Too many software developers are driven by a desire to create software that delights themselves, rather than by a focus on developing software that other people will actually want to buy. But a really good way to get people to want to buy it is to build a rapport with them over email.
That was my main takeaway from a recent conversation with Dan Waldschmidt, managing partner of Waldschmidt Partners, a business strategy consulting company in Greenville, S.C., and author of the book, “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success.” Waldschmidt, who describes himself as “kind of a weird mix,” is part marketer, part geek, and all about challenging conventional wisdom. And he doesn’t mind touting the success he’s enjoyed with that approach:
I’ve made millions of dollars off of helping companies grow sales—it all has its roots in IT and software. I don’t write code, but I advise a lot of tech companies, and I get called into discussions around ways to improve software development processes. I think it’s because of our edgy take on delivering software that people want to buy. A lot of times, software discussions are around what’s cool and innovative, whereas our approach is, what would be delightful and memorable, and how do we make that into a solution that people automatically want to buy? Those are our roots.
Waldschmidt is extraordinarily fond of email as a marketing mechanism, so I mentioned that I had spoken recently with Lisbeth McNabb, CEO of DigiWorks, a technology company in Dallas that works with online retailers to help them gather data on customers so they can customize their email campaigns to establish a one-to-one relationship with customers. I asked Waldschmidt to what extent that field of endeavor ties in to what he does. He said not very much at all:
What they do is they look at the people who come to your site, and they’re all about marketing to those people. What they’re basically saying is. “We’re powerless to control who comes, but when they do come, let’s take what we have and try to make it better.” That approach is better than nothing. But we think ultimately, in our experience delivering digital goods, that it’s flawed. The better approach is to ask, “Who do we want coming to our site, who do we want to be marketing to?” And then create a series of compelling arguments to woo them to come by means of a proactive outbound [email] campaign. I need to be thinking about how to get [people with spending authority] to my site, and optimize around that.
Waldschmidt went on to elaborate on how he challenges conventional wisdom with respect to email marketing:
When we were working with a client to roll out their new product for software developers, I believed the messaging cycle was underdeveloped. The CEO said, “Developers are cynical and skeptical, they want to be left alone, they’ll figure it out on their own, so shut up and leave them alone. If they want to buy, they’ll buy.” I said, “What if that’s wrong? What if, instead of sending them an email at the end of a 30-day cycle, we message them more frequently?” We developed a campaign in which we would send 11 emails, and it was successful because we had fun with it. One read, “Steve and Joe, the lead developers on the product, are out eating mac and cheese and buying stuff at Best Buy. We thought you might like to know what they’ve been working on.” We received so many positive messages back from developers who liked our sense of humor, and they started asking questions about the product. What we realized is that developers are smart, and they get it.