There has been a lot of fuss about Kelly Blazek’s response to an unsolicited email and whilst her response may be a little harsh, there are a couple of valid issues here that are going unaddressed,
One thought is that Politeness – in all directions – is a rare commodity. If you do something for me, I say “thanks” as a minimum. I’m a big Kickstarter fan and have backed almost 70 projects. Most are fun, many are Oakland based (I look especially for those) and almost all have delivered (it’s an interesting dynamic when (two) non-deliverers are friends…. :-(( ). I backed one project that has since gone very big, with the individual becoming a bit of a celebrity in that world. As a Brit, I’m averse to the tongue hanging out, fan boy adulation. But in this case I went to the launch party, we met and chatted, connected on LinkedIn and Facebook I backed another project that the individual recommended (more on that in a moment), so I felt like we had “the connection”.
So I’m working with a client on a possible KIckstarter project. “I know someone who has done a successful Kickstarter” I say, “I’ll see if I can get some tips and cautions”. I write. No response. It turns out that the individual’s birthday is around that time, I send greetings (as I do for all my friends and contacts whose birthday I know). No response. Nothing!
By this time I had backed the recommended project. Six people backed that project at the top level, comprising about 20% of the total raised. Now if I was running fundraising effort, of any kind, such people would be top of my list for a ‘thank you’ with some meaning and sincerity. After all, they not only played a big part in making something (presumably very important in the life of the project initiators) happen, but should represent exactly the sort of people you want around, and supportive, in the future. The project funded in October last year and the Grand Opening party was in November. I went but wasn’t greeted at all; nobody seemed to know what was going on, nobody knew to whom I could talk, and after 15 minutes I left. There was a dinner scheduled for the 6 backers, planned for January will actually take place this weekend – the end of March. In the meantime we have had only a couple of brief (an understatement!!) emails presenting the logistics for the dinner.
Whilst this draft has been sitting around Om Malik put out his take on Kickstarter funders – the best that I have seen. He points out that when we fund a project, we put in more than cash, we have an emotional connection, a vested interest in seeing the project succeed. And sometimes, like a bad relationship, we feel jilted when not nurtured, or even acknowledged. That’s certainly how I feel about the friends who let me down, and on these two projects. And of course, I get a little more cynical about funding any new projects. The fifty or so SUCCESSFUL projects I have backed, influence me positively though! But the ‘bad’ do have a big impact.
So what has this to do with LinkedIn?
Take a look at this:
This is not an unusual request, as it uses the standard text provided by LInkedIn, ‘As you are a person I trust……. “ . This is an example of a fairly regular message I get via LinkedIn. Let’s look more closely: First, it’s not personalized in any way – it uses LinkedIn’s standard ‘fire and forget’ text. My name’s not mentioned anywhere, and there is no attempt to explain what benefit they (or I) would get, or want, from connecting. The person claims to ‘trust me’ (they don’t know me and have never met me, how did they establish that “trust”) and invites me to join THEIR network. In most cases, such individuals have NO network to speak of – they actually want access to me and to mine.
So it’s hard for me to imagine a more disingenuous and insincere way to start a business relationship. Perhaps I overstate the case, but not much. Perhaps they are just not thinking. Or perhaps they are in the numbers game. Ask enough times and you’ll get some that say “yes”. A very powerful lesson for me – from way back in the 70s, was a friend who always seemed to have an attractive woman around. “How do you always have a woman to take home at the end of the evening?’ I once asked him. “Well”, he explained, “I just go up to them on the dance floor and say “Wanna fuck?”. He got a few slaps, but he also got enough acceptances that he continued to use the strategy. It strikes me that many of the LI requests, Kickstarter projects and marketing attempts to gain ‘customers’ fall into the WF category. They are not so much sincere attempts to start a (business) relationship, as to meet the instigators immediate need for whatever type of gratification is requested. And once their need is met, the funders, the contact, the new customer is forgotten.
I usually ask the LI requestor how we know each other. In most cases I get no reply, so they are declined (which defeats their purpose entirely, when I decline I’m asked to record if I know the person, and the ‘no’ answer counts against them). Others respond, often with a variation of “I want to offer (sell) you xyz service”. A few tell me what they would like to learn, how they could help me, or I them. They are always accepted. And in the real world, will I ever support the two projects mentioned above – absolutely not. And yet the latter one in particular is in an area (educating kids) I feel very strongly about.
So what are the lessons from all this? Some are simple: If you are going to ask for something (“be my customer”, “fund my project”, be my contact”) do so in an open, genuine and honest way. Follow through on your promise. Some are more complex: Think about what you are asking for subliminally – or what your ‘customer’ may believe you are establishing. More specifically, most of us would regard that first step as exactly that, the beginning, not the end of the relationship!