Saturday, December 29, 2012

Founders: Stop Pitching, Start Engaging

I love the founder spirit--the earnestness, the drive, the hope, the belief in doing something better, the commitment to improving people's lives and maybe making a buck while doing it.

And that earnestness leads to emails like this:
Mr. Smith,
My name is Charlie Crystle. I run a company called that allows people to express their dread and despair only on Sunday nights, which is a huge market because most of us grew up in an antiquated industrial-age education system that values delivering big papers and projects on Monday mornings, and like most kids I hated homework and loved to play on the weekends (and weekdays, and during school).  
So I'm raising $500,000 to fund this post-industrial despair-absorption site that will free us from the shackles of our own memories and expectations. I'm wondering if you could take a look at the site and consider investing. 
I really appreciate it. Thanks! 
Charlie Crystle
Head shake. That's one long email from someone who poor Mr. Smith barely knows, if he knows them at all.

That's one version I saw this week (founders in this post shall remain nameless). It's basically an ad--a pitch and an ask all at once to someone you barely know or don't know at all. 

The other version I saw this week was about the same length, but it was all product pitch--3 paragraphs worth. Worthy of a radio ad, but not for getting the sale, or investment. Or phone call. 

Founders. Stop this. Please. You're sending aspirations wrapped in ads and completely missing the point of outreach. 

You think you're busy? I know you are. They're busy too. And if their not busy, they certainly don't want to wade through your email ad pitching your company or product. 

What's your goal? 

What do you want from them--customer or investor? Ultimately it's a sale or investment. Great. I get that. I want that for you too. 

But that's the last step in a series of steps to getting there. Start with the first step: acknowledging them as real people and asking for their time. 

So what do you really want? 


You want to talk with them. Engage. Converse. Meet. Chat. Show them what ya got. Break bread. 

So ask for that. Appeal to their sense of self worth (ego) in a positive, honest way. Recognize their experience: 
Hello--I'm Charlie Crystle and I'm building a startup. We met at the Dread Conference last summer. 
You're one of the few people I know with the right experience to help solve a big problem--Sunday Dread.  
Would you be willing to speak for a few minutes this week about what I'm working on?   I'd truly appreciate your insights. 
Thank you for your time, 
Charlie Crystle 
cell: 717-555-1212  
That might even be too long, but it's not a pitch. It's a request to engage. One founder I know tried this approach instead of the full product pitch and got 25 replies out of maybe 40 sent. He treated them like people he respected, and not a target market.

Authentic engagement will get you a lot further than plastering your pitch everywhere. Build relationships--and that takes time and consideration--and you'll get closer to achieving your goals.

Does anyone else have advice on this? Better ways? The flaws in my suggested approach? 

1 comment:

  1. You're aware there's a fix for this no mobile comments appearing problem?