How not to pitch ideas
This post is about mistakes that people make when they are pitching ideas – whether it’s a blogger who wants to do some guest posts, or a company who wants to let people know about their new product or service.
I haven’t used any names, but all of these examples are messages that I have actually been sent as someone with a website, a blog, and an online business.
I want this post to be a bit light-hearted, because it’s not just a major rant, but I also want to have a look at the effect these things have on the person reading them. I also don’t want to seem unapproachable, because I love collaborating and working with others, but there’s a good and a not so good way to do it!
Let me know in the comments if you can add any more to this list!
1 but it’s free!
Here I’m not talking about freebies, sign-up bonuses or opt-in promotions that people use to encourage people to sign up to their site. There’s a reason to do that – you’re giving people added value and those people are already interested in your site.
I’m talking about books that are free for a specific period of time, limited-time trials of products or services, or things that are free for review.
Yes, it’s great that they are free, and everyone thinks their products and services are wonderful, but it’s only a good deal if the other person wanted that thing in the first place.
Making people aware of the free thing is fine, but coming back to people when they don’t want it and saying “but it’s free! Why don’t you want it!” looks a bit desperate! It’s better to spend the time and energy on people who do actually want, and who stand to benefit from it. There is so much free stuff out there nowadays, that being free isn’t enough if it doesn’t add value to a particular person.
2 I want a call with you!
I’m not talking about people who want to learn English – in fact I generally do have a call with them first to talk about what I can offer and how I can help them.
I’m talking about complete strangers who contact me on social media, ask for a call, and give me no idea as to what it’s about.
I know that some cultures place more value on building a relationship and don’t want to get straight down to business, but we’re all busy, and if I don’t have an idea what a meeting with a complete stranger is going to be about, I can’t make an informed decision about whether I want to attend, and I’m unlikely to say yes!
It doesn’t have to be all the details, but I do have two very different websites, and when people want to get in touch with me, it’s good to know why!
3 your website is rubbish
Well thank you! Aren’t I lucky that you’re here to save the day!
To be fair, nobody has actually said that my website or podcast are rubbish, but It’s implied with phrases like “your website doesn’t communicate your key message” or it “doesn’t reflect your values” or “you will never reach your potential audience”.
It’s obvious that SEO professionals, web designers and copy writers have to identify a need that they can fill, but saying that the current offering is not fit for purpose is unlikely to get a good response, unless you like to cash in on people feeling bad. Maybe someone does feel that their current set-up is terrible, but there are nicer ways to start the conversation like
Do you wish that you had someone who could help you with…?
Do you want to be better at …?
Is … something that frustrates you?
4 This service is for x so you need it too
These people have usually identified a niche, such as teachers, but they forget that there is diversity in the niche. It’s not that I expect them to know exactly who will be interested in their offer, but to tell me I definitely need something when it doesn’t fit my business model is kind of annoying. I don’t need an HR system because I don’t employ staff. I don’t need a new way for students to pay, because I’m happy with the one I have, and anyway who’s going to want to pay using a site that has no social proof? I don’t need an online calendar because I hate them!
Again, I don’t expect people to know what I want, but
Do you need …?
Is better than
Your business will fail unless you have …
I know this goes against some of the common marketing techniques that dredge up the worst emotional words that you can think of, but there are people in the world who don’t respond well to those tactics.
5 why didn’t you reply to my spam?
Oh yes, replying to spam is right there at the top of my to-do-list!
Of course people don’t think that their message was spam, but spam is unsolicited mail that you haven’t signed up to. Follow-up is fine, but 3 times in one week chasing someone who hasn’t even agreed to work with you is pushy.
6 You need a blog post on this obscure thing that nobody has ever heard of
Because my readers are going to love that and it really adds value to my audience!
Pitching guest ideas is great. Pitching original or unusual ideas is also fine, as long as they fit with the site that you’re pitching. But if someone says “no”, you need to respect that. Also, the “no” is unlikely to miraculously become a “yes” if you try to start an argument about the fact that you know more about the obscure thing than the person who doesn’t want a post about it!
7 I haven’t read your content because using a standard template is easier
Ok, so I should take the time to reply to you, even though you haven’t done any research about me or my site. Sounds fair?
Recently someone has even been selling software that sends out a load of customised emails – sometimes not even that well customised (dear enter name here), in the hope that some of them will generate interest in guest content.
I think that’s really disrespectful.
I’ve even had people wanting me to pay them for guest-written posts that don’t fit in with what my site’s about!
It’s great to tell people that you enjoy their blog, but if you say “I enjoy every post you write and learn something every time”, it could apply to any number of educational sites. However, if you say “I particularly enjoyed your post on …” it at least shows that you’ve read one of them and it’s not just a standard message to many bloggers.
8 I know you only work online with adults, but why won’t you test our product for small groups of children?
There’s no harm in asking, but if someone says your product or service isn’t right for them, move on! Or are you the kind of person who goes into the shoe shop and complains that they don’t sell cabbages?
Don’t get me wrong – I love testing products, but if there’s something that isn’t relevant to my business, or some kind of product that I know I will never use in my free time, it’s better for both of us that you find someone who will love it!
This isn’t really aimed at brands in the beauty and lifestyle world, but companies trying to get me to buy things for my business. In terms of being sent blogger mail, it’s an honour and a privilege. I am really grateful. But I can’t run something if I don’t think it fits with my brand or what my audience is interested in.
9 Podcast guests on shows that don’t take guests
I’ve had a couple of guests on the podcast, and I think in all cases I approached them to ask if they would do it. If a guest came up that would be a good fit, I’d be open to that too, but when people approach me because they want publicity for their new book, that has nothing to do with any of the topics I cover, that’s not adding value to my audience. A bit of research would show that, and also highlight some other podcasts that would be a much better fit.
10 you’re not using our app
This came up because of a discussion in a forum where someone was complaining about an email that said “You’re not using our app! Download it here!” The feeling was that it came across as bossy rather than helpful, and something like “did you know that we have an app?” would have come across better.
11 I’ll use your platform to post my advert
Because everyone goes to the trouble of building a platform and loyal following just so that they can give others free advertising. Even better if you’re offering exactly the same products or services as the person who owns the website! Don’t do it!
Direct sales links on posts that have nothing to do with that topic are not cool either! It’s like that pushy person at a social gathering that everyone tries to avoid because all they want to do is talk about themselves!
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