How am I going to scale that?

I hear the above question constantly from fellow early-stage entrepreneurs, and I find it baffling and arrogant. If the founder of a 50-person company asked me that question, I would understand and empathize with their situation. At that level, it becomes much harder to offer a personal touch to prospects, customers, and other stakeholders. But when I hear it from startups that are a couple of founders pushing an MVP, it seems illogical and lazy.

The “personal touch” doesn’t scale well, but having it can help cause your company to scale.

Let’s examine a specific and common activity for startups: email.

1) Would you rather email 1,000 people with generic messaging and get 10 responses?

2) Would you rather email 10 people with personal messaging and get 1 response?

Many will take the first route because it’s easier, provides more data, and potentially yields a higher number of leads. But here’s what it won’t do:

  • It’s much less likely going to help you find your early evangelists or encourage anyone to want to be one. The people who are going to help tell your story are the ones who feel more personally connected to you, and that starts with you showing them you care about them.
  • It’s unlikely you’ll get the attention of the most influential prospects. People who yield influence get contacted a lot. People who get contacted a lot develop an uncanny skill of filtering through generic pitches. Yours will likely go straight to the trash bin if you’re not pulling together a tailored note.
  • It won’t show respect for the person you want to work with. Email marketing is great for keeping people informed when they’ve opted-in to general updates. Copying and pasting a pitch without a shred of personalization is an imposition on the recipient and a statement that your time is more valuable than theirs.

The above scenario only pertains to email, but it’s a good example because it represents something entrepreneurs think about day to day. Code, design, customer service, and fundraising all require attention and they usually get the focused attention from designers that they deserve. Marketing is no different. When it comes to building your early company, don’t worry about mass marketing and spend the little time you have finding the people who are going to be most passionate about what you do and set examples for others like them.

Whether it’s related to marketing or not, don’t worry about scaling until you’ve actually scaled.