Founders need leads and deals. Don’t pick give-aways that bury interest from real prospects. Have a real conversation and exchange cards or scan a badge afterward only if there is real interest.
I took part in a great roundtable conversation at tonight’s PATCA meeting on “Low Cost Marketing and Advertising for Consultants” Here were a couple of suggestions that I made in response to situations or challenges that other consultants put on the table.
Q: I am launching a new live chat service and trying to decide the best way to acquire new customers from cold calling, email marketing, social media outreach by posting content to Facebook pages. What would you recommend?
Technology vs. Business Model
A live chat service is a technology, what is your business model?
Who is the Customer? What Is Their Need?
In particular who is the customer and why aren’t they using one of the several dozen live chat services already available? To determine the best tool for acquiring a new customer you have to have a clear hypothesis for who the customer, their need or pain point, and how your offering is differentiated from other alternatives already available to them.
Q: I have looked at your website and based on some of your blog posts you seem to provide a full range of tactical services–content, outbound messaging, SEO, videos, newsletters, demos, etc.. Why do you talk about “leads and deals” instead of focusing on the full range of services that you offer?
Founders Want Leads and Deals
We sell to founders and they pay for leads and deals.
Any tactics or strategies we propose we have to connect the dots explicitly to how this will generate new leads or help them create opportunities or close deals. There are many good marketing services firms who sell to the Director or VP of marketing. People in those roles tend to be measured on the number of “marketing qualified leads'” (MQL) that they generate and sometimes look to contract out tactical marketing services to specialty firms.
Conor Neill has a great post up today on “a 9 Step Cheatsheet for Becoming a Public Speaking Expert” courtesy of the London Speakers Bureau. I am not usually a fan of infographics but this is is exceptionally well done. Expert public speaking requires deliberate practice the same as any other skill. Here are some key tips I took away for entrepreneurs from the list but the entire infographic is worth a look.
I signed up for a free trial of a lean project management tool (I have changed the name of the tool to <LeanTool>). A few days later I got the following nurturing E-Mail.
Subject: Are you afraid to manage your project in a lean way?
We’ve noticed that you haven’t been signing into <LeanTool> for a long time and this is a sign that you are not really committed to being lean. Remember that 96% of innovative projects fail, will your project be one of them? I hope not!
Remember that just having a gym membership is not going to help you get better, if you want to improve you have to do the work!
Log in to <LeanTool> today and start validating your project.
There are a x problems with this:
- it’s not nurturing.
- It assumes the tool is flawless and the problem is one of my motivation. In fact the tool does not work.
- I signed up for a free trial but none of the three primary dashboards in <LeanTool> for hypotheses, experiments, and results actually worked.
So I replied:
I went to add a hypothesis and it said that I need to pay.
I tried to add an experiment and it said I need to pay.
I tried to record a result and it said I need to pay.
Can you please explain your model for free evaluation?
It’s like someone showing you free samples in the supermarket and asking “Would you like to try it?” When you say “Yes” then you hear “that will be a $1″
You advertise a free trial but it seems like it is more like a free product tour, you cannot actually do anything.
Anyway, if what you are doing is working for you don’t stop but it seems weirdly antagonistic and dysfunctional
as an approach to letting me evaluate your software. Do you have any fully worked out examples I can review?
I got the following reply:
Hi Sean, thanks for writing!
We have reviewed the website and realized that there is a mistake: previously, we offered a free trial, and we haven’t updated the text in the startups page.
Sorry for the inconvenience. We really appreciate your feedback and we’d like to offer you a 14-day free trial with all functionality available and a 10% off in our pricing plans.
It seemed a little flaky so I waited a few days and checked their website, it still advertised a free trial.
“Get 1 canvas + 1 user totally FREE (No credit card is required.)”
A day later I got another copy of the original “nurturing” E-Mail.
- Sending the identical e-mail a week later is definitely not a good idea.
- Not fixing the website announcement of a free trial tells me that they are in free fall.
I got the following unsolicited E-mail this morning; I think the marketing term for this is “blogger outreach.” I have redacted the name of the sender (“YYY”) and the name of the firm/product (“XXX”) but “[press kit]” and “[review/checkout]” were included verbatim in the original. There was no footer with an unsubscribe option although phone number and address were included after the person’s title.
My name is YYY from XXX. We have developed an online innovation platform that allows businesses to create insight-driven ideation networks.
Each company has their own ideation network allowing them to set ‘challenges’ to their employees, and employees are able to suggest ideas to solve these challenges.
XXX is exciting and completely different to anything else on the market in that anybody can sign up at XXX and start their innovation network for free within minutes (much like Yammer). All you need to get started is an organisational email address.
I thought you and your readers might be interested in our service. We’re currently in beta at XXX, with currently over 120 companies signed up and using the product since a very soft launch last month. I have a [press kit] I’d like to send your way to [review/checkout] if you’d be interested, and if there’s anything else I can help with let me know!
Head of Product
<phone number and address>
One Good Thing and Five Mistakes
Good Thing: It’s from a real person with a phone number, physical address and personal email address.
- No Pricing
- No Target Customer
- Premature Send
- No Unsubscribe
“Good Morning” as an opening is mean to be a catch all. While politer than “To Whom It May Concern” it would be better to format this as an announcement. If you cannot take the time to personalize an email it has substantially less impact, or more accurately less positive impact.
I wondered how much this would cost. I checked the FAQ where there is a question:
How much does XXX cost?
Full details of our simple pricing structure is available on our pricing page.
But there is no pricing page, which indicates to me they have not worked out their business model. If this were intended to be a freemium app that might be OK, but idea management systems normally capture company proprietary data so it’s unlikely most companies want their internal process improvement ideas or their new product ideas posted on the Internet.
No Target Customer
The FAQ also has this question
Who uses XXX
Organisations of all shapes and sizes from across the globe use XXX. Due to the ease of getting started, organisations with as few as 10 employees are benefiting from using XXX, and thanks to its customisation capabilities, XXX is suitable for large enterprises too.
Based on this FAQ answer it does not appear anyone is actually using your product, or they have not figured out who their target customer is.
This sentence: “I have a [press kit] I’d like to send your way to [review/checkout] if you’d be interested, and if there’s anything else I can help with let me know!” leads me to believe they were not done editing the mass e-mail template before they hit send.
No Unsubscribe Option
This is clearly a mass e-mail without an unsubscribe option, technically it’s “unsolicited commercial e-mail” or “spam.”
I am not entirely clear on the thought process that leads a startup team to craft this e-mail as an outreach strategy. Their about page says “After lots of long nights and coffee runs, the first release of XXX was unleashed on our first customers in April 2014.” Unleashed would be a good verb for what happened with this “blogger outreach” campaign.
Direct Mail: A Letter With a Stamp Is Not Spam
In advertising it pays to be different. Letters and postcards with real stamps get through.
With everyone getting some much email SPAM, direct mail can be a way to differentiate yourself.
Postcards Work Too
We have used postcards to announce events where clients will be speaking or exhibiting. They have been very useful for raising awareness, increasing attendance at the event, and triggering a few phone calls. They don’t have to be opened to be read and are an inexpensive way to send a color image.
- Consider using unique URLs or phone numbers if you really want to track effectiveness.
- You can rent mailing lists or use your own.
- Because of the cost of this method you need to be careful to debug the message in advance: consider small targeted mailings, e-mail tests, adwords tests, or feedback from a few customers and prospects if time is short.
- We have used Overnight Prints and VistaPrint for printing as well as more than one visit to Fedex/Kinkos when time ran short.
Consider direct mail as an option for the target prospects you are trying to reach.
Nobody disputes how important “Call to Actions” are but sometimes I run out of ideas for good ones. Here is my list of favorite ones.
- Find out the latest
- Watch this short video for more information
- Check this out!
- See why we are excited!
- Learn more
- Read how we did it!
- Start saving
- Compare us to your current solution
Please suggest any that you have found effective in the comments and I will continue to update the list as they come to me.
If you are looking for advice on lead generation or closing deals consider scheduling “office hours” to walk around your current sales process or a particular opportunity you are trying to close. SKMurphy functions as a startup advisor to help you understand the process of building a business. We understand the challenges of selecting an advisor–and advising entrepreneurs–and have blogged about it a few times:
- “Seeing The Elephant: The Entrepreneur’s Challenge of Integrating Advice“
- “The Challenge of Advising Entrepreneurs“
- “Advising Entrepreneurs“
- “We Don’t Encourage Individuals to Form a Startup“
- “Doing Less with Less“
We offer a no-cost, no-obligation MVP Readiness Assessment.
Request a consultation at https://skmtest.wufoo.com/forms/skmurphy-office-hours/
SKMurphy develops highly relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage customers. We help our clients organize and clearly articulate their experiences and insights in ways that generate inquires. We develop an editorial calendar that complements SEO strategy and ecosystem partner relationships. We always consider audio, video, and animation options in addition leveraging public speaking events.
Here are a couple of articles that we developed:
- Are You Making a Medical Device?
- Nurse Case Manager’s RTW ROI Whitepaper
- Reduce risk by managing leading edge components
- Bill Review Silos Cost Payers Over $2 Billion
- Lucene: An Interview with Otis Gospodnetic
And here is some example videos
- BeamWise Demo For BiOS 2014
- UR Now Selects DataCare’s Utilization Review Software
- Tools For Maximizing Your Research ROI
- Lessons Learned Implementing the Great Demo! Methodology
- Video Animation Project for Motorola Engineering Team
Treat prospects well, you always want to allow for the possibility of another conversation. This is especially the case in B2B markets where you are likely to run into them again. They may not remember you if you were polite and treated them professionally, but they are very likely never to forget you if you wasted their time or were unprofessional.
Niche Markets Are A Small Town
“Be nice. The world is a small town.”
Most of our clients operate in business to business niche markets where there are between roughly 500 to 10,000 possible customers. Some niches are smaller with perhaps a few hundred. This does not mean that there will only be a few hundred users (there may be hundreds of users just at one company) but it’s an indication of the size of prospect pool.
Popular Startup Marketing Techniques Wil Make You Unpopular
I have a problem with some of the more popular startup marketing techniques that involve fake landing pages, surveys that offer no benefit to a prospect, and other techniques that simply waste a potential customer’s time without the possibility of offering them any benefit.
While I am not a fan of cold calling, if you are cold calling with an offer that you believe can help the prospect and that you can deliver on if the prospect expresses interest then this is at least potentially the beginning of a business relationship.
Treating prospects like you will never encounter them again is a poor idea, in particular when selling to businesses.
Related Blog Posts
While at the Sales 2.0 Conference on Oct 30, 2007, I attended a panel presentation titled Lead Qualification & Cultivation. The complete transcripts are available at the Sales 2.0 portal, I have extracted Stu’s opening story to pair it with one of my own about iPod fishbowl leads.
Lead Qualification and Cultivation Panel
- Joan Babinski, VP of Marketing, Brainshark
- Kathleen Bruno, Vice President, Visible Path
- Jean Tali, Vice President Corporate Sales, Genius.com
Stu Silverman’s opening remarks:
So let me first start off by giving my definition of the old way [of lead generation]. So we’ve got a $40 million early stage venture-backed company, maybe 12 reps in the field, no inside sales group. And you’ve got a good marketing group and they’ve gone to a tradeshow and they have acquired 400 leads from that tradeshow. So some of those leads are good of course, some of those leads are not good of course.
And then there’s the hundred or so that came from the fishbowl where you were raffling off the iPod and hoping to get a number of good quality leads from the iPod fishbowl leads as I call them.
So let’s say you come back with these 400 leads and what usually happens? In many companies there’s no qualification of those leads and they’re given to the field sales force. And then we all kind of know what happens there. The field sales reps start to call a few of them, they hit or miss and they then feel that the leads are really crap and then they don’t follow up with them. They complain with them and there’s enormous amount of waste of money and time and really significantly a lot of frustration between sales and marketing. So that’s what my example of the old way is and believe me it’s still going on.
IPod Fishbowl Leads
I recently attended the Streaming Media West conference. Just like Stu described it, almost every booth was an early stage venture-backed company with approximately six reps in the field and no inside sales group. These booths had the exact same lead generation strategy, raffling off an iPod for business cards. Having made this mistake before, I can confidently assume that at the end of the show, the marketing team feels ecstatic because they have acquired hundreds of leads. Of course, some of those leads are good, but most of them are not. So now what?
Back at the office each rep is given a stack of cards to start the cold calling process. Having been there, done that, this usually results with frustrated sales reps because of the enormous amount of wasted time and money spent on dialing for dollars. This could have been avoided if the booth people were more concerned with qualifying “real leads” instead of collecting business cards.
At trade shows, its not just the number of leads but the quality of leads. It’s a chance to have a conversation with a prospect, which is more difficult if you are drawing folks who are only interested in the iPod. As Stu coins it, “its not what is inside your funnel but what is moving through your funnel.” Startups do not have the time or the budget to waste trying to filter through hundreds of business cards. Startups are much better served using show floor time to qualify a hand full of serious prospects instead of wasting time afterward eliminating the prize entries.