7 Sanity Checks for Sending Cold Email

Screen Shot 2014 09 22 at 7.06.26 PM 7 Sanity Checks for Sending Cold EmailEmail Prospecting, the once-secret method (still) used (to great effect) by the hottest companies to get the attention of the biggest enterprises out there – even if all they talk about publicly is inbound marketing, adwords, and social – is no longer a secret.

Thanks to guys like Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue, and Steli Efti from Close.io, the cat’s out of the bag that sending emails to people you’ve never met before in order to get their attention and get your product in front of them doesn’t just work… it is often required and can be super-effective.

This isn’t to say that blogs, social media, AdWords, etc. aren’t useful… they’re ENORMOUSLY useful to accelerate deals, elevate and educate various personas at your Ideal Customers, etc. But it is to say that these methods may not be the way you reach potential customers initially, especially in the early stages of your existence. And in some cases, they may not be how you reach your potential customers ever.

Now, after they know about you, as a result of outbound “cold” email campaigns, or once they’re a customer to drive loyalty, your blog, white papers, webinars, infographics, and marketing website etc. are super-valuable; just sometimes not at first…

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The Correct Way to Handle Annual Pre-Pay Renewals

annual renewals 300x256 The Correct Way to Handle Annual Pre Pay RenewalsGetting customers to pay up-front for a year is great… the challenge comes 12 months later at renewal time. There are four ways to do renewals, but only one right way.

This came up on a recent Clarity call with a SaaS founder, and since annual pre-payments are often the go-to funding source for many early-stage B2B SaaS companies or those bootstrapped companies - regardless of stage – that have chosen to forego any serious external funding, I thought it was important to discuss publicly.

While that up-front money from annual pre-pays is great, when it comes time to renew those customers, well, that’s where things get tricky.

I’m going to help you make that less tricky.

First, let me take a quick step back and cover a couple of basic ideas.

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10 Growth Hacking Lessons from Dodgeball

growth hacking dodgeball 10 Growth Hacking Lessons from DodgeballI hit Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, right in the gut.

And then I took a hard shot to the chest by Gainsight’s New Business director.

Working in a startup is rough, lemme tell ya.

As Nick and I stood on the sidelines during this company outing – battered, exhausted and laughing – watching the remaining players trying mercilessly to eliminate each other (and have fun at the same time), Nick turned to me and said:

“You should write a blog post on what Dodgeball can teach us about Growth Hacking.”

So, looking for any excuse to rest – this wasn’t just dodgeball but TRAMPOLINE dodgeball – I came up with a list of 10 lessons (5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts) you can, in fact, take from Dodgeball and apply to Growth Hacking.

Okay, here we go.

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Save your Free Trial from the Bots

free trial bot Save your Free Trial from the BotsAt the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, a security research duo showed how they built a cryptocurrency-mining botnet by leveraging cloud platform services – like Amazon Web Services, Heroku, or Google App Engine - using only Free Trials and Freemium accounts [PDF].

Cue the overly-dramatic sky-is-falling music as we mourn the demise of SaaS Free Trials and Freemium (remember, it pays to be clear on the various uses of “Free”).

I know a lot of entrepreneurs, founders, executives, and product marketers at SaaS and Cloud companies will read that Wired article and say to me – since I’ve been quite vocal about not being a fan of requiring a Credit Card to get started on a Free Trial – “See Lincoln… not having a credit card wall opens up our system to abuse!”

But they’re wrong… and here’s why.

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SaaS Free Trial Extension Requests are a Bad Sign

free trial expired extension SaaS Free Trial Extension Requests are a Bad SignI got this question about SaaS Free Trial Extension requests and I thought I’d answer it here, for all to see.

“Lincoln, that was a great guest post by Steli Efti from Close.io on sales mistakes that lead to churn. I was reading Steli’s blog and found a recent post where he says “short trials + liberal extensions” is the way to go. While you haven’t covered this directly (unless I missed it), it struck me as something you’d likely have an opinion on. I’m confused… who’s right?”

I’m right, obviously. [End of Article]

No, actually, I think we’re both right, but my view on this is from a slightly different angle.

I agree that if someone asks for an extension you should probably give it to them.

However, I see the fact  that they asked for the extension in the first place as an indicator that there’s a deeper problem, this request is a symptom of that problem, and the request itself as an opportunity to engage and learn what we can do to solve that problem.

Don’t worry; I go into great detail on why I think that, how to treat the symptoms, and how to eliminate the underlying problems.

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The Best SaaS Free Trial Length

best free trial length 300x296 The Best SaaS Free Trial LengthHere’s a secret no one talks about: SaaS Free Trial Length is a Marketing Gimmick.

There isn’t a best SaaS Free Trial length that works for every SaaS company, in every category, for every market. I know, that contradicts my reputation for saying “always do this” or “always do that” but that’s the way it is; the only best Free Trial length is whats best for your current situation.

For instance, I helped a company via Clarity the other day that has a 7-day free trial. In the context of their current situation – offering / market / customer / value prop / speed of value recognition by customers / etc. – a 7-day free trial seemed to make the most sense. Sure, they had 99 problems, but Free Trial length wasn’t one of them.

But there is something I want you to always do … and that’s to think before putting up a Credit Card wall, developing your Pricing Strategy, or coming up with a Free Trial strategy – including choosing the length of the trial.

This article will help you avoid picking a Free Trial length at random, will help you understand why doing that is a bad idea, including why you should understand your customers, the market, expectations, how your value prop and competition will influence your prospects view of the trial length you selected for your product, and much more.

Here we go…

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Ideal Customer Profile Framework

ideal customer profile 300x300 Ideal Customer Profile FrameworkI can’t over-emphasize how important it is to have a clear definition of your Ideal Customer.

Your Ideal Customer Profile dictates (or should dictate) everything from the features and functionality of the SaaS product you build, to the words you use and the emotion you invoke or tap into in your marketing.

I think people forget that you actually get to choose your customers. You get to choose who you want to do business with. So creating an Ideal Customer Profile isn’t limiting… it’s empowering!

In fact, if you don’t choose who you want to do business with, your customers will choose you… and they may very well be less-than-Ideal.

There are obviously lots of ways to come up with your Ideal Customer Profile, lots of methods and templates and canvases… but over time I’ve developed this very framework that works well for me. And I continue to evolve it. When I do, I will update this post.

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4 Sales Mistakes That Lead To High SaaS Churn

steli efti close io 235x300 4 Sales Mistakes That Lead To High SaaS ChurnI’ve said many times that the seeds of churn are planted early. Whether it’s in your marketing – both the things you say but also the types of customers you target with your messaging and outreach – to the things you say and do during the sales process, you could be acquiring customers that already have one foot out the door.

Because this issue is so important and really can’t be talked about enough, when my friend Steli Efti – CEO of Close.io - reached out and offered to share these four sales mistakes that lead to high churn, I was thrilled.

Be sure to check out the Afterword  below Steli’s article where I share some articles and resources that will help you further refine your Ideal Customer and reduce churn.

Okay, without any further ado… here’s Steli…

Four Sales Mistakes That Lead To High Churn for SaaS Companies

Churn is the biggest threat to sustainable SaaS growth. Sales teams often aggressively close deals because of myopic focus on immediate growth. What they fail to recognize are the long-term implications of short term focused selling to the business.

Here’s how to avoid the 4 most common sales mistakes that lead to high churn in SaaS.

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SaaS Free Trial: Requiring a Credit Card is Shortsighted

barbed wire 300x200 SaaS Free Trial: Requiring a Credit Card is ShortsightedI got this email asking whether to require a Credit Card to start a SaaS Free Trial or not and what the best Free Trial length is.

So instead of just answering him directly, I decide to use it as the basis for this article.

Here’s the email:

Hey Lincoln, some dude told me to ask for a credit card up front with a free trial instead of the Freemium model I’m currently using. Just as your site says…customers psychologically get used to NOT paying with my freemium model and its a disaster.

However, your articles strongly suggest NOT to ask for the CC upfront for free trials as that dude suggests.

My plan was ask for CC upfront for a 7 day trial. Do you still advise against this plan? Reason I ask is your article is over two years old…so not sure if the market changed etc.

Here’s my response…

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