Firstly, If you are a potential customer, interested in our services
Lead generation - getting new customers is hard
Attracting customers is incredibly challenging. This is especially true as a company building technology solutions for different markets using different technologies. The moment we choose a set of technologies we are reducing our target market. The temptation for software companies is to contact other software companies under the assumption that I have an abundance of work to get out to other companies.
Crude analysis of data of contact through our contact forms, LinkedIn, and e-mail statistics shows the following types of contact.
- Spam e-mail 95%
- Contact form of genuine customers, 0.5%
- Companies that may have some possible synergy with us when contacting via e-mail or on my contact form, 0.5%
- E-mail contact of potential genuine customers, 0.5%
- Business through LinkedIn - 0%. LinkedIn does not work for our business model, indeed, we are considering leaving LinkedIn as it may be harming potential business
- Outsourcing to 3rd parties based upon cold-calling, 0%
- The rest - some conversations ensue between potential partners, but there is rarely alignment
We have decent spam filters setup so most of this mail doesn't really impact us. We presume most software solutions providers have a similar breakdown of interaction with customers and suppliers. The approach we want to take is to increase the number of potential genuine customers reaching out to us, Increasing exposure. It is obvious that one way to achieve this is to exist in more places and this can be through featuring on partners and collaborators websites and other social media.
Guide for Software Developers, Recruitment Agencies, and other suppliers offering services to Info Rhino
It is out of respect that we wrote this article - respect of your time and our time.
It seems that etiquette and integrity in business seems to be harder to find these days, perhaps this article can guide you to show courtesy to both your customers and partners.
We get inundated with companies and freelancers contacting us asking if we have extra work we can hand over to them in exchange for payment. To us, this is bizarre because;
- We have no knowledge of the vendor's capabilities technically
- There is no relationship between us and the vendor, no trust in their ability as we have not established a good working relationship with the vendor
- The brazen nature of the contact, there is an expectation that we have work to allocate purely from another company asking, but that company never offers to share/outsource your work to us.
- The software vendor never thinks to see if we have expertise they don't and that there could be a partnership opportunity where we can jointly offer more services
- The vendor has a completely different technology stack to ourselves. This may be okay if there is clear evidence that we can trust the partner to implement specific services and applications. However, in most circumstances, the vendor just throws a completely different set of technology stacks at us. The onus is then on us to put extra work into trying to understand the vendor which is normally a huge drain on our time
Do some research before cold calling
Sometimes, there is a place for simply presenting your services without researching your prospects. To us, this reflects poorly on the supplier. You probably spend more time deciding what to eat for lunch than researching potential target customers.
How we work
Info Rhino is a very small company producing significant amounts of focused technology. We collaborate with former colleagues and technology partners that we know can deliver. Often, this collaboration is unpaid as we are building solutions we expect to sell in volume or deliver services to customers in future. At other times, we simply collaborate to share knowledge to explore the possibility of creating new products.
We and our partners love collaborating, sharing in ideas, and discussing new ways to come up with solutions that deliver. This will never change.
Our paying customers tends to be enterprises where we are engaged as one or more team members, or providing solutions to paying customers. Now it may be the case that we need more people to deliver our work but we only work with collaborators we know and trust. We don't achieve that level of trust through a zoom call after an initial linkedin message, email spam, or a cold call.
Outsourcing in the past - our experience
Again, we have outsourced work to freelancers, technology companies in the past and it has often been dissatisfying. The reasons are many, but to summarise;
- Over promise of delivery by suppliers (dishonesty)
- An expectation of detailed requirements from us, no ability of the supplier to solve problems
- Long periods of silence - software developers are famous for going quiet when they are struggling with the work
- No shared vision in the product being delivered
- The need for us to over manage - write code samples, we work with experts where a few conversations is enough to implement a solution. We cannot be managing every facet of an individual's work
- Often, we need to rewrite the solution because the technical competency of the supplier/vendor is too low. Remember, software vendors may use their best developers to win contracts and then put junior developers on the tasks. This catches out even the best of us
To really hit the nail on the head, by the time we have written the requirements, engaged a vendor, undertaken testing and quality assurance on their work, it wastes too much of our time.
Other strange requests by potential suppliers fishing for work
- SEO Companies emailing us to provide SEO services. The irony that we haven't found them online isn't lost
- Companies offering to redesign our website in a different technology. Are they kidding? We are experts in dotnetcore, and our main product is our web data platform, and a company wants to rebuild our website? Now, we know there is always the opportunity to improve the design, but this is bizarre. Imagine knocking on a builder's door, telling them their house is terrible, and that you can knock it down and rebuild it for them?
- Companies asking for any extra work. We do look to see if there are any synergies with these companies, and there are none. Often the company has no evidence of passion on their website, no evidence of partnership or collaboration
- Companies offering to do marketing, videos, guest blogs without any real evidence of success or how it would work specifically for us. Certainly, zero attempt to actually understand our company before reaching out
- Companies contacting us not from their own email address, or Gmail, etc. Often, there is no website to be found
- Companies asking for work that made zero effort to understand what we do, what we are working on, how they could help us improve the technology solutions we deliver
- Companies that doesn't evidence their passion for data. Honestly, most website companies can't build even a reasonably competent database. We have had to help out many clients that have had terrible experiences from technology suppliers through an inability to model data correctly
- Zero research before offering a service
- Zero skin in the game and not evidenced it can deliver good Return on Investment (ROI). An example of this is companies contacting us to feature on some directory - it is far more preferable to deliver genuine customers needing a service in exchange for commission
- Companies begging us to give them just a small piece of work to demonstrate their capabilities. Such an unknown quantity. This means we have to put an unknown company on our critical path, spend time writing requirements, draw up a contract, and they expect to get paid for it.
Companies offering SEO services
The honest ways for companies to provide services to customers is to put themselves online and get found by customers wanting those services. Whilst search engines did at one point do this, many business find it impossible to get found online. As an experiment, try typing in the name of a local restaurant on Google and see what comes up. It will almost certainly not be number one. This means most businesses never get found online, no matter the SEO. Pay Per Click and Pay Per Impression will bankrupt most honest companies.
We think the model of search engines presenting good matches for customers has been broken for years. We do think the LLM AGI (Artificial Intelligence) does offer new opportunities for matching customers to suppliers, but it will not benefit small honest businesses in the long run.
What staggers us is it is obvious that technology consultancies must link content between other consultancies to increase their reach. Yet, we have never had a single company do this - recommend reciprocal content.
They put themselves on directories such as clutch, put themselves on LinkedIn like everybody else and wait for what never comes.
Service Suppliers that cold-call to sell software development - does it work?
We have never taken on a software consultancy that has cold called us by telephone. We have given specifications to some, after a lot of discussions. There is very clear reason why it does not seem to work out. Typically we talk with the sales department and they haven't really explored what we do. They don't really know what to offer. Often when we speak with the tech lead they are not in a position to act on both a commercial and technical level.
We often get recruitment agencies emailing us either with potential candidates they think matches ideal employee or offering to provide some unique way to source candidates for our technology company. This just will not work. We collaborate with like-minded technologists and it seems strange to us why some of these candidates aren't taking the time to source potential collaboration partners when they themselves are small businesses themselves.
Whilst we have worked with some very talented recruitment consultants, the genuine states of the market is such that we would prefer to work directly with candidates showing initiative rather than going through a middleman less likely to understand our customers.
Offer to really help market or expand our products
A recent example is our new ecommerce payment gateway solution. It allows us to scale out payment processing and de-risk companies from focusing on a single payment provider. Why not see if there is synergy where you could build a validator?
Please read these articles For further guidance on how we like to work with other technologists
Other ways to collaborate
We are more than happy to have a discussion on a technology or set of services with you as a goal to network and put ideas out for a wider target audience.
Developing something small for us
We have technology online, and discussions of our products. Why not build something small we can both talk about?
Unpaid development by us, feature articles
If you have an API or a database, a GitHub repo, or some other facet of tech where we could do something small and talk about, we could put something small together, even an article.
Wrapping it up
This has been a very open and honest discussion on the challenges faced by companies wishing to offer technology services and products, and what we consider to be the right way to go about this. What seems obvious to us, transparency, forwarding on network with like-minded individuals and companies promoting each other's strengths, seems to be alien to most others in our field.
So please think before you reach out to ourselves or other companies, at least offer some kind of reciprocal benefit that helps everybody and our industry deliver to customers.
Reach out to us