Startups often stay in the state of ‘I am changing the world’ and while this is surely the right passion to have, it’s very important that they rub on the same passion while communicating with others.
At Pi, we receive almost 25-35 emails daily from startup founders/companies (including email from wannabes/excluding press releases from biggies) and here is how I categorize these emails
#1. I don’t give a shit [BCC]
Typically BCCed, and starts like this
We just wanted to send across our newly launched startup<>com and request you to publish the press release in your site.
On an average day, such emails do not get attention for more than 20 seconds. If you don’t give a damn to others and don’t care about whom you are approaching, the channel basically doesn’t mean much to you. And the feeling is mutual.
An improved version from point 1.
Typically, individuals and companies have to send multiple emails to bloggers/media companies and they end up copy/pasting the email without making the appropriate changes (they have a template where name/company names are changed).
What surprises me is the lack of awareness of email marketing software/services which does give you the mechanism to send ‘personalized email in a very impersonal way’.
In such cases, I typically reply back asking the sender if this was sent to us by mistake?
#3. Where is the context?
“Would you like to review <X>? We launched couple of days back and have been covered by <abc>, <crap>.com media sites.
Why don’t you tell me the product features/usage/problem you are solving, instead of sending a press release? In some of the cases, the sender doesn’t know too many details of the product (happens with marketing intern), but as a startup you need to share the ‘basic information’ across all hires.
Similarly, there are emails whether its not clear whether the founder wants a feedback/bounce off ideas or wants a coverage on Pi?
Setting context helps, as one allocates time/resource based on the context. And don’t feel shy to say ‘I want coverage for the new feature launch’. Marketing is your birthright and you better do it.
#4. I want <> [Hurry]
Sometimes founders are in a hurry to get a feedback/review without setting the right relationship in place. Though I don’t care so much about the relationship part, but its human to reply to somebody whom you know (after all, review takes a certain amount of time) than a complete stranger (who doesn’t even care to introduce him/herself).
No harm in sending such emails, but great entrepreneurs often build relationships before they start reaping benefits of these relationships.
So what works?
There is no formula here, but given that the other person reading your email is also human, its important to understand the context a little bit. Relationship building always helps (some of the startups with whom I connected 3 years back simply call up (without any prior notice) and share the company update, i.e. no formal process).
Most importantly, a company’s external communication needs to have a defined baseline, process and the time to define that is now (waiting till funding doesn’t help!).
Of course, I am not suggesting that you need to suck up to get profiled (we are equally guilty of not replying to genuine emails), but the important part to note is that we are still not in the decade where bots community, publish and read. The communication still involves human beings.
What’s your opinion?