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Product Marketing, Product Management and Sales: The Power Triad

Product Marketing, Product Management, and Sales: The Power Triad  

We often associate the roles of product marketing and product management together. When the right product marketer and product manager find each other, they can be an unstoppable force that sends products rocketing through the marketplace. In my time working as a product marketer, I have worked with some incredible product managers. But before I get too far ahead, let’s talk about the roles of product marketing and product managers.  

Product Manager 

Your product manager is responsible for defining and creating a product. They own the product roadmap. They take care of the overall vision and strategy. They know the ins and outs of a product, are responsible for the features, know the customers, the market, where it’s headed, and where the product needs to go to keep pace with a changing market. They are responsible for pricing and understanding how it affects a customer. They need to understand competitors and what they are doing. A good product manager must keep an eye on a lot of balls to find that exact sweet spot for their product to make it a success.  

Product Marketing 

Product marketing is responsible for messaging and branding. They help position the product in the marketplace. They tell the product’s story, giving it and the customer a voice and bring the product’s value to life. Product marketing helps with competitive analysis and market research. They are a collaborative partner for product managers.  

Collaboration is Key for Product Management and Product Marketing 

The best experience I have had as a product marketer was when I was embedded in a product team. I had a strong product manager (which is key to the success of any product). He had learned to trust marketing at that point (which is a story for another blog). We were truly a collaborative partnership and worked together for the product’s success. He was a strong leader for the entire team (technically as well). He was clear on the features of the products and how they would help customers, and we were able to craft a concise and compelling story to go along with it.  However, we also had a secret weapon that often goes under-utilized. 

Your Salesperson is a Powerful Ally   

The person closest to your customers who can help you get a lot of information on what they are doing with the product, how your messaging is being received, and what your competitors are doing is your salesperson! Meet with them often, pick their brains, get their feedback, and ask them to sit in on meetings/sales calls so you can see firsthand how your messaging is being shared, how demos are going, and what questions are being asked. The closer you and your product manager can be to your salesperson/sales team, the better! It’s a great way for you and your product manager to establish relationships internally and externally to help build a stronger product.  

The product marketer/product manager relationship is a key one for the success of any product. Having that collaboration to ensure a strong message and brand is essential. But layering in the salesperson gives you an added advantage of getting real-time feedback while sitting in on meetings and hearing from customers what they like (or what they are struggling with) that can help take your product to the next level.  

Author: Amanda Brewer

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com

The Importance of Storytelling for Emerging Technologies

I have spent all my marketing career working in software. As an aerospace engineer turned marketer, I have worked for a commercial-off-the-shelf aerospace software company, an industry-leading infrastructure design company, and now an uncrewed traffic management solution provider.  These companies have introduced solutions into technology spaces that were starting to emerge. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the marketing teams during the launch of these products and know just how important storytelling is when launching a product into an emerging technology space.

Storytelling – Connecting with a New Audience

As marketers, we all know we need to tell stories to get people engaged with our products to help keep our message clear and memorable. But how do you evoke a story with a product just coming to market in an emerging space? How do you make that connection to the audience and make them understand how important this new technology is and how important your product is to this new space? Finding the right pain point to connect to your audience can be incredibly tricky, and there is never a “one-size-fits-all.”  Explaining uncrewed traffic management solutions can sometimes seem daunting. However, we help manage low-level airspace traffic for uncrewed vehicles. For instance, if a medical delivery drone is in the air in route with a liver that is needed quickly for a transplant, while there are also cargo delivery drones that may be nearby out for package delivery, we help track those flights. We ensure they stay on track and help prioritize them if there should be any conflicts on the routes. We monitor them if something should go wrong and help with re-routing or finding alternative landing sites.  We visualize and analyze the airspace with additional data, including building, terrain, population, and weather. In short, we help ensure that the airspace is used safely and efficiently.

Connecting with Stories Important to the Audience

Being at the “tip of the sword” for an emerging technology in terms of marketing is exciting, but it takes a lot of work to make sure that your message gets out clearly and effectively. For us, it’s not just the uncrewed traffic management solution industry that is emerging. The delivery drone and urban air mobility markets are emerging as well. It will need a lot of well-crafted storytelling to help the industry understand what is happening and help the public understand and accept what is going on. That goes for all emerging technologies. Stories that connect them and their lives and make their lives better will go a long way to help them accept and adopt emerging technologies faster.

Author: Amanda Brewer

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com

Are you college ready? – Preparing for your child’s first year

It’s August 15th and next week my wife and I will be moving my daughter into her dorm so that she can kick off her freshman year of college.  It truly fits the definition of bittersweet.  On one hand, I am extremely proud that she has made it this far and seemingly has a semblance of a plan.  On the other hand, I am going to miss her so much that it hurts.  Kids at this age are literally starting a new chapter and many of us (including the parents) struggle to manage this momentous occasion with grace.  

At 18 years old, our kids are faced with some pretty daunting choices.  What college should they go to?  How far away to I want to be from my family?  What major should I choose?  What do I want to do with the rest of my life?  These decisions are non-trivial even for the most mature 18 year old, imagine how this is compounded for those that still have a ways to go in the maturity department.  Even if your kid has a great head on their shoulders and seemingly knows what they want to do, there are still many things to prepare for like financing for example. 

As parents, what should we be doing? 

There is no single, right or wrong answer here.  Every situation is different, but I certainly appreciated the advice and feedback that I was able to accumulate from friends and colleagues.  I will share some of that for you and hopefully it will give you some peace of mind to help you get through this (or prepare for it). 

It’s been a long time since I graduated college and back then things were a bit simpler.  I was fortunate enough that my parents were able to finance my four years of college.  But 30 years ago, college tuition was much more affordable.  Comparing the cost of a four year degree from the university that I attended back in the early 90’s to today, it has more than doubled.   

Consider this:  according to educationdata.org 

  • The average cost of a 4-year degree at an in-state public university (living on campus) is $104,108 
  • The average cost of a 4-year degree at a private university is $223,360 

My first house was barely more expensive than the first bullet and way under the second.  What really sucks about all of this is that most kids entering into college have no idea what this will mean for them financially if they have to cover the entire bill themselves.  My daughter is a straight-A student who took all honors and advanced placement classes in high school.  When I sat her down to talk about the cost of her out-of-state college choice and tried to prepare her for the financial burden she would be facing when she graduated… her answer was “YOLO”.   All I could do was shake my head. 

My wife and I made a promise that when our kids were ready to go off to college we would guide them the best that we could, but we would not force them to make a particular decision.  That wasn’t an absolute, mind you… I did have some ground rules.  For example, they have to pick a school based on the education that they were seeking.  I wasn’t going to let them go to University of Hawaii just because it was a vacation destination.  Outside of that, they were pretty much in the driver’s seat. 

If you are anything like me, you might have started out with this grand idea that you would provide a full ride for your children.  I know I wanted to do this, because my Mom and Dad did it for me.  I felt it was my duty.  Well, after 27 years of marriage, 3 kids and a healthy wack with the reality hammer I had to come up with a compromise.   

Here is “the deal” that my wife and I provided to our kids: 

  • We started a 529 for each child after they were born.  I deposit a portion of every paycheck into their accounts and it’s weighted by their age (and thus proximity to needing the money) 
  • Each child has a savings account that is deposit only until they graduate college (or equivalent).  We put a healthy portion of their cash gifts throughout the years into this account up until about 12 years of age.  My deal was that as long as they did this, I would double the deposit amount.  So if my daughter got a $25 check from her aunt for her 10th birthday, I would deposit $50 into her account. 
  • When it comes time to decide where to go to school and what to major in, it’s completely their choice (within reason).  They would get whatever has accumulated in the 529, but the balance is on them. 
  • I also promised the kids that I would help them as much as I can financially after the 529 runs out but, that is ONLY to the extent possible without sacrificing my retirement or our current lifestyle. 

I think that is a pretty fair deal.  The fact that the 529 is like a salary cap from dear old Dad means they have to make some calculated decisions.  In-state vs out-of-state, private vs public, trade school vs University, etc.  I am not sharing this information in hopes of making me look like a hero.  I honestly feel as though I should be doing more, but I feel that this plan will help kick start some of the critical thinking that many of our kids need to develop sooner than later. 

I also want to let parents know that it’s ok to be a little nervous yourself.  It’s ok to even panic a little bit.  This is a pivotal point in our kids’ lives as they transition into adulthood.  These are the same kids that leave their clothes on the floor in their bedroom, forget to turn off lights, leave messages on the steamed up mirrors in the bathroom and wear shorts in the middle of winter.  How the hell are they supposed to take on the logistical nightmare of preparing for the first year of college on their own? 

Let’s stop here for now… this is enough to think about for a little bit.  My next post (or maybe posts) on this topic will cover a few other things that I learned along the way that might help you out: 

  • Visiting colleges 
  • College loans 
  • Scholarships & grants 
  • Checklist of things to prepare for from graduation to move in day 

Please tell me about “the deal” that you made (or plan to make) with your kids or if there are other things you wish you knew about at the time. 


T-Shirt Tuesday!

The SavvyGrapevine and our creative team are bringing a new feature to the site and we think you are gonna love it.  We are going to be hyper original and call it “T-Shirt Tuesday”.  I’ll give you three guesses what it’s all about. 

Give up?  Ok, I will keep you in suspense no longer.  On Tuesday’s throughout the year, we will post about a new, original, one-of-a-kind logo T-Shirt that you can order via the links we provide in the post itself.  For now, we are using Redbubble, which is a fantastic marketplace for artists to sell their works of art. 

One of the reasons we love Redbubble is because you can put our logos on more than just T-shirts. 

When you follow the links from our artwork you will find that you can put it on stuff like: 

Because we are going for unique, one-of-a-kind themes that have a pop-culture vibe, we may not have new designs every Tuesday, but we will try.  This could change if we get a great response to the segment and start seeing an increase in orders.  We also want to hear from you… if you have any great ideas for a new design, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do. 

Let’s talk about our first ever design! 

Click the image to see it on a shirt
Click the image to see it on a shirt

While we do not fashion ourselves as “Politicos” here at the SavvyGrapevine, our first T-shirt does call attention to the current swirl around the 2024 election, at least as far as it’s shaping up today.  Regardless of which side of the isle you favor, I think that many would agree that pickings are slim.  Personally, I would welcome a change from Trump and Biden and when we came up with our spin on the “Straight Outta Compton” title, I had to laugh out loud as I feel it sums up the way many Americans are thinking today. 

Click the image to see it on a shirt

If you are like me and getting fed up with the current political climate.. Make a small statement and consider grabbing some merch from our Redbubble marketplace! 


A story about a toaster named Art

My family and I have been using the same toaster for over 25 years.  This toaster has been such an integral part of our daily lives that I felt compelled to write about it.  

To tell this story, we have to roll the calendar back almost 27 years.  My toaster’s name is Art.  Art, short for Cuisinart, is an American toaster who was born in China and given a French name.  He came into our lives as a gift to celebrate the marriage to my beautiful wife and has been giving warmth to bread and bagels ever since.  Although Art’s life expectancy should have been capped at approximately 10 years, he continues to defy the toaster gods by flickering to life on demand every day.

Art has survived five different geographic moves throughout his lifespan.  Two of those journeys were across the country.  I have lost count of all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks in which Art had to diligently deliver his warming magic for my family.

When we first brought him home, the unboxing was magnificent! It reminded me of that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when the bad guy opens the Ark and is basking in the glow of its awesomeness… right before faces started melting.  Or even the scenes from Pulp Fiction when Vincent or Jules would open the enigmatic briefcase.

There he stood… all 10.8(L) x 10.7(W) x 7.2(H) inches of him.  A shiny, white, heat box with four sexy 1.5 inch wide openings to deposit your baked goods.  Art was ahead of his time from a technology perspective… an overachiever if you will.  He had dual zone heating and three different modes of operation.  He could defrost frozen bread, if all you wanted was a quick sandwich right from the freezer. He could even reheat a slice of toast if that’s what you desired.  To this day I never knew a person who wanted to reheat toast, but dammit… Art could do it!

Behold the Toaster of the Covenant!

As you would expect, like most cheap kitchen appliances Art started to show signs of age after a few years. Occasionally you have to push the toast lever a couple of times before it would catch.  He also had scratches and discolorations from all the hours of tireless action he had put forth.  Char marks stained the openings of the bread slots and things like that.  Art was becoming a bit of an eye sore if you ask me, but my devout wife showed Art the same level of loyalty that she showed me and made up for his blemishes by hiding him in a cabinet until he was needed for service.

Things started to get ugly when Art would occasionally forget to pop the toast or bagel when it’s perfect warming time was up.  This resulted in bagels that looked like hockey pucks and toast that you could use in a sheet sander.  One time I swear he even burped a spark when I pushed a piece of toast down and rewarded me with a wisp of smoke after frantically ejecting the bread.  As far as I was concerned, Art paid his dues and was ready to be retired.  So, I ordered a replacement for Art.  

Art’s replacement in waiting

Since Art was a beloved servant to my family for almost 10 years at this point, I stuck with the same family stock that he came from.  This time I went with ebony color instead of eggshell to better match our current kitchen.  I was so excited that we were going to bring a newer generation of toasting genius into our lives, I could hardly wait until it came so that I could surprise my family.  However, my excitement was short-lived.  When the new toaster finally arrived and I brought it to the kitchen my wife had a horrified look on her face.  This was far from the welcoming smile that I had expected.  “NO, NO, NO!  We do NOT need that!”  Apparently over the years, my wife has developed an admiration for this counter appliance and is willing to cope with the burnt toast and potential fire hazard.  I literally could not believe what I was witnessing.  Who wouldn’t want a shiny, brand new piece of technology to play with?  That said, I was smart enough to choose my battle and I quickly succumbed to the idea that we could just place this bad boy on a shelf in our basement until it was called upon for a changing of the guard.

That was almost 17 years ago.  On this day, April 20, 2023 I heard excitement from the kitchen as my daughter and wife were doing their morning rituals.  It sounded like celebration from my daughter and despair from my wife, but I was oblivious as I was not fully awake and ready to start the day.  Trying to piece together what was going on from the context of the intermittent portions of the conversation, I started to get excited.  Could this be it?  Is this the day that I can finally unveil the now technologically obsolete replacement for Art?  This put a surprised pep in my step as I hurried to get showered and dressed so that I could go downstairs and perform the unboxing that should have happened a decade ago.

As I descended the stairs a little later, the house was quiet.  My wife and kids had gone off to start their day as mine was just getting started.  I could still smell the faint aroma of burnt toast.  A final gift from Art, which was no doubt coming from the bottom of the garbage can in our kitchen.  However, my excitement quickly fizzled when I turned the corner into the kitchen to see Art still sitting atop the island in our kitchen.  I probably should have been overjoyed by the sight before me.  After all, my wife has been on a 27 year campaign to save Art as if he was a baby seal or something… but honestly, I felt defeated and even a twinge of anger as Art gets the last laugh yet again.

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com 

Sales is hard on a good day, why are some sales people making it worse for the rest of us?

For starters, I am not talking about car sales, furniture sales, door to door sales and things like that.  I am referring to corporate B2B sales where you have to “dial for dollars” on the regular.  Wow, I just really dated myself didn’t I?   

What is “dialing for dollars” anyway?  Direct dialing and voicemail are pretty much useless as an effective prospecting strategy today.  Back when I first started selling (about 28 years ago), people would actually pick up their phones and check their voicemails.  Since the dawn of caller ID it’s become much easier to identify and ignore inbound sales calls.  However, even with caller ID, you could still leave a voicemail and get an occasional call back if it was a well-timed and well-crafted one.  But, very few sales professionals leave messages anymore.  Sales prospecting has almost completely evolved into the digital space. 

This is where my head really starts to hurt. 

I have been a sales professional my entire career, mostly in the technology field.  I have sold into every level of the organization from the C-suite on down.  Selling to Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and everything in-between.  So, it’s safe to say that I have developed a pretty good, well rounded skill set.  However, that doesn’t mean that learning has stopped for me.  I still pick up new ideas and strategies from my peers, books, blog posts, articles, etc.  As our world evolves, so must our techniques and approaches.  I am not saying this to brag or pound my chest, it’s just to give you some context as I break down what I think is wrong with today’s sales approaches and why they are ruining prospecting for the rest of us. 

Back when everyone started to use emails on a daily basis for internal communications, I found that mixing in emails with phone calls and voicemails was fairly effective in reaching my prospecting targets.  Email allowed us to craft a succinct message and get it in front of a prospect very easily.  Then back in 2002 when LinkedIn was created I truly fell in love.  There is literally a plethora of data that you can mine from a well-crafted LinkedIn profile (I promise write future posts on how to mine the best nuggets from a profile).  Combining nuggets of personal information from a LinkedIn profile and Google search, with an email or voicemail allowed me to make a quick personal connection with my prospect and increased the probability that I would get a call or message back. 

Well, fast forward to today… it’s 8:00 am in the morning and my work inbox has no less than a half dozen in-bound prospecting emails.  By Lunchtime I have double that number and by the end of the day I could have up to 30 or 40.  Oh, and since many companies are outsourcing the prospecting function now, you literally get hit around the clock as emails are coming from all different time zones.  That is just in email!  LinkedIn used to be like a secret fishing spot for prospecting.  Many used it as an online resume to help keep their job history up to date and it was a fantastic place to network and look for employment (and still is by the way).  But today, it’s harder and harder to appreciate the true value of the tool because we get inundated with unsolicited InMails in our message box, paid advertisements in the feeds and totally random, impersonal requests (or invites) to connect. 

Ok, ok… so why am I complaining?  Times change, technology evolves… I get it.  What frustrates me is that there is so much lack of creativity and such a penchant for volume over quality that it makes it harder than necessary for the true professionals that have honed their craft with practice and finesse to succeed.  The tsunami of pure crap that is coming through to our desktops and mobile devices is so bad that people mostly just hit the delete button without reading the actual content.  So I have a message to all the newbies out there who are blindly shooting holes in our profession: 

For each poorly written email or message that you send, you are not only wasting your time and company’s money, you are killing off the hopes of a good sales person getting an email or message read.  That in turn is killing YOUR future chances of the same.  For God’s sake, use spell check!  Read your email before you hit send… then read it again… out loud… and make sure it sounds like the spoken language and not like it was written by a six year old.  I know that you probably have a boss that thinks they are great sales mentor and they probably are telling you that volume is critical and that you have to send n number of emails to get n number of responses.  Well, there is some truth to that, but it has diminishing returns if your messaging sucks.  Please, at least do some minimal research on your target before you reach out.  Even if you are given a list of contacts from A to Z, look them up, find their website and skim it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have received emails or InMails where statements were made about me or my company as if they did research, but it was clear that they didn’t even go to the website.  I know this because what was said was so blatantly incorrect. I have even gone so far as to reply to the message asking what it was about me or my company that made them reach out.  Almost 100% of the time, they don’t even reply. 

I could go on for several more paragraphs, but I won’t do that to you.  Instead, I am going to wage a campaign right here on the Savvy Grapevine.  In future posts, I will point out the horrible mistakes that people are making every day and try to help them improve upon what they are doing.  I will even make examples out of the successful prospecting attempts as there are some good ones out there.  This war that I want to wage on poor sales techniques will only be successful if we call the bad ones on their BS and applaud the good ones.  I would love to hear about your experience with this kind of thing and if you have any good or fun examples, please share them in the comments or email me and we can dissect them together!

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com

LinkedIn: To connect, or not to connect, that is the question

Maybe I am being a bit dramatic with my Hamlet reference in the title.  Whether you connect with someone on LinkedIn or not, we all know that it’s not like pondering the pros and cons of life versus death.  However, I do believe the decision should not be taken lightly.  I have been using LinkedIn as a business tool for many years now and I have established some ground rules that I try to stick by.  Here are three key examples:

Try to make meaningful connections and don’t accept random invites

Almost 100% of the time, I will only accept invites from people with whom I have met, spoken with or traded emails.  I will only invite people if they meet that criteria as well.  The main reason that I do this is because I want to be able to make a meaningful introduction or referral if someone is in need of one.  Another reason to avoid “randos” is to prevent them from sponging off of your hard work and relationships.  Your network is like gold and should be protected.  There are other reasons as well, but we can talk more about those another time.

Avoid “icky” connections

Just meeting someone doesn’t mean they would be good for your network.  Your network is a reflection of you and like it or not, some people will judge you by the company you keep.  It’s often tempting to want to stack your network with impressive titles or people from big or well known companies but the individual person can cost you more than the benefit of having that title or company on your list.  I have had VPs and even CEOs that I thought were shady in business and life and have removed them from my network because I did not want my association to be obvious.  Even customers or business partners can fall into this category.  Just because you have closed a lot of deals with a particular customer does not mean that everyone in your market thinks they are great business professionals. 

Try to post useful content and avoid out-right commercials

This one might sound obvious, but I still see a lot of offenders in this area.  LinkedIn has changed quite a bit since its start and more companies and individuals are treating it like a digital billboard.  LinkedIn has paid advertising for those that want to get additional exposure as well as a host of other subscriptions for various purposes.  Don’t get me wrong, most people use LinkedIn to promote something at some point.  I just feel as though it’s getting more saturated with fluff and less valued content.  In my experience the best posts are those that offer something of value to the reader beyond just “hey look at my product”.  Something that is relevant, sharable and memorable will drive visibility for you, your network and your industry through likes and reposts.  Sometimes the best posts are simply a repost of a bit of news with your professional insights to kick it off.

Once you have a good network going, there are many ways to use it.  For now, let’s consider what I believe to be one of the most fruitful ways to leverage your LinkedIn network.

Career changes

Throughout my career, I have used my LinkedIn network (proactively) to land four different jobs.  A fifth was through a recruiter who found me on LinkedIn through someone else in my network.  While I do not think job hopping is a good, long term strategy, it can help you advance your career at times. Almost every job change I have made was to better my career, either through compensation, title or experience.  If you are new to using LinkedIn for this purpose, let me give you a couple of examples to think about.

Job postings – whether posted directly in LinkedIn or from another source your first stop should be the search bar.  Look up the company you are interested in, read about it and look at the profiles of the people working there.  LinkedIn will help you determine if you have a connection with someone already at the company or someone who worked there in the past.  If you find someone with a first or second order connection, reach out and see what you can learn about the company or the position.  

Here is an example that happened to me.  I found a job posting that I fell in love with.  The tech was cool and it was a new industry segment that I wanted to explore.  At the time, I had a pretty good track record as a sales professional but zero experience in this industry.  While poking around on the company profile page I found that I had a recent first order connection with the CEO.  This person and I worked together and we were friendly, but we hadn’t spoken in a few years.  I reached out and we exchanged numbers and connected over the phone.  I explained to her what I was looking to do and without having to ask, she volunteered to send the CEO an email and an introduction.  Her email was so overwhelmingly positive that this single referral not only landed me an interview, but I think was the main reason I was hired.

Job offers – In the above example, proactivity was the key to success in getting that job. However, there are other ways that you can effect a career change by way of your network.  By combining all of the best practices listed so far, you can start to make a name for yourself in your respective network or market.  If you are associating with good, influential people and sharing useful and relevant content you will not only gain connections but followers as well.  If people like what you say and what you are doing such that they want to follow you, then you are well on your way to LinkedIn Jedi status.  

Remember that recruiters and hiring managers data mine LinkedIn every day.  I already mentioned that one of my jobs was via a recruiter who found me on LinkedIn.  He had read one of my posts and that led him back to my profile and the rest was history.  I have also had business partners and clients offer me positions and tell me to look them up if I ever decided to change jobs again, all because of my network and the value that I try to bring with every post.

According to LinkedIn’s about page, they have over 930 million members in more than 200 countries.  With that kind of success, it’s safe to say that I am not the only one who loves the service it provides and I am sure many have done more with it than I have.  However, the workforce is growing every day and markets evolve at ever increasing speeds, so I am hopeful that I can help someone out there by sharing my experiences.

In a future article, we can discuss what some of the other powerful use cases are for LinkedIn and your network.  Sales, Marketing and Human Resources to name a few.

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In a previous post (link here) I went on a bit of a rant about how some sales people are abusing email as a medium for cold sales outreach.  In another post (link here) I went on about how some sales people are doing the same with LinkedIn.  So, I started thinking… I have a virtually endless source of material via my email inbox and LinkedIn profile, how can I turn this into something useful? 

I decided to start a series of posts called “The good, the bad and the ugly”.  My goal is to offer the following: 

  • What I like and/or dislike about the sales effort 
  • What changes I would suggest or what could have been done better 
  • Potentially some comic relief 

I am not sure that my efforts here will ever change the momentum of current sales strategies, but I am hopeful that I can at least influence some new sales professionals or possibly provide new ideas for the more seasoned pros out there.  Another potential benefit from reading these mini-rants is that they may help you sniff out a bad sales person sooner.  A bad sales person could very well be an early indicator of a bad product or company.  This isn’t always the case, but it’s certainly not a good sign. 

I think one of the more egregious outcomes of this onslaught of horrible sales hygiene is that some people actually need or could benefit from what the company is trying to sell to you.  If you are like me and can’t get passed poor assumptions, poor spelling, poor grammar and some of the other wacky mistakes in a written cold call, you will never know if the company and its product or service was a knight in shining armor or a turd.  God, the more I think about it the more I feel that I need to do this… almost like it’s my new found super power. 

Ok, let’s get started with the first victim… er.. um.. subject of my scrutiny: 

Context:

This was a pure cold email sent to me back on May 10.  I assume they chose me as the target because I am in a sales leadership role and they assume that I have a team or teams under me.  They are a small boutique company offering a variety of sales and marketing services with a focus on “growth hacking“. 

The Good and the Bad:  Stage ONE 

I was actually pulling for them on this one.  At first pass this doesn’t seem like that horrible of an attempt, however I stumbled on a few potholes while reading.   

  • “I’m owner of…” Vs “I am the owner…”  
  • “I spent 8 year working…” 
  • “Development an” 

Even if English is not your first language, you really should have someone proof read an email like this before you blast it out in mass.  I am sure that if you whip out the really fine toothed comb, you will find even more weirdness, but those were the immediate red flags.  Overall, I get what he was trying to do. He was trying to use a light hearted tone (good) to pitch what they do in a succinct way (good enough), BUT he missed one critical thing that every intro email like this should have.   

The Value Prop – some way to leave us with “what’s in it for me?” 

Sure, they have at least 8 years of experience working in BD and leading the growth of a software company, but so what?  If we judge him by his email alone… he’s not getting passed the delete key. 

How about dropping something like this:  “in my 8 years as a BD professional in the software industry, I applied some of our unique techniques and methods to achieve hyper growth at a rate of X% year over year.”  Getting a taste of what they offer is important, but teasing a quantifiable outcome is what makes me want to know how they did it. 

The Good and the Bad:  Stage TWO 

Six days later I get another email from my new friend, the Growth Hacker. 

Good: 

Waiting a week isn’t bad, I think that’s probably standard for follow up emails.  The fact that he’s trying to engage me by asking an open ended question is also good, however it’s useless if I wasn’t interested the first time.  Finally, I really like the question at the end.  By asking if there is someone else he should be talking with, he’s giving me the opportunity to get out of his line of fire and he would be gaining valuable intel if I answer. 

Bad:  

They continue with spelling and grammar mistakes. I also find his over use of the word hack(s) a bit off putting.  I understand the term growth hacking, but “hacking” by definition (especially in software) has a negative connotation and I just wouldn’t use it.  All this is pretty bad, but what do you think is the biggest “no no” in his email? 

The 60 minute assessment offer! 

C’mon man… I barely have time for a bio break and a PowerBar in a normal 12 hour day, what makes you think I will spend an hour with you if I have no idea what you really bring to the table?  So far, here is what I know about you: 

  • You did zero research on my company or my personal history (no personalization) 
  • You did not bother to proof read or edit your email(s) 
  • I still do not know why you are better than other companies out there offering similar solutions 
  • I am getting some definite international vibes here (if you care about that) 

So, no… I don’t want to give you an hour of my day, you have to earn that.   

What could have saved this attempt? 

For one, fix your damn spelling and grammar.  Next, since this is a week later and most of us have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to spam emails, he could have lead off with the value prop that he neglected in the first email.  It would have the same effect now if it was powerful and on point. 

Then, his offer for a meeting/call might have value if it was prefaced with “if I could provide (insert quantifiable value prop), would that be worth a short call to explore how it could work for you?” 

Get ready for Stage Three 

Another 6 days go by and this hits the inbox: 

I have to confess that since I started writing about this, I decided to Google the company name.  I thought it was odd that the signature block in the emails only provided the person’s name and a phone number.  No website address, physical address, etc.  Now that I have visited the website, I have indeed confirmed that the author of the email is not from the US and does have a very thick accent.  He actually has a link to a video hosted on YouTube where he gives an overview of what they do.  Honestly, I think this is a great thing to have on your website and I would have even incorporated that video link in one of my early emails if I was him.  Unfortunately, I can’t give him a pass for the spelling and grammar in the emails.  When using written text as your opener it’s absolutely imperative that you make a strong first impression.  Their website is actually pretty clean and reads well, so why not apply that same care to your emails…BOO! 

So, what’s going on with THIS email then? 

I am starting to wonder if this is part of their growth hacking strategy.  Send a series of 4 emails (yes, there is one more after this one), spaced 6 days apart and build out each email with more detail different from the last.  Even if this was truly a thing, the faults are still clearly present.  The only thing we have learned so far, is a list of bullets describing services they provide and that the email author has 8 years of experience. 

I decided to do a quick search for “Top growth hacking companies” and I found this pretty cool article: Top 40 Growth Hacking Agencies in 2023. I promise you that the company assaulting me with these emails is not one of them.  If you appreciate snappy and creative company names with cool logos and some borderline genius tag lines, you will love spending a few minutes on that link.  There is some pretty stiff competition for these poor fellows. 

The Bottom Line or TL;DR 

When you choose to write an email as your cold outreach weapon of choice, follow these bullets at the VERY LEAST: 

  • Check your spelling and grammar, read the email out loud or have someone else do it (especially if your target market is not your native language) 
  • Use a subject line that is either absolutely catchy (hard to do) or very clear on what’s inside with a slant towards “what’s in it for me” (the reader) 
  • Make it short and sweet 
  • Include a value statement – what’s in it for me, what is the one thing you want me to know if I only read that one thing? 

Extra credit: 

  • Use some form of personalization – this takes some time and is not possible in many cases when you are trying to blast through a large volume of targets.  I can’t tell you how many emails or messages I get that are so off base that I wonder if someone played a joke on them by mismatching names and companies 
  • Include measurables with your value prop (saving x money or time, increase or decrease by x%, etc) 
  • Tease a customer success story to create FOMO if you can 

I am not a self-proclaimed sales and marketing Jedi, but I do have almost 30 years of experience in this field.  Even though the technology and strategies at our finger tips are evolving, the core principals do not change.  I am also applying two different lenses to my critiques.  One is that of the experienced sales guy and the other from the perspective of the consumer. 

I am eager to learn from you as well.  Let me know if you have thoughts or ideas about what you read so far.  What would you do differently?  What did you like or dislike about the style employed by the sales person in this example? 

Savvygrapevine@gmail.com

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