Sorry not sorry

Jason Yeh
October 15, 2021

Hey look - I’m back! For two weeks in September, I was hard at work marketing my fellowship program - Fundraise with Confidence. That meant I was sending a few extra emails out to you all (just a few 😬), so putting the weekly Fieldnotes newsletter on pause felt like the right thing to do.

I want to address the elephant in the room and in the process tie it back to a fundraising lesson (that’s what I do).

🐘

What’s the elephant in this room of fundraising friends? It’s that a lot of you didn’t like my emails. In fact, you were downright annoyed.

In this extra wave of emailing, I focused on sharing info about a fundraising program I was about to launch. The consistent message said in different ways was:

If you’re planning on fundraising, I can help

For many of you, that wasn’t relevant! You just raised, so fundraising isn’t on your mind anymore! Or you’re a VC and you already know the process better than I do - you could probably teach the class! Or you’re a friend of mine who joined the mailing list to make me feel better and only like my little illustrations - you don’t even read the content! The point is those marketing messages were not your cup of tea (Sorry).

…and some of you weren’t shy about letting me know. 

With the feedback I got, I know exactly how I could have made my spike in emails more generally accepted.

First, I would have added a section about “what to do after you raise.” Anyone that had been in a previous cohort of mine or those who had finished their fundraise recently would have appreciated that.

Next, I’d add a “Hidden Gems” list of up-and-coming startups who should get funded. With all the startups I meet, it’d be so easy to put together some exciting companies not many people know about yet. The VCs that are on my list would have been much happier seeing that.

Finally, I’d probably add some fun general news and memes. That way, if you randomly joined the mailing list as a friend, at least there would be something you’d enjoy.

The result would have looked like this:

I have a lot of great stuff to share with you
If you’re planning on fundraising, I can help
But if you just raised, I can also help with this other stuff
And btw in case you like investing, check out these companies
P.S here are some funny memes

But here’s the thing - Sorry not sorry.

I wasn’t writing those emails for everyone. I was writing them for the founder who was planning on raising in the next 6 months and wanted help.

And if I had modified my message to add all the extra things that would make other people happy, the founders I really wanted to reach wouldn’t hear me. They wouldn’t get how passionate and truly focused on helping them I really am.

Marketing is funny like that. For every ad that seems totally out of place to you or every marketing email that made you think “why on earth would they send that to me,” there is likely someone who thought “Yes!”

You know what else is funny like that?

Fundraising.

That same “why on earth would they send that to me” reaction can also occur when an investor glances over your cold email or skims the first few slides of your meticulously-constructed pitch deck. If it doesn’t resonate with them and make them lean in, investors will reply with a pass, share constructive feedback, or just ignore you altogether. These results don’t feel great and can easily tempt entrepreneurs to alter their pitch in an attempt to receive less of that negative feedback.

Resist the urge. Remember that your goal is not to get everyone to like you, just as my goal was not to make everyone love my emails. Your story is not for everyone. It needs to have a strong and specific point of view so when the investor who thinks like you hears the message, she knows you’re talking to her. 

If you try to make your pitch lightly interesting to everyone it will be a copacetic blah story. You won’t offend anyone but you also won’t excite anyone enough to invest.

Don’t apologize or change for people who don’t get it.  Build your story for a specific audience and stick to it. 

Sorry not sorry.


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