Following up

I have often been told, in effect, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." So the questions is, "How many tries should you make before you give it up?"

The numbers:

As a basic principal, I think the answer to these questions lies in the numbers. in particular, there is a cost associated with everything you do, so those tries cost you something. The question is whether the cost of each try is worth the benefit you might get.

The answer to such questions lies in the numbers, and in particular, the numbers according to the experiments you perform. Of course the experiments also cost you something, and you don't get a second try to make a first impression.

According to various books and folks, contacting potential customers to make a sale typically takes from 3-5 tries. The sequence goes something like this:

Note that these are not numerical answers - but they are the trends many report.

My numbers and sieve

I have tried a number of experiments lately and I thought I would share my numbers with you. Likely my numbers will not be your numbers, but it should give you a sense of the sorts of things I have done and the sorts of results I have gotten. Forgive me for not being as scientific as I should, but this is the reality of my marginal attempts.

Generally, the sales sieve I use for Angel to Exit goes like this:

For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the boldfaced step - those invited to present and those invited to workshops. The sample size (in this rolling process) is 148, and this is over a period of about 1 months of testing. A significant portion (est. 50%) are from more than a month before the start of the test, and about 30% are still in mid-process as of this writing.

Try Conventional wisdom Our experience
Invitation: Comes from a 3rd party only as/if they apply. 9 Yes, 1 No
2nd try: A small number say "yes" - mostly you get ignored. 2 Yes, 1 No
3rd try: A few more sales, more reply. 0 Yes, 4 No
4th try: Several more sales, some say "go away", others ignore or interact. 0 Yes, 2 No
5th try: A few more sales, a few more "go away", fewer ignore you. Not tried

In summary, out of about 75 completing the experiment (remember, half are still in process as of this writing), more than half of which were "old", we generated 9 Yes results on the 1st try, 2 on the 2nd try, and none thereafter. Our No's went up substantially in the 3rd try.

I might reasonably conclude that after an invitation, a first "reminder" with no short-term follow-up is the best strategy. From there, ongoing communication tends to generate an occasional application (out of about 4,000 monthly contacts, perhaps 4 end up applying some months later - one in 1,000 per quarter or some such thing). This comes to about break even given the cost of contacting 4,000 people with something new and interesting per month given the resulting median value of the resulting one or two sales per quarter.

That was a good outcome

This is not the first time I have tried this sort of sequence. In one of my more spectacular failures a few months ago, I paid a support service to generate responses to initial contacts to get permission to follow up. That process generated something like 1,000 accepted requests over the period of three months. But not one of them turned into a closed sale even after the 3rd communication. However, the folks who helped us generate these leads indicated that these were some of the best numbers they ever had. But then they don't close sales. They just get you leads.

Of course I would not know this if I didn't do the experiment, and there are lots of other experiments to do. But for an early stage company trying to figure out what will work without substantial resources behind them, these experiments may take a lot of time, some cash that will hurt, and may produce nothing of value.

Not a refutation, a data point

I don't want you to misinterpret this as a refutation of the claims of others who have done marketing of this sort for many years. It is merely some data points for one (or two) attempts.

In summary

You won't know till you try, but you can compare your results to mine. If you aren't doing better than this, will this be bad or still good enough? It all depends on your business model.

For our business model today, the 11 closed first sales in one month is great. In fact, it's more than we can reasonably handle in a month, and spilled over into the next month. (We are now working on closing out March, and it is only Feb 1. We usually close out a month in the 3rd or 4th week of that month.)

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