by Jerry Stern
So, what’s the quickest way to get me to delete your business email?
Easy–invite me to a webinar!
I get these invitations every day. If I attended all of them, I’d get no work done. Ever. Or eat dinner. Or lunch, for that matter. Sleep is dubious. And that’s just from the companies that I already buy products or services from, not including the webinar offers from mystery companies who appear to be in my industry, but don’t actually explain what their service is.
Bluntly, why would I trust an hour of my time, and an extra ten minutes of “log in early to test your connection” time, to someone who has not yet mastered the concept of the elevator pitch? Webinars have their place–they’re good for technical topics. Not so good for sales. Horrible as corporate introductions–they send a message of slowwww….
Quick, we’re in the elevator. You have ten seconds–tell me what you do, and don’t bore me or I’ll get off on the wrong floor. Done, great, and maybe I’ll ask for a business card if you were clear and concise. If not, not. I won’t waste time doing business with time-wasters, so if you have convinced me that you need an hour to explain your company, uh, no, not going to happen.
So don’t invite me to webinars. You can email me, and keep the pitch short. ‘Above the fold’ short. Elevator short.
Or I’ll delete your message in the time it takes me to click on the next available elevator button.
Here’s another sample of what’s not safe to open.
Again, the clues are clear, if you’re careful before you click:
- There are punctuation and grammar errors in the message.
- The link that you’ll see when floating the mouse over that ‘Print Label’ link doesn’t match the ‘from’ domain, and isn’t Fedex.com.
- European date format used by a US-based company.
- The logo is a bad jagged paste, and is missing the circle-R symbol for ‘registered trademark’.
- FedEx has no pickup service at their competitor, the “nearest” US Post Office.
This email arrived, allegedly from the US Postal Service. Nope, it’s a fake, it’s dangerous, and the USPS doesn’t do this stuff.
These are common, and dangerous. Clicking that link will result, usually, in the installation of a fake security program or a search hijack toolbar. The cleanup is routine bench work (call me if you’re local to Carroll County, Maryland), but even better, just click delete and avoid the problem. And maybe consider improving the filtering on your email; ask your mail provider for help.
These typically include a document you must print, and claim to be from any of these sources:
- Any delivery service, but especially USPS, UPS, Fedex, or DHL.
- Any of the top 50 banks.
- Any government body, but especially the IRS.
How do you know this is a fake? Put the mouse over the link for printing but do not click. Look in the bottom left corner of the screen to see the address that the link will go to. In this case, it should go to USPS.com. It doesn’t. In this email, there are more clues:
- They’re asking you to print a label. None of the groups these claim to be from will do that.
- The domains of the from address, the reply address, and the address in the printing link do not match each other.
- None of the addresses in the e-mail match the claimed sender.
- The email appears to be from a person, not a department, at a giant impersonal organization. That’s highly unlikely.
- The logo shown is not the correct logo. It’s not the right font or the right colors or it’s an old version.
- There are grammar errors, punctuation errors, or word choice errors in the e-mail.
- The instructions in the e-mail don’t quite make sense. In this case, you’re supposed to take a label to the nearest post office to get your package, and not to the specific post office that delivers to your street address.
Notice the shape of the C and S. The real USPS logo uses streamlined characters that are straight at the top and the bottom. The letters in the fake are a curved generic font.
Be suspicious of any e-mail that asks you to print a document, that claims to be from a big company, a big bank, or a government organization, or that is asking you to do something that that organization would normally handle by telephone, or by asking you to react in some other way than by printing a document. When in doubt close the e-mail and contact that organization in the way you normally would–pick up the telephone or go to their webpage, but do not, ever, click an e-mail link without looking where it goes first.
Jerry Stern is webmaster at PC410.com and Startupware.com.