A first lesson in sales pitches: Honesty
I seem to be getting quite a few requests from those who would wish to help me on this blog. These tend to fall into a couple of categories:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) offers
Requests to submit an (irrelevant) article
Requests for me to link to an article somewhere
For all those to whom it may concern, therefore, let me offer the following advice: 1) do your homework, and 2) be honest!
First and foremost, few of these cold e-mailers bother to look through the web site to see how it is funded. If they did, they might notice that zipcpu.com doesn’t (currently) advertise, it doesn’t offer promotions, nor are there any links to click on to purchase ZipCPU merchandise.
The closest thing to blog funding is a Patreon link on the left of every page which people can click on to provide a monthly contribution to encourage my work. While I appreciate everyone who contributes, and perhaps even more those who choose to correspond and encourage, and while I am very thankful for all of those who have chosen to sponsor the ZipCPU blog on Patreon, it doesn’t pay for my time. Blog articles can take days, and sometimes weeks, to put together.
The ZipCPU blog wasn’t written for that purpose.
The ZipCPU blog was written (initially) to attract businesses in my skills rather than to sell products. To that end, it is working quite well–especially since I don’t need to attract more than 1-3 businesses to keep my time occupied and my wallet filled.
Beyond that, the ZipCPU blog is, in many ways, a labor of love and fun. I enjoy helping others, and I enjoy sharing my own experiences. Even better, the ZipCPU blog offers me a chance to do a bit of rubber duck debugging. When I write blog articles about designs I’ve written, those designs I blog about tend to get cleaned up at the same time.
The bottom line here is: there’s no money to fund hiring a web developer. That’s not how this blog is funded.
With this background, let’s look a bit deeper.
Perhaps the biggest offer I get is from someone selling me search engine optimization services. These individuals offer to optimize the ZipCPU web site so that search engines will find my content faster and easier. Perhaps their biggest sales point is that they wish to make my content the number one Google listing on (pick whatever topic).
Those who’ve followed the blog for a while may have noticed that I tend to do a yearly check up of my Google (and duck-duck-go) rankings. You can find blog summaries from 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 here.
My conclusion has been that, historically, I tend to do rather well without any help.
Could I do better? Sure, I suppose: I could buy some Google key words and guarantee my site comes up in the first page. But why? Would I make any more money? It’s not likely. Again, that’s not how funding works for this blog.
Look at it from the other perspective, however: a search engine that doesn’t promote good content simply isn’t a very good search engine. People just won’t use it. Therefore, as long as I can provide good and valuable content, my web site will be found. Providing valuable content is one of the tasks I have enjoyed.
The next common request I get is to from folks who would like to re-design my web site. This is something I would be more sympathetic to if my focus was to make money from the blog.
Let’s face it, the blog does need a good redesign. The single landing page, with everything linked off of it, can make it a challenge to find useful information. Worse, its mobile presence is broken to say the least: page text tends to get cut off by the menu at the top of the page. On the other hand, links are valuable: I wouldn’t want to break anyone’s links in any such redesign.
But redesigning the web site to make it load faster? A lot of the offers I get promise faster loading. In my mind, however, I don’t use a lot of images on the landing page, so faster loading seems like a false promise. Let’s get serious here: the main index for the blog uses less than 1kB of data! If someone offers me faster loading, therefore, it tells me that they haven’t done their homework–they’re just copying vacuous claims they’ve made regarding someone else’s web sites.
This is not the way to build credibility in a sales pitch.
The redesign that would be appropriate for the ZipCPU web site isn’t going to be something flashy. It’s not about catching attention, it’s about finding the information you need, and presenting it in an appropriate order. No, I don’t need more graphics to slow the page down, nor do I need to limit each page to twenty carefully chosen links.
The bottom line here, however, is that … there’s no money to fund hiring someone to accomplish such a redesign. Again, that’s not how this blog works. If or when it happens, I’ll probably be the one doing it. That’s also likely to keep it from happening for a while.
I’ve also had several individuals offer to write articles for the ZipCPU blog. Admittedly, my first thought is: Awesome! My next question is, on what topic? And … that’s the rub. The ZipCPU blog is dedicated to the topic of digital design, and to finding and fixing bugs in digital logic.
If you want to write an article on FIFOs, therefore, it should contain a FIFO implementation, a discussion of how the FIFO was verified, and why your design is good, bad or indifferent. This is in contrast to the person in the food service industry who wanted me to post an article on how refrigerators need to be organized in a first-in first-out fashion.
No, I’m not opposed to linking to the articles of others either. However, it does need to fit the purpose of the blog: digital design and verification.
For example, just because I mention the HDMI video standard doesn’t mean that a link on HDMI cable standards is appropriate. Sure, I get that you want to sell HDMI cables, but that’s just not my topic. An appropriate link might instead point to where someone could find the HDMI standard, and details someone might need to implement something following that standard. To date, Wikipedia has served this purpose well for me. Wikipedia articles tend to provide a nice overview of various topics I need that I can link to.
Cold Calling: Do your homework
If you really want to cold-call, or rather cold e-mail me, then please do your homework first. My name is not “Owner”, nor is it “ZipCPU Team”. There’s no team here, there is me. I’m the only one here, and if you look around a little you can find my name.
As an example, I received an e-mail from
<firstname.lastname@example.org. Richard (or is it pelletgirl?) starts off his
(her?) letter with:
I recently spent some time doing a site review of Zipcpu.com (Yes, I do random site reviews for a living.)
My first thought is that you didn’t do much of a site review at all. If you had, 1) you would’ve found my name and appropriately addressed your letter, and 2) you would’ve known that there’s no sales taking place on this web site to support your business.
If you are going to send me a cold e-mail, do your homework first.
I make no promises that this will rescue you from my spam box. I’ll only promise that if you don’t your e-mail will simply get deleted from it without getting a response.
Cold Calling: Be Honest
The next thing I tend to notice about these e-mails is that the author’s name and signature rarely matches the e-mail address name. A case in point might be Richard’s address above (or was it pelletgirl35’s?). Which is it? It gets worse, too. I get a lot of e-mail addresses that end up looking like email@example.com.
This is usually the first flag that the source isn’t legitimate: they aren’t selling their product next to their name. Chances are they’ve been hiding from some Google spam detection filter, and so need to keep changing their name to avoid being sent to my spam folder–where these e-mails tend to end up anyway.
At one time, I started getting a lot of emails from individuals
@candycloudtech.com. Some time later I started getting the same sort of
@webmarketingassist.com. These were a bit better–at least
the e-mail user name tended to match the signature at the bottom, but it
doesn’t help that candycloudtech.com doesn’t have a web presence, nor am
I getting a request from a single individual at
Here’s the other thing about
candycloudtech.com: Without a web presence
of their own, how are they going to convince me that they can improve my
web presence? Seriously. If you want to sell your web design ability,
demonstrate it for me, then advertise your services where I can evaluate your
website as your portfolio. Convince me your website is valuable, and
contains something I might wish to emulate, and then I might consider buying
In this case, I’m not buying it. Even if I was looking for someone to do web redesign, I’m not buying from someone who isn’t going to show off their own work.
If you really want to cold-call, or rather cold-e-mail me, then get your story straight and tell it honestly or I’m not interested.
Chances are I’m not interested anyway, but I’ll continue.
Reviewing sales pitches
We are a professional web design company.
But you won’t tell me what the name of that company is, and you are sending to me from an e-mail @gmail.com? Not interested. (Yes, I know that I’m using an @gmail address, but I’m not cold e-mailing individuals …)
I work for a leading website design and development company …
Then why won’t you tell me what it is? @gmail.com doesn’t tell me much. Do you have an on-line portfolio you’d like to share that I can examine? No? Not interested.
I built Android iOS software. I have reviewed your requirements and …
Don’t lie to me. I haven’t posted any requirements for mobile software. If I needed to hire someone, my first priority would be to hire an honest individual.
This is at least a good start! So, let’s look up smartwebexpert.com and see what their web page looks like. When I received this e-mail, the first page looked like it might be interesting, but every second level page I looked at was empty. There were links there, but they didn’t contain any information. That was then. Today, smartwebexpert.com seems to be a non-existent domain.
And … Anna wanted to redesign my web page given her broken examples? Not interested.
Also, Anna? I got the same pitch from Sarah, word for word in one paragraph. Somehow I think one of you is misrepresenting who you are.
Honesty is required in a sales pitch, or I’m just going to close the door. I’m not interested in any dishonest advertising.
I’ve stated before that I’m not opposed to advertising the products of others on this blog. However, I am going to be particular about what gets advertised here if I ever go there.
For example, I would have no problems advertising FPGA jobs, professional digital designers, FPGAs, FPGA boards, or even providing paid links to places where you might purchase such a board or even where you might purchase IP from any particular vendor. However, if this sort of thing started limiting my ability to speak about my experiences with your products (assuming I was using them)–say with Xilinx’s (broken) training materials, then I’m not interested.
If you want me to promote your wonderful product, then I want to know and be convinced that it is truly a wonderful product. For example, as an unpaid and unsolicited promotion: I’ve always liked Digilent’s products. They tend to be reliable, have a good support forum, and they also tend to be very well documented. Bottom line: Digilent FPGA products have been, in my experience, a joy to work with.
As for Terasic? That’s another story. Did I tell you the pain I went through to try to find the correct schematic for my DE-10 Nano? Or how about the rework I had to do after building my design against a DE0-Nano schematic that was marked as a DE-10 Nano schematic?
I would, however, have a problem advertising immoral conduct. This is one of the reasons why the ZipCPU blog once had a relationship with disqus and why it doesn’t use any of their material anymore.
Bottom line here: I intend to approve or disapprove advertisements on a case by case basis. Still interested? Then contact me.
Bottom line: Honesty
I guess my bottom line is that I would never be interested in hiring or working with anyone who isn’t honest. I could deal with a certain amount of incompetence. That’s normal. Dishonesty? No. Sorry. My recommendation, therefore, for all those interested in sending me sales pitches?
Also know, honesty alone won’t get you hired.
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? (Matt 5:47)