📔 LESSON OF THE WEEK
Outreach and acquiring new users as an introvert (aka. talking to people isn’t really your thing)
Founders of early-stage startups are the ultimate jack of all trades. We are the product manager, the marketing director, the admin assistant, the finance officer and, well, everything else in-between. Wearing all of these hats is one of the many things that I love about running a business.
Until it comes to sales and outreach. Mainly because I find having bundles of conversations more draining than energising.
As an introvert/ambivert I can say (with pride) that I’ll happily go all day without speaking to a soul and be quite content.
But, that’s not something that anyone can afford to do 6x weeks ahead of a massive product relaunch. Right now, I should be proactively engaging with potential customers, sending emails, taking calls and well… speaking to a lot of people.
Contrary to what we’re often shown and told, you can be an introvert and be an exceptional business leader. So don’t feel ashamed for not wanting to be involved in every discussion (the corner of the room is a good friend of mine 😜). It is much better to know yourself, create a plan around what does/doesn’t energise you and lean into your strengths.
For those of you who are introverted and panic at the thought of being solely responsible for generating leads for your business, here are the key lessons that I learned about tackling this head-on…
LESSON 1️⃣ Take your personality into consideration when setting objectives: turning the painful process of outreach into a productive one started with finding the right way to measure my efforts. Conversations (whether by email, phone or DM) can feel pretty all-consuming. Combine that with a poor response rate and it’s not exactly a recipe for motivation. To set this up for success, I started by considering what my main objective would be.
I’m naturally quite competitive, so setting solid targets and objectives tends to narrow my focus. They’re the perfect distraction, as achieving the goal is so important that I feel more motivated to take on the task.
Typically, objectives fall into one of these brackets:
Volume (e.g. getting 100 qualified leads or customers)
Conversion (e.g. 10% of all leads I speak to will take up the offer)
Time-sensitive (e.g. getting 25 qualified leads a week / speaking to 5 leads a day )
A combination (e.g. getting 200 paying customers by June 31st)
Outreach is treated as a numbers game — the more people you speak to, the more you should be able to convert. But, I recognised that setting a volume target (e.g. onboard 500 customers in a month) would be more hair-raising than helpful for my introverted self. With this on the table, I automatically started doing all kinds of calculations to figure out how many people I’d have to speak to, to reach that target — in short, it was a no-no.
Volume clearly wasn’t the way to go. So, the real question was could I create an objective that helped me to look beyond the number of people I’d be contacting? Possibly. But to get there, a few more questions had to be answered, such as:
Q: What tasks energise me?
Answer: Getting into the mind of my audience to craft a message that resonates with them.
Q: Can this task be re-framed to incorporate these things?
Answer: If the objective can somehow be focussed on the quality of the message, I’ll naturally enjoy the process more and be more motivated to speak to people.
And that’s when the penny dropped. Content is my thing, so it made more sense to focus on the quality of the messages that I’d be sending. This focus would energise me, create focus and turn a difficult task into something that I could genuinely enjoy. Even better, it shifted the objective away from volume and towards conversion rate.
After all, to measure the impact of a message, I would have to focus on how many people responded to each email or DM. Giving me a chance to drill into what information really strikes a chord with the target audience. And, like magic, my mind suddenly shifted and outreach didn’t seem so bad after all.
Key takeaway: You can set objectives that motivate you even if the task itself seems quite daunting. You just have to ask the right questions to get you there.
LESSON 2️⃣ Choose channels that are convenient for your customers: Like many Founders, I assumed that email was the best way to reach my target audience (who are predominantly afro hair stylists). Pretty normal considering that, in the world of B2B, emails, phone calls and LinkedIn InMails are king. I knew calling wasn’t really an option because hair stylists are hands-on professionals. The only phone call they’re taking in the middle of a wash and blow-dry is to arrange another booking, not to talk about business products.
So, I emailed and emailed and emailed some more.
After 3x days of firing away from my Outlook and no bites (like none, zero, nada), I started to worry. Is the message unclear? Is the product unappealing? Have I gone in too hard with the sell?
Then, I started to think about all of the other channels my target audience is actively using: mainly Facebook, Twitter and a lot of Instagram. So, I took a risk, switched it up and moved my outreach to Instagram DMs. This also meant adapting the message so it was more suitable for this channel — definitely don’t recommend copying and pasting a message straight from Outlook into a messenger 😅. The tone had to be more conversational and the content focussed more on the person than the product. But, turning down the formality of the tone, also allowed me to bring more of the brand personality to the table, and (in my opinion) improving the message.
Fast forward and, a week later, my outreach CVR is about 50-60% — blowing my 20% target out of the water. Plus, there was less following up as even those who weren’t in a position to try Mane Hook-Up, still replied. Miles better than not getting a response at all via email.
Key takeaway: Throw any preconceptions about what channels should or shouldn’t work out the window. Your customers will clearly tell you how to communicate with them by simply responding (or not). The sooner you nail this, the more time and energy you’ll save.
LESSON 3️⃣ Create a template for your FAQs, make each response personal and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”: Naturally, when you start speaking to potential customers, they will have questions about your product or service. Instead of allowing yourself to get caught off-guard (every introverts worst nightmare 😱) come prepared with answers for their top objections — I focussed on the top 5 to 6 that crept up in customer interviews. Then, create a templated response and adapt it for each person that you speak to.
In case you’re wondering, there is nothing wrong with using a template. Just remember that lack of authenticity is so easy to detect nowadays. Your customers are much better equipped and have exposure to intrusive sales emails on a daily basis. So, don’t underestimate the power of personalisation. The extra 5 minutes you spend on personalising a message will be more rewarding than you think.
Finally, remember that it's OK to say, "I don't know, let me get back to you on that". Closing a deal is not worth compromising your integrity. Never put a spin on the truth (*cough* lie 🤐) in order to get someone on board. As Judge Judy would say, if you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory.
Key takeaway: Start the relationship with potential customers the right way, by coming prepared, showing that you care and offering complete honesty.
LESSON 4️⃣ Protect your energy by creating boundaries AND asking for help: Setting boundaries is key, especially if you’re introverted. Bringing the best version of yourself to the table often means knowing when to say, ‘that’s enough for today’.
Speaking to potential customers should never be done when you’re at the end of your tether. As the Founder, you are the alpha and the omega — aka. you’re a physical embodiment of what your business stands for. Coming into a conversation with low or negative energy because you’re exhausted is not the way to close a deal. Even with all of the above in place, I assign 2-3 hours a day to outreach max. That way, I can offer potential customers the energy and insight that they deserve.
Finally, get into the habit of asking for help — this is a sign of strength, not weakness. It takes a village to raise any early-stage startup from the ground up. So, turn to people you can rely on for help. And, if close friends/family aren’t an option, look for a volunteer. Platforms like Work in Start-Ups and Twitter are great for finding quality people at speed.
Key takeaway: Boundaries will keep you safe and save you from burning out, so be prepared to put them in place. Don’t allow yourself to drown in work (and ultimately get nothing done), instead, call on the people you can trust to help or hire a volunteer.
BONUS: MailerParser have created an amazing lead tracking template. For those of you who are in the UK, I’ve tweaked this slightly by changing the address fields + including social media profiles. You can copy my version of the google sheet here.
Dealing with self-doubt
I’m not good enough… my opinion doesn’t matter… I can’t do it
— Self-doubt, an unwanted solo performance, in the depths of my mind
These are some of the many thoughts that flickered through my mind last week. I’ve learned that building a business comes with an ebb and flow of emotions. A mix of positive and negative and some can be difficult to work through.
Self-doubt is swift and really knows how to make an appearance 💃🏾. While it’s usually trespassing and doesn’t stick around for long, these moments can be enough to make the best of us question ourselves, regardless of the years of experience under our belts or our list of achievements.
I was lucky enough to come across this illustration by Liz Fosslein when self-doubt suddenly started to creep in.
It reminded me that moments of self-doubt do not prevent success. And, success is not the absence of fear or doubt — success is choosing to continue while facing it.
I don’t know who needs to hear this today but, when the feeling of self-doubt starts to creep up on you, remember:
You matter and you are more than good enough
There are people who need you and depend on you
You don’t know everything, but you can definitely learn on the job
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it
Today is not a reflection of where you will be tomorrow, next month or next year
Keep going, you’ve got this ✌🏾
🧰 FOUNDERS TOOLBOX
As a tool and app junkie, I’m regularly looking for anything that can streamline a process, cut down on time and overall, make my life as a founder easier. For anyone who needs them, here are a few tools that found a special place in my toolbox this week.
📅 The ultimate content calendar: ContentCal App
Whether you’re producing content for yourself or for your business, having everything housed on one platform makes life so much easier. Most tools focus purely on social scheduling, but I wanted to outline everything from newsletters to video content and ContentCal was the only platform that ticked the box. They offer a 14-day trial and the Pro plan is only £13/month (which is pretty reasonable).
🔎 SEO hack: extracting URLs from a sitemap
Writing page titles, metadata and mapping out 301 redirects were among some of my many SEO tasks for the week.
While they’re all necessities, these tasks can get very fiddly. There were two problems to fix: getting all of the URLs from the live website and those from the test site that’s just been developed. Instead of going through the painstaking process of typing up each link, I found this Google sheet (made by Mario Lambertucci) that pulls all of the URLs from a website into one place in about 2 seconds. Just duplicate this Google sheet and keep it safely tucked away in your drive. Trust me, it will come in handy.
🛠️ And other neat tools…
🐤 TWEET TIPS
And finally, some advice from the community…
Coming up next time…
And that’s a wrap for this week. Here are some of the things that are coming up next!
Switching developer teams (woo this one was A LOT) 💻
Preparing to launch a brand new SaaS platform 🚀
Finding support without a budget 💰
Working part-time and running a startup 🕖
Forming partnerships with likeminded brands 🤝🏾