Part of my goal is to do an almost diary-like coverage of me doing the startup. Until February, I’ll still be part time on the biz and full time on my developer job. I did, however, get a taste of what’s to come last week.
When John and I decided to do 360|iDev, we figured we should go to Macworld for a day. We agreed to do a show and then 3 days later, Apple announced it was pulling out of Macworld. We saw this as a great opportunity to talk to sponsors and developers to let them know that there’s a new show in town: ours. John and I reg’d for the expo and John bought his ticket for Cali. Now we needed a plan. What would we do at the show?
John and I do one offline marketing campaign per 360|Flex. We print up a bunch of oversized postcards and mail them out to Flex User Group Managers. They hand out the fliers and we give them a free pass or two to raffle in exchange for them hyping the event. It works out great for us and for the UGs as well. Then that’s it for marketing. We never really go anywhere to promote our show. We never really pound the pavement so to speak. We’re blessed to have a community that loves us, so word of mouth pretty much takes over from there. With 360|iDev, we realize that wasn’t going to happen.
When we did 360|Flex Europe, we assumed our US brand would carry over and we’d have to do little work. We were wrong. It hurt to be wrong, but we learned a valuable lesson: Don’t think you’re brand is as recognizable as Mickey Mouse. Success in one market does not in any way, shape or form guarantee success in another market.
Therefore, for 360|iDev, we realized we’d have to do more. We put in our order for our traditional oversized postcards for attendees, but our Daneen, our marketing gal, got smart. She pointed out that it would be better to print the sponsor cards in a matching fashion vs a ghetto inkjet print job done at home. With these two pieces of collateral, this time we’d have to hit the streets and find people to give them too. Find people who would not only attend the show, but also possibly speak or sponsor.
Last Thursday, John and I walked into the Moscone Center with a handful of general info cards and sponsor cards. We were walking towards the main expo hall. Along the way, we passed tables full of attendees awaiting to get into the expo hall. Initially, we walked right by them. LOL Like I said, John and I are new to this in-person sales stuff. :) It hit me, “Crap, we need to be giving these people the attendee fliers.” I make John pull over, grab the fliers and turned to the people.
Now, the people were oblivious to me. I was just another goob in a conference shirt (a 360|Flex polo) standing with fliers looking in their general direction. I probably looked no different than any other Apple Fanboy standing around. Inside though, was a whole different story. I so desperately wanted to turn to John and say, “Here’s the fliers. Go give ’em out!” It was that initial fear of rejection we all have regardless of what the task is. The butterflies were a fluttering and the sweat glands were in the process of dumping all moisture they had in reserve. I’m sure if I stood there much longer and doted on it, I would’ve not done anything. I would’ve talked myself out of doing what we came to do: “These people probably aren’t even iPhone developers. They wouldn’t want one of my fliers. I bet some might even get mad for me spamming them in person!”
After a few moments of inner arguing and turmoil, I said, “Oh shut up and suck it up will ya. There’s work to do.” With that I stepped to the nearest table and started handing out fliers. I worked my way around to all the tables near the main expo hall. There was maybe 40 of them spread about. I walked up and dropped a handful of attendee fliers on the table. I gave a smile to those that looked up at me. You know what, not one person gave a bad vibe. Quite a few actually said, “Thank you” as I put the fliers there. “Thank you” is usually reserved for when you do something nice for a person, not when you’re trying to sell them something I thought. Thing is though, if they are an iPhone developer or want to be one, they’d need some help getting their A-game on. This conference of ours will help them do that.
I think that’s the aspect of sales I need to take more to heart. Sales isn’t about being the sleazy used car salesman portrayed in movies. Sales is all about attitude, which should one of helping. John and I aren’t criminals taking people’s money and returning nothing in return. In fact, we’re the opposite. We take a lot less money than our competitors and we give as much, if not more, value than them in return. We’re a value and we here to help our customers. It is our duty as a business to make them aware of what we offer and how it can help them. They, in turn, can then decide whether they see value in that offering.
After handing out the fliers to those on the tables, it become readily apparent to John and I that we grossly underestimated the amount of fliers we’d need. Luckily, we had another 2800 back in John’s hotel room. LOL It was very cool to walk around and seeing people carrying/reading our postcards. It gave a little more pep to our step as we hit the expo hall.
The expo would be a completely different beast. Dropping the card on the tables involved a smile and fast movement. In the expo hall, we’d need to sell the show. Luckily, I had John with me. I’m not quite sure how people start a business on their own. I’d be too scared to do most of the crap that’s needed. John and I though, if nothing else, genuinely enjoy each others company. We started out a bit timid. As the day wore on though, we realized everyone was very positive about the show. This lifted our spirits and helped us keep going after 6 hours of walkin around. We did have two sour pusses: 1 – “What’s in it for me?” attitude from a marketing gal no less. (I feel sorry for that company) and 1 – “Uh yeah, thanks.” as he folded up the flier to trash it. The high points came when we approached vendors/dev shops and they already had our postcard from outside! w00t!!
By the end of the day, I was exhausted and exhilarated. We talked to a ton of people and got the word out about 360|iDev. It’s shaping up to be a great conference. It was also a great preview of what’s to come for me. Hitting a deadline for your FT job is a nice feeling, but nothing compares to working your butt off all day to support your own business. If you haven’t tried it yet, you gotta do it. I’m just sorta bummed I can’t do it again until the end of the month!