I received this email last week, containing a link to a software platform demo. Apparently the link had been omitted from some preceding email, which I couldn’t recall receiving.
“I forgot to send over this screencast, which will give you a basic overview of the application It’s 6 mins long and will get you familiar with certain core concepts in the app when downloading and installing: [link]”
It was an office day for me, so I Googled the sender and the company, which has an open-source CRM platform. I did what any CEO would do (if they gave this type of email solicitation a second thought): I checked him out on LinkedIn. I wasn’t connected to the sender, although he is listed as the VP of Sales Engineering for this tool.
I sent this response back to the VP: “Can’t say I ever received a first email re: what this is all about (although I already know). Is there some communication that precedes this?”
Late in the day, the VP answered back, including his original email to me. His signature now listed him as the Co-Founder of this venture. Here’s what he said:
“I sent you an email in October. Did you receive it? I found your site when I was researching techy developers that could give us some solid input on our app. If you get a chance to take a look, I would be grateful for your thoughts and input.”
This individual wanted me to assess their product platform and lend my pro bono consulting time, so that they could improve their venture. While this company may have “found” my web site, and decided that the URL “fit” into what they assumed was their needs, they surely didn’t read what I do for a living.
Hmmm. OK. So you want my feedback. Let me tell you what I think.
I build businesses for technical start-ups and entrepreneurs (like yours), so they are in a healthy position to receive funding from investors. I inject entrepreneurship back into mature manufacturing companies so they grow. I am always interested in what’s out there, and how it compares with other ventures competing in various spaces.
I checked you out and went to your website and watched your home page video, describing the platform. I gave you the 3 minutes of my time that it took to watch the video. I had to click on yet another (and longer) demo video to find out more. I opted out of giving your venture another 6 minutes of my time to view a “tell me more” video. Why?
You didn’t get my attention at your home page “hello.” In fact, you are lucky I didn’t delete your message without reading it. I’m quite sure I deleted your original email because it indicated you didn’t know me at all.
My question to you is: So What? Is this your version of Customer Discovery? I’d say it’s more like a ready-fire-aim mess.
I wonder how many of these mis-fired emails the VP sent out? Let’s take a look at this ready-fire-aim initiative and its impact on this venture.
- If I haven’t responded to an initial email sent over two months ago, and my opinion is important, where is the follow up phone call or email contact? Two months is too long and too late to engage me.
- If you are one of the many engineering and IT start-ups who feel that customer discovery is the same thing as selling, and selling is the same thing as demo-ing, please think again. An email and a link to a video demo will not close the sale.
- Is your demo pitch all about the cool and “enchanting” (this VP’s words, not mine) features and benefits of your platform? Well, they may be cool to you, but if I even take the time to look at your video demo and still am left saying: “So What?, you lost your business development opportunity. Since there is no email or phone follow-up, you will never know just what it was that turned me off (more customer discovery, by the way – it’s not just on the software development side of things).
- Do you make the assumption that the folks on the receiving end of your email blasts are just as fixated with bright shiny objects as you are? Not everyone has the time, or interest, to play with your software platform– and give you free new product development consulting in the process.
This venture, and this VP, made some incorrect assumptions. Some big ones.
If it’s all about the customer, then why are your sales, marketing, and customer development approaches all about you? You may open-source your software development, but are the solutions achieved by developers with mindsets just like yours really the folks who will make the decision to buy? I didn’t think so either. Ready-fire-aim.
Every customer touch point is a sales opportunity, even if you are a technical professional reaching out to another technical professional. Your emails, voice mails, and in person exchanges all set up an impression of your professional worthiness. Have you ever thought about your emails this way?
How costly is this ready-fire-aim strategy?
Babette Ten Haken’s book, Do YOU Mean Business? is a Finalist, Top Sales & Marketing Book – 2012. She builds businesses that drive revenue and are investment-worthy. Babette blogs about business development for engineering intensive manufacturing and entrepreneurial start-ups.