What I Learned as a Marketer After Falling for a Phishing Email
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
A few years ago I received an email from a friend sharing the story of how he’d been robbed at gunpoint while traveling through China and stripped of everything, including his wallet. “Been there,” I thought. His email went on to explain that he was emailing me hoping I could transfer money to a hotel he was currently standing in, waiting for his friends and family in the States to wake up. He needed $350 USD for a place to stay until the U.S. Embassy opened.
I responded asking if he was OK. He replied immediately, grateful and apologetic and explained that no one else in his family was awake so early and he just needed me to transfer money to the hotel so we get finally get some rest. To verify his story, I went onto Facebook to see pictures of his trip. Instead of the Great Wall, I saw him with his son skiing in Colorado. The day before.
“You clever little buggers!” I thought. But instead of being upset, I was impressed. These people had managed to lead me down their sales funnel and without my independent research, who knows what I would have done after reading this phishing email. Over the years, I’ve gone back to this incident again and again thinking about why this and other phishing emails are effective and what I, as a marketer could learn.
The story of my friend being robbed and desperate in the middle of China evoked a strong emotion and desire to help. What emotions do you need to get from your audience to take the next step? It’s not so much about what you say or how you say it, but how you make your audience feel that really makes the difference.
From a Trusted Source
The biggest reason I believed the tale I read in that email is that it came from my friend, someone I trusted. It’s a good example of why marketers should never discount the value of building good relationships with their customers and sending emails that are easily recognizable, if only to get people to open them.
CTA = Benefit
Both emails had the same call to action (CTA) but they also did something more; they closely associated that action with a benefit, in this case, helping a friend. In your case, maybe it’s learning about the newest trends via a whitepaper or getting more product information to help make a purchase decision. So link a CTA with the expected benefit and watch your click-throughs jump.
The final lesson I learned from the phishing email above is without objective or independent verification of a claim, the offer is close to useless. It’s why online reviews and customer testimonials that back up marketing claims are so important; because chances are high that everyone will do secondary research. Often, no matter how good the deal is, if it isn’t backed up, it’s not getting made.
Thankfully this story has a happy ending and I was able to learn something from the experience that has made me a better marketer.