Dishonest B2B Email Marketing: Gaslighting Won’t Work

Andrew Stanten


A new disturbing trend in email marketing is … gaslighting. And it’s not going to work.

The technical definition of gaslighting is “a form of psychological manipulation in which a person sows seeds of doubt in an individual or group, making them question their own memory.”

But first, let’s back up. I get dozens of unsolicited emails a day. I read almost all of them as I’m always curious to see how companies are marketing themselves, how they message, how they do and do not get my attention, and so on.

Sometimes it works.

Please understand this: I believe in the power of B2B email marketing. Especially when it’s on-point, targeted, genuine, and part of a larger campaign effort that involves digital advertising, organic social media, and PR.

(In fact, I’m readying to sign a six-figure deal with an outside consulting firm that initially reached out to me via a cold email. So it can work.)

When it doesn’t work is when the sender lies and makes me question myself.

Two cases in point in just the past week that stoked my ire. They’re tactics I’ve seen repeated recently at an alarming frequency. Know that in no way, shape or form would I ever advocate or allow Altitude to deploy such a tactic for our clients. A key corporate value is to always operate with integrity, which by definition means we don’t lie.


Dishonest B2B Email Marketing

Dishonest B2B Email Marketing Example #1

The first tack is when the sender hits our About Us or LinkedIn page and finds who they think is a good contact for the type of service they are offering. Then they email “up the chain” – in this case, to me, as president – saying that “Barbara on your team suggested I reach out to you directly. She was very excited and intrigued by our solution and wants to loop you in.”  

Of course I am going to ask Barbara if she was in touch with this company. She wasn’t. And no matter what else this company tries to get a call with someone here at Altitude, it will not work. They’ve been blacklisted. 

Dishonest B2B Email Marketing Example #2

The second tack is more gaslighting – and more infuriating.

I received a series of emails from an outsourced development shop inquiring if they could lend a hand. Must have read some of our recent news on several exciting site launches for clients, that we made Chief Marketer 200, or that we had a number of open positions promoted on LinkedIn and on our careers page.  We have a dev team that we’ve been working with for more than 10 years.

“We’ve found candidates for Altitude Marketing in the past and since we already have a contract in place, I can help immediately,” the email read. Now, we’ve been in business for 16 years and I don’t remember every detail of every hire, but we’ve never used a placement agency.

The next email read, “We’ve done business with Altitude in the past and would love to help.” 

Now, I start second-guessing myself. Did we work with these guys? Who did they place with us? I spent the time to ask our VP of web services, our CSO, and our COO. No one ever recalls working with this firm. 

Now, I’m really starting to question my memory. Needless to say, if we ever get to a point where our current dev resources aren’t scaling to meet our demand, and our in-house team is swamped, we will never reach out to this company. They may be good at what they do But they are not very good people if their approach to marketing is to … lie.

Have you received any unsolicited emails lately that really irked you? Please share. I’ll be doing a roundup article sometime this quarter. 

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.