What can the romantic approaches of random men online to women they have never met teach us about lead gen and marketing in early-stage companies?
Like many women online, our Co-Founder Elaine has been subject to the realities of the internet – very random romantic approaches on social media. After she shared one rather funny experience, the following thoughts came to mind.
Let’s say there’s a dude, we’ll call him “Dave” who’s a bit lonely and looking for a mate. Similarly, early-stage companies are seeking clients, long term ideally but will take short term to keep the doors open. Dave casually jumps into an unsuspecting woman’s DMs on a Sunday morning, asking a random question and going straight to photos of him – his product. A few nice poses, contemplating looks, one at the gym to demonstrate the ability to fend off wild animals at short notice.
Assuming Dave’s not a party pie short of a picnic, and if so, I wish him all the best in life, let’s see how this situation similarly plays out is all too common in early-stage businesses.
Target Audience Segmentation
Dave is clearly sliding into ladies DMs who he believes are single. He has decided that single women are his target audience because Dave himself is single. But Dave is making the first mistake that early-stage companies often make- anyone who doesn’t have something like their product, is an eligible prospect. But people eligible for the product need to want that product, and generally will seek products or services to solve a problem or realise a desire they have. No problem or desire, no demand. Dave’s wasting a lot of time and energy on those who don’t want his product.
Regarding early-stage companies, it is not to say a target customer that does not currently see the problem or have the current desire isn’t a future target. Once you have formed a basis of trust to engage in the necessary conversations, the customer is more likely to understand they have this problem and therefore have a desire to solve it. You may be able to educate them on this problem, but for them to be open, you need to have formed a basis of trust to engage in the conversations.
Survive and Thrive
This then leads to one of the next issues. The brain is tasked with ensuring you survive and thrive. It is always looking out for threats from which to defend you. Anything that is not understood immediately, or comes out of the blue, will generally be treated as a threat and the brain will go into defence mode. You could be the most wonderful man on the planet and have a lot to offer, just like you could have a product or service that would propel your customer to new heights, but if you come in from left field randomly, the brain is going to go into defence mode.
Cold inbound approaches of any kind, personal or business will be met with significant unconscious and conscious resistance. It is just the way it works. No one likes to be sold to due to the risk of failure and pain to the wallet, just like the vast majority of single and interested women don’t want random left field pics of biceps overlaid with a healthy beer gut (front on is better than side on lads).
The cold inbound also assumes you understand the counter party and what they may like or want, even if they are looking. Dave is assuming the pictures he’s using will be attractive. There may be features that the prospect rejects immediately as unattractive, but an approach of building trust first may have them willing to overlook the unattractive bits because the positives outweigh them.
Similarly, early stage products have some things that are “unattractive” and that still need to resolved. A cold pitch often exposes these early and leads to rejection. Getting to know the customer first so that you can link your positive features and find ways to work around the “still in development” parts is key.
Dave’s also not using channels that will help auto filter prospects from non-prospects. There are a range of channels full with eligible women who are looking for what Dave is offering. Random messages on a non-dating social platform at 7am on a Sunday morning is not the optimum channel.
Similarly, early-stage businesses often focus too much on the target, rather than the channel. They just look for any place with their target customer, instead of focusing on the channels. Focusing more on these right channels, whilst meaning it reduces the number of potential targets overall, will lead to greater exposure because you’re only dealing with those at least willing to consider such a product.
A woman may be single and ready to mingle but hit them up through a channel not associated with romantic connection and their brain may enter defence mode and not connect the two. Similarly in business, prospects may be open to an approach in one channel and be repelled in another.
Confident, not desperate
Cold approaches laying it all on the line also get associated with another human feeling – desperation. Just like dogs are said to smell fear, customers and singles smell desperation a mile off. Ever heard a woman talk giddily about some dude who is loaded with desperation? Yeah, nah. Same with customers – desperation is a major turn off.
Now a very small percentage of desperate cold approaches in random channels will work. But what we find in business is that people who are quickly excited are often fickle and easily deluded. A swift and initial “yes this looks great!” often disappears into nothing because a new ball of string comes along. You become yesterday’s thing quickly. Relationships that are forged on a long time line, building trust and respect, create stronger bonds that will last longer.
Now Dave might still want to use random channels for lead gen and maybe it could work. But the focus would be on putting the lead on a path of trust and respect. A cold message that is non-threatening such as asking for some advice on say, a good restaurant in the town they live in could lead to the person engaging with him, which leads to some serendipitous engagement, which leads to connection etc. Going straight to kissing your guns ain’t gonna shoot it out of the park.
Likewise, there are situations in early-stage growth companies where going to random events may create leads that you can then move in to more fit for purpose channels. But trying to F on first dates will lead to hollow relationships that don’t go anywhere. A pipeline approach of genuine relationship building and value adding will lead to strong long-term relationships. It is genuine relationships that lead to strong and long-term sales growth, especially in B2B.