Posted on December 11, 2007
Filed Under Commercial Interruptions |
Every once in awhile I’ll get a “pitch” email from a Web 2.0 startup. The vast majority of the pitches I’ve received haven’t been very impressive so I’ve not felt compelled to write about any of the startups pitched, even though I could easily write some negative reviews that would be of little interest to readers.
I received a pitch today that, like most of the others, failed to impress me and I thought to myself, “Even if a startup doesn’t have a chance, it’d be a whole lot more interesting to receive a well-written pitch.” Today I’m giving advice on how to write a good pitch so that I hopefully get pitches that are more enjoyable to read.
To start, the pitch I received follows. Because I’m not a complete asshole, I’ve removed the startup name and links.
I’m writing you as one of the founders of
deleted. This is a social shopping site that went online in December 2006, has recently received funding and has been featured in publications like the Wired Magazine and The Times as well as techblogs like Mashable and Blognation.
I have been following Drama 2.0 and believe that
deletedcould be of interest for you. It is a service that allows users to publish and share products with the broader public which they find cool, innovative, exceptionally beautiful, or just weird. Every user has the option to rate other users’ postings. The more people vote for a product, the greater opportunity it has to advance to the front page and be exposed to even more visitors. It does, in a way, represent consumers’ shifting preferences toward unusual products, while still looking for what others deem as cool.
You will find our press kit, reviews, and our press releases here:
Please don’t hesitate to contact if you need further information.
This in my opinion is a less-than-compelling pitch for the following specific reasons:
- The email starts with “Hi” and does not address me by name.
- The first paragraph gives me no information that piques my curiosity and pulls me in. The first paragraph is always the most important. Why is it beneficial for me to know that this startup launched in 2006? Why does it matter that publications and technology blogs have “featured” this startup? Do I care that the company has received funding? None of these facts tells me anything of real importance about the company.
- I hate emails that say something to the effect of “could be of interest to you.” Of course the sender thinks it could be of interest to me otherwise he or she wouldn’t be sending me the email! The sender’s goal is not to tell me that he or she thinks the startup could be of interest to me but to make it of interest to me.
- The second paragraph describes what the service does in very basic, functional terms but fails to describe the real value of the service. How is it going to make users’ lives better? How does the business model (if there even is one) assist the entities the company serves? What differentiates the service from competitors?
In short, the email above says little more than “Digg for shoppers.” Given the way it is written, I also suspect it’s a template that has been sent out to lots of bloggers.
If you have a startup and are going to pitch your wares to a blogger, here’s my advice:
- Personalize the pitch. At a minimum, address the email to me. Where appropriate, consider adding other personalized touches that relate your startup to me, my interests, etc. When done right, you can build rapport via email and at the very least, you can keep your email from looking like it’s a template that you’re sending to every other blogger on the planet.
- Capture my interest right away. Don’t waste time giving a detailed history of your company. The first thing I read has to get me interested. Don’t be afraid to ask me a question (”Have you ever found it difficult to…?”) or say something bold (”I think Digg sucks and that’s why…”). You risk so much more with a bland approach.
- Tell me what you really do. If all you describe is the functionality of your service, you’re missing the point. I want to know how the functionality you offer creates value and solves a real problem. I want to know how it’s different from similar functionality that is probably offered by your competitors.
- Impress me. Surprisingly, most pitches I’ve received fail to do this and it’s not because the authors don’t try. In the email above, I’m told about the publications and blogs that the startup was featured in, and informed that the company recently raised funding. But these in and of themselves aren’t really impressive (lots of startups get a blurb or a review and more than a few dumb startups get funded). Things that are much more likely to impress me include growth and usage statistics, revenue numbers, recognizable clients, etc. Note that even if you don’t have millions of users, for instance, a note like “over 50% of our users are active on a daily basis” is much more impressive than telling me that Joe Schmoe called your service the best thing since sliced bread on his blog. The best way to impress me is not to tell me that you’ve impressed others.
- Keep it short. Although the email above isn’t too long, it’s worth pointing out that your email shouldn’t resemble a novel. If you can’t capture attention or describe what you have succinctly, you need to refine your pitch.
- Be timely. It’s always good to coincide your pitch with a business milestone (launch, funding, big deal, etc.) as this is likely to heighten my interest and create some urgency for me if I plan to write a post about your company. In the email above, the company launched in 2006 and raised its funding in early November. Neither of these things makes posting about the company particularly timely.
In typical Drama 2.0 fashion, I’ll end with an analogy: pitching your startup is like picking up a woman. Success is dependent on approaching at just the right time, piquing her interest and making a great impression very quickly.