Startup Life Twetailer

My First Cold Call Demo Pitch and Are All Retail Sales Associates Like This?

Man I told you… my day is, I come to work, I get paid, I go home. You think I want to do this all my life?

– Retailer Sales Associate (Let’s call him Trevor)

a teenage girl with a bored look twisting her hair
Like I care?


Over the past few posts, I’ve spent some time describing my Social Software in Schools project, which has been an absolute blast & has yeilded some surprising results. (But that’ll be another post.) However, I also spend my time on my true start-up – twetailer. Without going into much detail here, I’ll just put things in context by defining it as:

Twetailer: Brokering Consumer Demand with local Retailers’ available Supply – via tweets, for f(r)ee.

Prior to heading off to pitch a potential business partner, I decided to try out my routine on an unsuspecting Retail Sales Associate who I thought fit our personna – young, tech savy, looking for an easier way to get things done. My pitch demos how consumers Google for product reviews, make a decision, then search for a local retailer to make the sale. Part of the demo, demonstrates how local business directories / search engines were failing local retailers, thereby creating greater barriers for entry (sales) to their stores – partly due to their antiquated taxonomy/categories.

The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Dragnet trademark

My Story

I approached Trevor – an unoccupied Carl’s Cameras Sales Associate, as opposed to, the older gentleman behind the cash register making sales. I introduced myself as being part of an Internet start-up company offering a free search service that matches consumers ready to purchase products with local retailers ready to make sales – all via Tweets/text messages. While Trevor didn’t use Twitter (too young), he was willing to listen, so I opened my MacBook & started my Keynote presentation. I went through all the slides/videos & stopped at the demo part to elaborate. Trevor was engaged! He had questions & thought it was “really cool”. He thought searching Yellow Pages for “cameras” locally was useless but did accept there may not be many alternatives, even after I demoed Google Maps local search. He wasn’t surprised to see Carl’s Cameras not among the initial Yellow Pages search results & conceded that no one walks into the store asking for “digital image processing equipment” – Carl’s Cameras taxonomy & there’s no way anyone in the store could change that. He loved the idea of “social tagging” Demand & Supply in the language (terminology) of the consumers’ & retailers’ & thought it was very practical.

However, here’s how the conversation continued;

Me: “Would you use Twetailer to help you close sales?”

Trevor: No. It’s not like I’m going to work here the rest of my life. My day is, I come in, I go home, I get paid.”

Me: But you could just sit down in the back room, have a coffee & make sales? Do you text message?

Trevor: True dat. Yah of course I text.

Me: Do you have unlimited text messaging?

Trevor: Yah, for sure. But I’m not going to use my phone for work & Carl’s Cameras is not going to give me a phone to text.

Me: Carl’s Cameras doesn’t have to give you a phone to text. Especially, if you’ve already got unlimited texting. Tell me, if a friend texted you & said he knows someone looking for a nikon d5000, do you have any in the store, would you text back? Wouldn’t you text “Yes, tell them to come see me.”?

Trevor: True dat… of course I would.

Me: So what’s the difference with Twetailer?

Trevor: I guess nothing. But my day is, I come here, I work, I go home, I get paid. You know… you should really speak to Carl’s Cameras’ Regional Sales Manager. He’s a really nice guy & he’s gonna love this thing. He could probably get all the stores to use it. (He then went to get me the contact info.)

Me: Thanks so much for your help. I really appreciate it. Take care.

True Dat Story

I then glanced over to the cash, where the elder gentleman was eavesdropping from all the time, waited to see if he had anything to add & then left.

Following Up

In the days that followed, I tried on several occassions to contact the Regional Sales Manager. The phone number Trevor gave me was also listed on the web site. Yet everytime I called, the phone system went on & on about the office hours & no matter what options I chose, no matter what day, no matter what time, I always ended back at the beginning. For the record “Carl’s Cameras” is my alias for a national retailer!

Moving forward

A few days later, I demo’ed to Kevin Makice – author of Twitter API: Up and Running – O’Reilly Media. He had a funny/sad take on this story. His theory is that small/medium sized retailers – the Mom & Pop stores, are so busy treading water, that they can’t imagine stopping for 5 minutes to try something new, simply on the hope that it can change their world. This would be especially true, for a technology they don’t get – like Twitter/ text messaging.

Ironic, eh?

Unfortunately, the irony of the situation, is that text messaging/tweets empowers these retailers to get back in the digital age. There’s no need for static brochure-ware web sites – which they may have missed, or, are out-dated. There’s no need for online e-commerce shopping cart sites – which they probably can’t afford, or, could never see any return-on-investment. There’s no need for anything more that an old mobile phone that can text message & someone to push those little buttons.

All they need is someone like Trevor to give a damm. Someone who would probably love the excuse to text at work. Someone who would probably find it easier than answering the phone.

Lessons Learned

Next time, I’m going to demo someone on commission 🙂


Have you had a similar experience? Is this a generational thing, or, simply a management issue?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Social Software

My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included)

Twitter – not your father’s Oldsmobile of news sources

Who’s this for

Are you one of those folks whose heard of Twitter & wondered what’s it all about? Or perhaps you once were adventurous enough to visit the site but, for the life of you, just couldn’t get it? I know that’s exactly how I felt. Even their own “What”, “Why”, “How” and slick video just didn’t do it for me. Did I really need to announce to the world that I’m eating soup? Did anyone out there really care? Even my own mother?

So if you are the way I was, then this post’s for you. On the other hand, if you wear your Twitter badge with pride – like I do, then maybe you can read on anyway & share your thoughts on how to help others benefit from this technology.

Why I like Twitter

When I was just a little guy growing up – not that I’m such a giant now, I remember my father leaving for the office before we went off to school and somehow always managing to pull his big brown Oldsmobile 98 into the driveway at exactly 6 PM. He would then sit in his car & listen to the news. Afterwards, he’d join us at the kitchen table and once supper was over, he’d then move onto his special reading corner. He’d sit back in his big comfy black leather chair and ottoman – like the one on Fasier and read the newspaper from cover to cover. (In those days, we received the newspaper in the late afternoon.) He read every square inch of that paper. That & his 6 o’clock news were his sources of information. (He usually fell asleep in front of the TV long before the 11 o’lock news.)

Cartype : Oldsmobile
As he got older, had more time on his hands and more choices, he got into other news sources like CNN, FOX, CBC, or, The Weather Channel. But somethings always remained the same. Regardless of the content, he always had to select a news source first, filter out the content that interested him and sometimes filter out the opinions, views and biases of those sources before he was able to get what he wanted.

Today, Twitter is not my father’s Oldsmobile of news sources. With Twitter, I select my content first and then look to the source. The next time something major is going on – like an election, a natural disaster, or both, just try to keep up with the tweets. All of a sudden, everyone is an Eye Witness news reporter. That means anyone with a connection to the Net, or, capable of text messaging (I’m guessing any mobile phone purchased within the last five years) is a Twittereporter. That’s got to out number any news agency’s sources – unless of course they follow Twitter too. But even if they did. Their coverage still can’t compare, simply because of their value add – read bias. So, saying Twitter is a premium news source may in fact be an understatement.

What‘s Twitter, tweets and micro-blogging

So now’s a good time to check out that slick video I mentioned earlier on Twitter’s home page. But, remember, its not really about soup, or, mowing the lawn.

In addition, Alex Iskold‘s Evolution of Communication: From Email to Twitter and Beyond – ReadWriteWeb gives a great comparison of mail/email, phone/instant messaging, newspapers/blogs and of course Twitter.

How to follow
  1. Content
    1. Go to http://search.twitter.com (No registration required!)
    2. Note the “Trending topics”. The ones prefixed with the hash (#) are tags authors use to shortcut their topic – like keywors.
    3. Aside from current events that would make national, or, international headlines, try searching for something less news worthy. Try a brand like JetBlue, or, product like iPhone. This is all word of mouth and most likely not an official support mechanism. Watch what people are saying about great/poor service, awesome/lemon products…
    4. Did you notice the ? Add that feed to your news reader and you now have you’re very own staff of twitterreporters. If you’re not sure what that means, take a look at my previous post My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)
  2. People
    1. Take a look at other people’s profiles and follow their lead. Things like using a real picture, and your actual name go a long way when it comes to building relationships
    2. Go ahead and register a free account at
    3. Based on your search results, you may have come across folks you’d like to follow more specifically. Click on their picture and then the Twitter Follow Me button
    4. Just for fun, check out Dr. Mark Drapeau‘s, Guest Post- The Post-Geekdominant Twitterverse where among other things, he refers to Who has the most Followers on Twitter? (Top 100) |
  3. Tools, tools and more tools
Where‘s to start

If nothing else, I really hope you’re at least intrigued by it all. So here again is where to start:

  1. Search Twitter
  2. Twitter
  3. I’d be honored if you’d like to follow me

When to subscribe
Even if you don’t Tweet – for now, the very least you should be doing is listening for others. So follow your interests, passions – personal & professional. If you’re lucky, they’ll all the same.

Up next

I think there’s a tremendous target audience out there just waiting for us to onboard them into the world of social software and I’ll explain further in my next post. In the meantime, I’ll be searching and tweeting trying to validate my theory. So if you have anything you’d like to share along these lines, please comment, or, Tweet me @stevenmistein.

How about searching for something of interest right now and comment below how it went. Was it as easy as described? Did I oversimplify things? Would you like me to find some other helpful pointers out there? You’ll never know unless you ask.

By the way, I really did love that Olds 98. And that big comfy black leather chair & ottoman, is just a few feet away from me.