Automation technology has brought incredible value to our lives, allowing us to accomplish tasks more efficiently than ever before. Used correctly, these tools can provide a significant competitive advantage for you or your organization.

Unfortunately, there is a tradeoff: the ease of automating can trick us into emphasizing quantity over quality. We occasionally fall into the habit of doing low-quality work at a high level of scale.

I am fortunate to have built a loyal following of listeners on the Elevate Podcast. As a result, I often receive multiple inquiries per day from PR firms, executive assistants and booking services pitching potential guests for future episodes.

The vast majority of these pitches are form letters that fail to address, at a base level, why the guest is a fit for the show’s specific focus. On top of it, at least 80 percent of them have mismatched font sizing and color, or misaligned bullets that are clearly a result of copy-and-paste errors. They also include feeble attempts at personalization–i.e., “I love your show”—when it would only take 30 seconds to mention a specific episode by name.

I even occasionally receive an obvious mail-merge failure, where the note literally includes a sentence such as, “I’d love for David to join you on the {Insert Show Name}.”

This low-quality approach is likely repeated hundreds, or thousands, of times with very little success. Expressed as a math formula, it would look something like this:

Poor Quality x High Volume = Poor Outcome

Recipients also don’t feel obligated to respond to template-based letters that don’t attempt to make a genuine connection.

I’ve tried to learn from this experience when pursuing prominent guests who I want to interview on Elevate. Scalable, low-quality templates will never work with people are who are exceptionally busy or highly in-demand.

Recently, I reached out with an invite to a speaker, author and professor I admire greatly, and whose work I have referenced frequently. I had also reached out in the past, but the timing was never right.

This time, I decided to test a new, decidedly unscalable approach. We did the extensive research we would normally do for a booked guest and used it to draft 10 thoughtful questions that referenced deep knowledge of her work. I did the outreach personally, sharing my genuine admiration for her work, referencing other Elevate guests I knew she worked closely with and presenting the sample questions as a preview of what I hoped to ask her.

To my surprise, not only did she agree to come on the show, but she also asked if she could use the pitch as an example of how to write an email that won’t get deleted.

It was a far better use of time to do the research necessary to secure a world class guest, rather than sending 100 impersonal outreaches and getting no replies. Basic multiplication says that if you take an approach that is likely to generate an output of 0, it won’t matter what volume you multiply against that 0. Low quality effort at scale does not produce an ancillary benefit.

Unlike the first equation shared above, a better formula for success is:

High Quality x Low Volume = Desired (or Good) Outcome

I would always encourage you to emphasize quality over quantity in your approach. In a world overrun by thoughtless automation, it’s a huge competitive advantage that can set you apart.

It really doesn’t take much to stand out from the crowd, but don’t let that be your minimum benchmark. Take the stairs, not the elevator.

Quote of The Week

“Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”


– Bill Gates