Reproducing an email we received recently. All in a day’s work indeed.

Hi Naina,

We have discovered you via Linkedin in our search for:

1. Fashion brand story

2. Fahion brand photography

3. Fashion brand build-up.

We are a fabric fashion house who have recently ventured in to a start-up fashion brand for high fashion and would like to have a professional to support our agenda while ensuring costs are kept sharp while work quality stays edgy (typical entrepreneurial mind set).

Let us know if you would be interested in helping us set this up.

I have copy-pasted the first email from a prospect above. The subject of the email was “Fashion Photography” and the signature of the email carried details – contact and designation – of the person sending the email. The gentleman is C-Level at this company. I don’t want to dissect the specifics but my initial reaction was that maybe this needed a little more thought and that it would help to provide some context to explain what it is that Naina.co does and is hence interested in doing. To that effect, my business manager, Matt, emailed the following response.

Hi Sanjay*,

Thank you for getting in touch with us.

Ms. Naina is a photographer and also uses social media to help brands tell their stories. Please let us know what specific deliverables you would be interested in for your business. Accordingly I will be able to get back to you on whether we are able and willing to work on the same.

Following was the response received to our above email :

Hi Matt

We have articulated our need below and surely would need to go past building to dissemination of the story where social media leverage will be key.

Specifics

A. Brand Story
B. Brand Logo
C. Brand Fashion Photography
D. Brand story dissemination using social media & more.
E. Brand Aura

Let me know.

After reading this email, I had mentioned to Matt that I was no longer interested in “finding out more” because it sounded like the gentleman was not certain about their requirements and were possibly using words they did not quite know in terms of clear deliverables. Matt, being the awesome person he is, has far more patience and willingness to go the extra mile when it comes to understanding prospect requirements even when it is clear ( to me ) that this would go nowhere. To this effect, Matt sent the following email response :

Hi Sanjay*,

Thank you for further details.

Would it be possible for you share a ballpark figure for your budget for this entire activity? It is a fairly large project and I want to make sure we’re on the same page, approximately at least, with the scope and the pricing.

We wanted to determine that both parties were on the same page in terms of the scope of this assignment. While the prospect had articulated deliverables like “brand logo” and “brand fashion photography”, I felt that the rest of the “terms” were still quite loose and indeterminate in terms of what they expected me to do. It is all well and easy to say things like “brand story” and “brand aura” but in my experience it is a little silly to use these terms when no details of the brand have been provided. It is also hard to come up with a budget at this stage because no one knows the scope. As a rule, based on more than a decade of experience, I do not schedule a meeting with a prospect without first establishing that they understand what I do and I understand what it is they are looking for. If a prospect mentions they would like to schedule a meeting before the scope has been established, the best I can do is get on a phone call with them and hopefully understand a little more.

In the above case, while the gentleman had shared their hand-phone number in their email signature, they did not express interest in either speaking on the phone or in meeting face-to-face. I was getting a feeling that they might belong to a more traditional way of working ( to use a euphemism ) and might expect a service provider to bend over backwards and cater to their every whim. Of course, I reminded myself not to submit to conjecture but their response to our above email was a massive, “I told you so!” in my own head.

Hi Mark

Brands & Budgets are built basis ideas and allocations are a function of possibilities & returns. While we are not constrained for funds we were seeking guidance from your professional organization basis which a budget could have been built. Anyways it seems we cannot work together for you are seeking money ahead of work which is counter to my work ethics.

Thanks for your time anyways.

Sorry Dad but that sounds like an email my Dad would write! Basis the tone of course. I love my Dad.

Quite a shift from their first email saying, “…ensuring costs are kept sharp…” to their last email ( hopefully ) saying, “While we are not constrained for funds…”. Refraining from further dissection, our response by Matt was as follows.

Dear Sanjay*,

It’s Matt, not Mark.

Thank you for your time & attention.

Of course, both Matt and I might have been wrong in interpreting this particular prospect’s email. Less than 1% of all email I receive results in an actual assignment with someone who is then usually a repeat client ( if the budget permits it ). Each one of my clients has been stellar in not only providing priceless feedback but also further talking about my work to their circles and in the process signing me up with more real, paying clients. But it all started with an enquiry email and after a reasonable amount of back and forth, things worked out. Communication is a two-way process and the bigger, vaguer words one uses, the more likely it is that communication will break down at some point. The corollary to this is that if one party uses simple and straightforward language, while the other party prefers jargon, well then… not all relationships work out. It’s business, not personal.

The gentleman and I will get along over feisty conversation, if we meet socially. I am almost certain of that. Professionally though, I’m not so sure.

All in a day’s work.

(*Names have been changed to protect privacy.)

5 comments

  1. Hi Naina, this did make me chuckle!! I have a hard time with jargon and it’s nice to see someone else being equally skeptical of it. I’ve been in touch with you guys before and hope to be again in the near future, but in the meantime I keep coming back to your blog for the great images and also the insight into how a start-up like ours should communicate with an established promoter like yourself; it’s been very helpful. Good luck with it all and I hope to be in touch again soon.

    1. Hey Joe, thank you for the kind comment. Doing business is not so hard but only when we’re working with the right people. And finding the right people, whether employees, board directors or service providers / partners, is the hardest. It takes a lot of iterations and many heartbreaks before one either completely gives up or end up finding someone who is great. Sometimes a meaningful compromise can also be reached. I really really really love my existing clients because it usually means both sides have been through experiences that were preparing them for this awesome collaboration. Right place, right time, right people and the right project. Yes I recall our previous email exchange. Looking forward to doing something together! Cheers! Naina

  2. Hi Naina,

    Love that you share your experiences here with the emails. There are two sides of the coin – A) a too vague description from the client of what he wants. B) A – at least for me it appears like that – fast way of processing the amount of requests you get. I assume it must be overwhelming at some time. But from the client point of view – sometimes we just don’t know exactly what we want. And with Indian brands, I have learned that they even need education about all possibilities and brand building. Even international brands operating in India require that as they lack market understanding. So a phone call in this case would have helped. Also to see if the guy writing the email is even – I would call it – ‘social capable’ to work with you. You or Matt would have found out if he has a closed mind and could explain his vague key words further. This of course depends on the amount of work you’ve on your table. And sometimes some requests are not as important as other. 🙂 Keep sharing! Love it to learn with you.

    1. Hi Antje, Always a pleasure hearing from you – I appreciate the time you spend interacting with me on so many platforms, apart from the rare meeting and phone call! I agree that this was probably too quick to end but you are also right about the number of requests. It does get quite overwhelming and while I try to be brusque to separate the wheat from the chaff, Matt is far more patient. I’ve experienced that meeting prospects definitely increases the chances of a collaboration but the meeting itself needs to be precluded with at least *some* clarity on what needs to be done. I don’t think a phone call would’ve helped because I don’t think there was a fit. This prospect might find a wonderful person who will help their brand grow and scale but that person would not be me. I have to quantifying data for this but I trust my gut after years of experience. I’m not saying I don’t make mistakes but the balancing act of number of emails vs. responses to relevant ones needs to be brutal. Can’t sit on responses for too long, can’t be rude, can’t say yes to anything without knowing what it involves… so much to consider! Cheers!

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