Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-02-17
  Pitching to customers, investors, and anybody else.
Over at marketingShirpa, they recently wrote a great article about pitching stories to the press, but I think their three points applies to any situation: potential customers, investors, prospective employees, your spouse (when she asks for the Nth time when she might expect you to start getting a paycheck) ...

> Tip #1. Targeted email subject lines

(general version) Have a focused and short message that resonates with your audience.

This is especially hard for me, as our startup is about multiple things. We're providing business tools for IM, but so are over 50 other competitors. We have a better "vision" but that doesn't count for much. We have some features that the others don't, but that's not the whole story. We are also offering the software as a utility, sort of the ASP model, but with the equipment located on the customer's premises. So our "value proposition" is a mess. I'm still working on that.

> Tip #2. Give reporters the tools to pitch your story

(general version) Even if you convey your message to your recipient, the battle isn't over.

Once we've explained what we do to the IT manager at a prospective client, the sales cycle isn't over. He has to have the right information when he takes the request to CIO. After pitching your plan to one partner at a VC firm (hopefully the Senior Partner, and yes your first meeting will most likely only be with one person), they'll need something to present to the other partners in their weekly meeting. Even your spouse needs information to be able to speak "with authority" as she answers questions from the family about how "the startup" is going.

I wasn't up on this, but luckily our CEO drew on his business development background and nailed this one squarely. Our sales material, presentations, etc are all geared to not only convert the recipient, but give them the ammunition they need to continue telling the story to others.

> Tip #3. Case studies

You've got to have a product, you've got to have users, and you really need a customer that will step up and say, "we needed this and it really works."

New customers (beta testers, lets be real), feel a lot more comfortable if they're not the first. Being able to point at a handful of existing users, and running systems that have stood up to actual use will make them feel a lot better. And VCs aren't going to take your word that the market exists or that your product is the best at targeting the market. They're going to want to see customers.

As they said in the article:
If your client can't come through with reference accounts, understand that you may only get coverage in mediocre media.
"A brave PR person will stand up and say, I can't pitch the publications you want."

Same thing for customers, and doubly so for investors. "No customers? No thanks." Well, really they never say no; they just won't return your phone calls after that.

[links]
The original article is here, but was dated 2/13 and may not be accessible after ten days (or so).

 
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