menopause and avoid the many life-impacting symptoms that it comes with. Many women worry about gaining weight, fatigue, mood swings, or chronic illnesses. This community will introduce you to scientifically proven methods, and tips and advice from a community of women to help you find healthy routines and happiness when the time comes.

So, I will be holding live workshops and networking events to really build a community where its members can share and discuss with peers the most effective routines and exercises to deal with the effects of menopause, feel happier and live a healthier life. I will also be sharing training workshops and expert-curated resources to learn proven methods to counter the effects of menopause that work to feel more energetic, lose weight, improve mood and happiness, increase self-confidence, and avoid chronic illnesses. As well as guidance on nutrition supplementation and safe and effective natural hormone therapy procedures.

Are you available at any of these times for a virtual coffee? [followed by time/date options]

All my best, Sean M___, Community Founder

After getting over my bafflement – who is this bro who thinks it’s okay to reach out to me to talk about “the menopause” and offer career advice, I did two things: 1) reposted on Facebook to give my friends a laugh and 2) researched Sean M___ who actually is a real person, although he looks nothing like the picture. Not surprisingly, he calls himself a Health Coach/Hormone Coach. This title was made less convincing by the inclusion of his prior experience at Seans Mesquite Pit BBQ.

The responses on Facebook by my outraged professional women friends of a certain age (men too) were so awesome that I posted it on LinkedIn as well (where it generated 12K views and scores of comments). Here are the best comments to help give you a glimpse at what happens when your messaging does not come across as authentic or relatable (expletives and brief expressions of incredulity like Oy, OMG, Yikes, Wow and WTF not included):

  • He’s not what I would call the best face of this effort
  • Hi Sean! I’m holding live workshops and networking events on how to avoid alienating an entire group of humans.
  • Appalling! Demeaning! Misogynist! Inappropriate!
  • I cannot wait to hear the “why” of his business’ origin story: “So my mom was getting really cranky and I thought…”
  • “The” menopause? First giveaway.
  • Clearly written by a man. Peddling snake oil…A founding member. I just can’t stop laughing. No one wants to be a founding member of a menopause support group. Do you get your picture with perspiration on your forehead on the front page of their newsletter next to your bio? 
  • He sure looks like he’d understand the menopause.
  • Dear Sean, thanks for reaching out. I would love to know more about your credentials in this area.
  • Perhaps you can ask to see the copy and photos that did more poorly than this one in the A/B test.
  • Dear Sean, thank you for your concern and good wishes. I would like to participate in your new group. However, I am too busy taking off my sweater, putting on my sweater, taking off my sweater, putting on my sweater, yelling at the dog, crying in my beer and feeling truly elated to be in my Fyou Fifties. By the way, I teach writing. Call me.
  • I wish there was a “horrified” button in addition to the like and celebrate! What the hell does a 25-30 year old guy know about menopause?
  • Dear Sean, are you selling Herbalife, Shakeology, essential oils or some completely new miracle cure? If not, may I ask what propelled your keen interest in menopausal professional women?
  • What were they thinking?

Bottom line: Know your target audience, demonstrate credibility, ensure subject matter fit. But, more importantly, in these very uncertain times, I hope this made you smile!

PS. Yes, “Sean” did follow up with a second email about a week later. The subject line was “Private Invitation: 45 Seats Left!” I was disappointed that there wasn’t another photo included in this one. Maybe he’d learned something after sending the first one?