Pitch This

By: Brian Cardarella

Here is something I probably shouldn’t be admitting: I can’t put together a sales pitch for my own company.

It’s not that I don’t know what we do, I am intimately familiar with what we do. It’s not that I don’t believe in us, in fact we have big growth plans for the next 3 years and I am certain we’ll meet them. It’s just that I find it incredibly difficult to describe to others in an “elevator pitch” what a software consultancy can offer without going down the “technology” rabbit hole.

The exercise is: if I were introduced to someone at a party, how do I convince them they should hire DockYard? Funny enough, I can’t do it. This is a very large deficiency for me/my company right now. To date all of our contracts have been from inbound sales. Which is great, but we need to be able to sell our services to companies that don’t yet know about us.

So what does DockYard do? According to our current landing page We create web & mobile applications. Which is 100% true, but if I told this to you I doubt you’d hire us. I asked other DockYard’ers to try their hand at writing the DY pitch. To illustrate how difficult this is here is what they came up with:

  • DockYard designs and develops applications for people who have an idea and don’t know what to do next
  • We build web products, and focus on quality.
  • We create software that helps people. A client can come to us seeking advice regarding software development practices or looking to implement a product he/she has been thinking about. Our main focus is delivering a solution that a client is happy with by using powerful visual design, best software engineering practices and latest technologies.
  • We’re a design and development shop specializing in really intuitive, responsive user interfaces. We work primarily with Ember.js, which is a JavaScript framework similar to Angular and Backbone. On the backend, we prefer a Rails backend and transactional database, which is more reliable than the NoSQL databases out there.
  • DockYard leads projects from ideas to user-friendly products that are built by cutting edge technologies and methodologies. As a team, we put clients’ business goals in the forefront through the collaborative expertise of our designers and developers.
  • DockYard helps business owners create web apps with the combined power of Ember and great design.
  • We’re a team of software designers and engineers deeply invested in producing the best solution to a challenge, rather than just the one that works.
  • We do a lot of research before we start designing, so our projects are thought through. Designers have a lot of say in what we actually build, compared to other shops, so it makes the work more meaningful.

Some of these go beyond the scope of a “pitch” but I think the message is clear: this is not an easy assignment. The common theme is the focus on our expertise, which is a good angle. Expertise has been what defines DockYard. But do all companies care about how we build?

Currently nearly all of our clients get in touch with us because of our expertise in Ember.js. At that point the sale is actually quite easy. There aren’t a lot of consultancies right now claiming expertise in Ember. Amongst those firms I believe that DockYard is considered one of the top. So by the time the client contacts us they have probably already decided to go with us. This is great but it paints us into a niche. We’re missing out on the other 99.99% of the opportunities that don’t know about us.

So how do some other software consultancies pitch? I don’t know if it is fair to use the marketing tagline from their website as their “pitch” but I think it is close enough for the purposes of this article. Let’s take a look:

  • Thoughtworks We provide software delivery, pioneering tools and consulting for organizations with ambitious missions.
  • Pivotal Labs We transform how the world builds software.
  • thoughtbot Our clients hire us to design and build their products. We focus on user outcomes and simplicity. We write code for iOS, Android, and the web.
  • 37signals an elite team of expert web design and usability specialists dedicated to simple, clear, and useable customer-focused design.

I don’t know if this really helps me or confuses me even more. These are all over the place, from general, to technology specific, to downright vague. Each of these companies have been very successful. How much of their success do they owe to their sales pitches? 37signals (when they were a consultancy) was famous for being a referral based business. (or at least advertising themselves as such) I don’t know thoughtbot as well as I used to but I believe they still don’t have any internal sales team. Thoughtworks and Pivotal both have sales/biz-dev teams. Their marketing lines are very vague, very “wide-net”. No help here.

It’s sad to say but I am currently at a loss on how to effectively sell my own company.