Fairly recently I’ve started to get a huge amount of pitches and requests from Web 2.0 startups, services, tools and sites looking for all sort of things (from me), and just like a book judged by its cover, I have to admit, I judge each one by their e-mails. That is, their style of writing, what they want from me (and how they describe it), their opening line, etc. So, I thought I might take this time to give web 2.0 startups (which, very recently, I’ve decided to call ‘2.0 startups’ because I think it’s a much cooler term) and the people behind them some advice and tips coming from a 2.0 blogger (there, again), just to help them out of what I like to see when someone pitches me their idea which they’ve worked on for months.
Remember, such a skill of getting people’s attention and getting them to write about you can either make you or break you (regardless of your product, however good/bad) and I really want to make this clear so that the next pitch I recieve I’m actually excited about rather than thinking “Oh no, another one of these. Which corner is my trash icon?”. I’m aware other bloggers have written such things before, and I might completely collide with their beliefs (on the other hand, completely repeat them), so I’ll simply give you my two cents and let you decide what you count as important. So, in no particular order:
Starting Line of E-mail: If you write to me and start with something like “Hello,” or “Hi,” (which is slightly better) there’s a 20% chance I might not write about your product. This is simply because starting with such a line puts you in the send-mass-e-mails-aka-spam category (even unintentionally so) which bloggers, heck, even people really hate and also it tells me that you haven’t bothered to find out my name, which is published on every page of my site. So something more personal and attention-gaining (bloggers like to see their name in e-mails, seriously) like “Hi Sid,” or “Hello Sid,” or even “Dear Sid” (too formal — but I’ll accept it) would do.
E-mail Settings: These are pretty standard and equally annoying, so I’ll just mention them together. No HTML e-mails (please!), no “Hello” subject line, non-corny signatures, sensible e-mail addresses (some people do care about these — something like firstname.lastname@example.org would do where email@example.com wouldn’t), and most importantly, one e-mail per blog (if there are two e-mails listed on the site written by a single blogger, info@ and blogger.lastname@, remember, use your common sense to assume both are going to the same place and e-mail only one of them — if they forget they have two e-mails coming to the same inbox it might cost you).
No Annoying/Repeated E-mails: There is one startup (I won’t name) who have sent me approximately six e-mails in a 6 week timeframe and have been trying to gain my attention and get me to review them (despite of the fact that I’ve already written about them [although obviously not in great detail] and I’m not really a fan of their product). Bloggers hate repeated e-mail and I suggested everyone get that straight. When you’ve e-mailed them twice or three times in a timeframe of 3-4 weeks, it’s common sense to believe that they’ve ‘got the message’ and even more so to not expect a response, assume the fact that they’re not interested in you, and skip that specific blogger and move on (there’s literally millions of others!). You don’t need the fourth e-mail — that’ll annoy them even more so and give them a really bad reputation of your company (although unintentionally).
Good Grammar & the Usual: It’s a well known fact that I don’t need to elaborate. Good grammar, spelling, etc. is appreciated, but what’s more important is that your style of writing makes sense. Write lowercase if that’s what you’re used to (but never all uppercase), don’t use full stops or commas, use simple words, whatever [these things are generally understandable: time limitations] but make sure that what you’re writing and the message you’re trying to convey makes sense and understandable.
Someone Closely Involved: If an e-mail comes from the press department, marketing department, marketing manager, ‘senior spokesman,’ press rep, or basically anything to do with press and marketing, I try my hardest to ignore it. The reason is, I want to talk to someone closely involved with the product, not a middle marketing or press guy. Although, if you can get me in touch with someone like that and you mention that in your e-mail, then sure. In many cases you have the founder or CEO sending e-mails from their personal e-mail addresses and I love that, I’ll even respond to it with feedback in great detail. But if it’s from someone in the middle, make sure it’s sensible and I would want to look at it.
Send the Invites, Stupid: I hate e-mails which say “if you want to try the product, let us know.” Of course I want to try the product! Don’t ask me if I’m interested in trying something out, because yes, I will be, and that’s my job. Send the damn link or invite or special code with your first e-mail. I’ll check it out right then and make my decisions on the fly — it’ll be quicker for both you and me.
No Sales in Favors: If you’re going to e-mail me and ask me to try something out and I end up finding out I have to pay for it (or worse still, you ask me to pay for it) then forget a response. As a writer, reviewer and blogger about your product, if you’re inviting me to try something then don’t expect me to pay for it. On the other hand, if you haven’t invited me and I come across your product, I see value (say something like Flickr) and also a $ sign, then yes, I might pay to use it and review it, for sure, but when it’s you asking a favor, remember that it’s you who is asking the favor.
Don’t Make a Sales Pitch, but an Idea Pitch: This relates to my point above. Make sure your e-mail sound as an incredible, ingenious and simply wonderful idea and not an incredible, ingenious and simply wonderful sales-pitch or business model (unless of course you’re looking for investment from me). Remember, if you’re too money obsessed around your product and your idea and service is secondary to you, then why should I help you make money? On the other hand, if you’re idea obsessed and your money is secondary, then for sure I’ll help you carry that idea and showcase it to the world (which in return, but secondarily will help you make money).
You’re Writing to Bloggers, Not Journalists: Although some bloggers may considered to be and may indeed be, most of us are far away from traditional journalism. We’re simply passionate writers (like some journalists as well), and treat us like so. We (when I say ‘we’ I mean some of us) can’t afford weekly trips to your company or lawsuits (joke :)) so treat us equally, but not the same (in style), as journalists. The idea being this being make your pitch more appealable to bloggers.
Write from Your Point of View, Not the Company’s: This is probably my least important point, but I always prefer it. If you’re say the COO or CTO or even a Marketing guy (in which case you’ll try to make sure I’ll know how to contact someone more closely involved), then write from your view how you think your company is doing. Tell me about the things you do, make it personal. If you’re simply pitching your company and it sounds artificial to me, like an order from the CEO, I might not take it that seriously. Sure, represent your company, but drop in a little personality as well. I’ll love it.
As I said before, this is merely my 2 cents (hardly a 1 cent to be honest) and in the end it all really depends to you. I think there are some good tips in there not only for people who own Web 2.0 startups but just things in general. I made this post to see some change happen in the e-mails I receive. Being perfecetly honest, not many follow these simple things and I think that if they did, regardless of their product, I’d write about them no doubt.