Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Think about your pitch

I got a phone call at work one morning, and it was obviously from the first moments of the call that the caller had no idea who I was or what I did. The caller asked to speak to the person in charge of sales and marketing. I asked what this was about, and didn't get a clear response.

I then named my employer and asked if the person had the right number. That's when the person said that he wanted to speak to someone in Motorola.

I replied that I was not at Motorola, and the call ended. A truthful statement, since Motorola officially sold our division over a year and a half ago - a fact that I was not motivated to share with the cold caller. Perhaps if the cold caller had bothered to do a little bit more research, I would have been a little more forthcoming.\

But I'm not the only person who doesn't respond positively to each and every sales pitch that I receive. At LeWeb, Robert Scoble (in his own words) acted like a "jerk" to one company:

When I asked Quora which tech startups should I interview that I hadn’t interviewed yet, AllMyApps was at the top of the list.

I was pretty rude to them at LeWeb and couldn’t get excited about their new company and new product....

Why not? Scoble has biases, and for those who didn't already realize what those biases are, he spelled them out:

I told the team that I look for things on the list of tech battlefronts (like Android vs. iPhone vs everyone else, or which slates can beat iPad, or which mobile apps are doing best, etc).

So, a new mobile app wins out over one that runs on Windows, I told them. Why? Microsoft Windows just isn’t on a tech battlefront anymore, according to my biases.

Now you can argue that Scoble is wrong, that the new Windows multi-platform strategy is the wave of the future. And perhaps Scoble is wrong. But that doesn't matter one whit if you want to pitch to Scoble.

A couple of years ago, Stowe Boyd posted an item entitled "Why Aren't You Talking to Me?" The URL no longer works because of a reorganization of Boyd's blog, but I launched a FriendFeed discussion about the post - and, more importantly, the original author of the post (not Boyd) ended up reposting it himself. Here's an excerpt from the Matt Balara post:

Twitter and other online social tools have made it possible for me to have a kind of light, continuous contact with so many people, and this contact has become an essential part of my life. If those people are meatspace friends, it intensifies the relationship and saves us both time. Instead of asking them, “what have you been up to?” when we see each other I can say, “I don’t really like it either,” and without explanation we both know what we’re talking about. Meatspace friends who aren’t online are a conspicuous absence.

Now people may claim that Balara is wrong (see the FriendFeed thread), but the fact of the matter is that if Balara prefers to connect to people via Twitter (and that was in 2008-2009; I have no idea how he connects to people today), then if you want to connect to Balara, you do it that way.

And Boyd has his own preferences. In an undated post (again, he reorganized his blog), Boyd stated them:

So, this is an additional argument for MicroPR: forcing PR firms to approach us in the open, on open social flow apps like Twitter, and in the small, where they have to jettison all the claptrap of the old press release model. In the open, that can’t lie easily, or they will be caught on it. In the small, they have to junk the meaningless superlatives, the bogus quotes that no CEO ever mouthed, the run-on phrases, the disembodied third party mumbo jumbo, as if the press release were edited by God.

On Twitter, I will simply block people that abuse my willingness to have an open dialog about products with PR folks, or basically anyone else, for that matter. And I am implicitly inviting everyone in my Twitter sphere of influence to participate, too. I want it to be a shared space for investigation into new tools, so by all means, twitpitch me!

But please, please, get out of my inbox. I am using that for completely different things: communicating with people I know relatively well, about mutual concerns. PR folks pushing what they thinks is newsworthy information to me via email is so close to spam that there is no practical difference. So unless I have explicitly signed up to receive it on my email, don’t send it. Twitpitch me, instead....

So now you know why I never tried to pitch Scoble on the product that I managed a couple of years ago. Not that it's not innovative - and for the record, it became more innovative after someone else started managing it - but it's not innovative in the areas in which Scoble is interested. When a product is sold mostly to government agencies, and when the product uses Windows workstations and Windows mobile devices, it was pretty clear that it wasn't going to be discussed by Scoble and Shel Israel.

That having been said, if you ARE interested in fingerprint, palmprint, and other biometric technologies for criminal and civil applications, I can put you in touch with my successor.

Just don't refer to him as a Motorola employee.
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