The Magical To-Do List Thought Experiment

Once a year, I write a post that is intended to be more inspirational and thought-provoking than our typical Barnett Strategies, enterprise sales and marketing blogs. So here it is for 2020

This is a thought experiment that I’d love to see readers actually try. Most especially, please add your comments below with your feedback. Share the good, bad or ugly – however you see it.

Thought experiment next: pause all your multi-tasking for just a few minutes as you read this.

Consider the possibility of a Magical To-do List. Everyone has to-do lists in their head or on paper or digitally. And these vary widely in format and effectiveness. But, what if you had a special flavor of to-do list that had the following magical property. Anything you add to this list will happen, auto-magically and guaranteed (unless you don’t even try at all).

So, reflect for a moment on the implications. Throw out the usual practical and pragmatic concerns about time, budget, capacity, resources, feasibility, the laws of physics, cooperation from others and the myriad other real and anticipated blockers that we all use to filter our goal-setting and to-do list making.

If you write it down on your Magical To-do List… It. Will. Happen. No complexities, it just happens.

Now – pause your reading here for a minute and write down for yourself – without filtering – what are the To-do’s that occur to you as you think about this magical list.

Next, now that you wrote down your thoughts for your magical to-do list, or at least thought about it for a second. Consider these issues:

  • How much does this list differ from your ordinary, real-world goals and to-do lists?
  • Why these differences?
  • Did you write down anything that you truly want to do, but have not been pursuing?
  • For list items that are blatantly impossible, is there still some learning and awareness there, with regard to which topics you care most about. Could there be only slightly watered-down versions of that impossible goal, that you really should be going after?

So again, I’d love to see your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below. How did this play out for you? Also, if you’re up for it, please share your own Magical To-do List as well.

My list is below, but don’t read that until you’ve written out yours

GREAT MOMENTS in #MWC Barcelona History

As we near #mwc2020, we’re starting a short series called “GREAT MOMENTS in MWC Barcelona History.”

Our first great moment is early 2014, when EyeVerify partnered with AirWatch to announce that Eyeprint ID was integrated into the AirWatch mobile device management tech stack.

This moment was great because we had an amazing booth location at the center of the busiest intersection in the most popular hall, with Qualcomm, Intel and Cisco booths adjacent to our space on the front corner of the AirWatch booth. So we had an incredible tally of business cards and leads.

To put that year 2014 into perspective:

In 2014, 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen won Best Picture.  Happy by Pharrell Williams and Dark Horse by Katy Perry were the most popular songs. The biggest tech and IT disaster of the year was the meltdown launch of Apple had recently released the iPhone 5s and Samsung announced the launch of its Galaxy S5 and wearable Galaxy Gear.

“Get Me More Qualified Sales Leads – ASAP!!!” Said by every entrepreneur, every sales leader and every sales person. Every week.

For more than fifteen years as a salesperson and sales executive in the software / high tech industry, I worked on every aspect of the lead gen and sales cycle. Hundreds of deals, tens of millions of dollars in revenue. In my experience, the number one performance driver was always effectively generating qualified leads.

Sure, there are a lot of well-known ways to generate qualified leads, such as:

  • Networking, warm intros and referrals
  • Attending conferences and industry events
  • Inbound content marketing and PR

However, for most start-ups, even those that have the above techniques working effectively, these methods alone are just not enough. This is especially true when the goals are to grow a tech start-up’s revenue to $5-10M+ and eventually $25-50M+ over several years.

Why not enough? These techniques can get you some fantastic initial deals for $1-3M of revenue and compelling lighthouse customers. But these time-tested tactics just don’t extend far and wide enough outside your existing network. They don’t enable at-bats with 80+% of the entire addressable market for your prospects.

For example, one of our clients was kicking off a new campaign to target companies in the auto space and had great initial traction with three prospects. Then, we complied a comprehensive and complete list of targets and did an outbound campaign. They got another TEN prospects in their pipeline within the first 30 days.

Another client initially had a list of prospects in the electronics industry they had talked to via introductions, people they knew, and inbound inquiries. This list seemed encouraging, but was not comprehensive and complete. Again, we sat down and identified everyone in their target universe. Then we contacted everyone on that list and talked to people who replied. This process took their salesperson from doing a few intro calls each week, to doing a few intro calls each day, and filling their pipeline with qualified leads.

It’s critical for early stage founders to move beyond the short list of early adopters, usual suspects and comfortable networking-based deals that feel encouraging. A list of all potential targets must be built and outreach attempts to that entire group is a mandatory step for big success. And if you’re not building awareness among most of your target market, competitors will swoop in and hijack most of your market traction.

So then, how can cold outreach be truly cost and time effective?

Hardly anyone goes for the boiler room approach of cold calling any more. The few companies still using this method rarely get a buyer that answers their phone, resulting in voicemails that never get heard.

LinkedIn is great, but not enough. Unless you’re only selling to a very small audience of 5-10 companies, LinkedIn based networking and sales is not scalable for the level of growth the venture capital investors are expecting. You’re just bouncing around the people you know and those a level or two away. And what about the prospects you’ve not even identified yet?

For large tech companies, there’s several expensive resources available. But what about start-ups? In my experience one great option could be, which used to be known as Rain King. They don’t list pricing on their website (any more) but when I last used them the bill was ~ $50,000 for a very high quality data set that covered several large countries. For most startups, that is a huge nut to cover, especially since that ONLY gets you the data. The researcher to understand and query the data set is then a people cost. There is also D&B data available, but personally I’ve not had good experiences with that. And I get weekly emails from random companies offering lists. Never had a good experience when I tried these.

At Barnett Strategies we have partnered with a San Diego-based firm @CIENCECOM to bring this capability to our clients. We work with CIENCE to provide access to a suite of several enterprise contact info databases, resulting in the ability to easily get access to data like this:

In the past two years at Barnett Strategies we’ve had some frankly stunning successes with the following approach.

First, we work with our client to write an Ideal Customer Profile for a client’s offering, the profile of our target audience based on industry, geography and the functions titles of the right execs (among many other variables). Next we quickly have in hand expertly done database research on the Companies and Contacts that need to be targeted including verified emails and phone numbers. From there we build a messaging questionnaire based on our client’s go to market strategy and tactics. Using this questionnaire, the writing team creates a sequence of four to five emails plus a LinkedIn touch. This professional writing creates urgency with a call to action relevant to the prospect, while “keeping it classy” – so not spammy and not cheesy. The open rates (above 50%) and positive response rates (6-10%) on these messages are often way higher than marketing industry norms.

If you would like to see a sample of the results or a two page case study please send me an email to chris (at)

Relevance and value add – that is what the members of a target audience are expecting. If a cold email is about a topic the recipient does not care about (like Viagra) or reflects a lack of research and targeting (like trying to sell accounting services to the engineering team) then recipients are bored or annoyed. But when your audience really cares about what is happening with “Fu” – and you bring them something new and unique in that world of “Fu” then you’re going to get a good result. We often get replies from campaign recipients that start with “Thank you for reaching out…” and nothing warms my heart more than that.

Case Study – Market Penetration Results Lead to Attractive Exit

AI Language Processing Innovator Giant Otter LLC based in Cambridge MA calls on Barnett Strategies to turn ground SaaS chatbot code into customer cash

With an innovative, AI-powered chatbot platform, Giant Otter offered an example of revolutionary technology. But while their product may have broken ground, breaking through and into the market was another issue.

Two years ago, Giant Otter reached out to Barnett Strategies and its founder and principal, Chris Barnett, thanks to a recommendation from longtime Giant Otter advisor, Vlingo co-founder John Nguyen (Chris led Vlingo’s sales and marketing team).

“Most specialized sales and marketing folks can’t deal with the ambiguity of the product/market-fit stage,” says Giant Otter co-founder and business development head, Dan Tomaschko. “John knew that Chris had the right experience, and would tailor his approach and advice to the stage of our company.”

Digging in to the Challenge

After the connection was made, Chris saw Giant Otter’s potential alongside its challenges.

“Giant Otter had a strong technology baseline, thanks to [co-founder and CEO Jeff Orkin’s] research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several years of commercial development,” says Chris. “But they had no commercial deals yet and prospect engagement was based only on their networks and inbound inquiries.”

A look at Giant Otter’s web analytics shined a light on some basic issues. “Chris showed us how far behind we were in generating interest in our product, just based on website traffic,” Dan says. “Those metrics were eye-opening.”

“The chatbot space was — and is — extremely noisy and overcrowded,” says Chris. “Many competitors had similar claims and language, with a lot of vaporware and overstated promises confusing customers.”

So Much Noise…

To break through the noise, Giant Otter would need to articulate clear and compelling features and benefits. With Barnett Strategies’ guidance, Giant Otter had a story to share about a product that wasn’t just viable but vital.

“Chris and his team helped us get into the heads of busy, over-pitched buyers,” says Dan. “We stepped up our aggressiveness and our helpfulness several notches to stay on buyers’ radars.”

Key to Barnett Strategies’ efforts was increasing awareness and interest in the right places. “We identified the highest priority target markets from among a very large potential set of market sectors,” Chris says. “Then we worked to understand the high-value entry points: Marketing? Customer care? IT? Executives? Innovation departments?”

Once the right people received a recalibrated message, results came quickly. “In 2018 we generated a third of our new clients from the lead-gen program they helped us to stand up in Q2 of that year,” says Dan. “Chris and his team then helped us to negotiate our top three biggest deals.”

Chris remembers one important milestone: “When Jeff and Dan were double booked with pitches to high-value customers from top name brands, we knew the strategy and execution were working.”

The Results are In

An active funding round followed, culminating in the introduction of an optimal business partner for Giant Otter: conversational marketing platform Drift.

“A potential investor introduced us to Drift CTO Elias Torres,” says Dan. “We quickly realized that there was a strong fit between our products, our vision for the future, and our common ambitions. We realized we could go further together, so we turned down investors interested in the round and joined Drift instead.”

Paving the way to Giant Otter’s successful exit were the efforts of the Barnett Strategies team. “Chris helped us with all of our go-to-market efforts,” Dan recalls. “From positioning and articulating a value proposition, to targeting prospects for outreach, to generating leads via outreach and content marketing, to tracking prospects and nudging them down the funnel, to closing and documenting the exit.”

Now that Giant Otter is part of a large company with an in-house marketing and sales team, its working relationship with Barnett Strategies has wrapped up. “But on a personal level,” says Chris, “we’ve kept in touch and continued to collaborate — Dan made an intro to Spansive, which has become a major Barnett Strategies client.”

“We are happy boosters for Barnett Strategies,” says Dan.

Seeing Results: The Barnett Growth Quadrants

Technology and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies often come to us when they haven’t fully realized growth on their own. We survey the situation with a model that lays out their marketing spend versus the size of revenue results they’ve seen. We call this matrixed approach the Barnett Growth Quadrants:

Big budget, big results: Pay (Big) To WinWhat it visualizes is four types of management teams — a couple to aspire to, and two to avoid.

Imagine you’re the CEO of Apple. AT&T. Nike. You blanket the globe with your unmistakable brand and omnipresent message, thanks to a marketing division bursting with talent and a budget that bulges with zeros (the five largest marketing spends totaled over $46 billion in 2017, per Ad Age). This is the goal, but let’s not dwell on it. Pin a picture of Phil Knight to your vision board and keep reading.

Big budget, low results: Expensive Failure

Another scenario: You throw money at your problem, which only compounds (as does the venture debt interest). Channels are sucking cash but not spitting out results, spreading efforts and patience thin. Your ego, fear, or false hopes squelch a smarter, sounder approach.

It’s a nightmare that’s too real — see Beyond the Rack and Chef’d for examples of multi-million dollar mistakes. But even start-ups with a total capital of $1 million can run into $30,000-a-month PR retainers, sales staff on payroll with no product, and misguided marketing purchases (maybe scale back that lavish trade show booth).

Small budget, small results: Thrifty Failure

Most start-ups start small, but staying that way indicates a lack of strategy. Maybe your entire digital department a nephew with Squarespace skills. Or you rely on gig-economy tactics for your public relations or sales staff. Perhaps the lists you buy get you sucked into spam filters 90% of the time. It’s all technically something — but it’s not savvy.

Perhaps you managed to taste success through these efforts, but don’t have the acumen or hours in the day to go further. Your good ideas need amplification. Your positioning needs to adjust (or exist). There’s only one place to go: our final quadrant.

Small budget, big results: The Best of Both

Welcome to the sweet spot — a place not many start-ups occupy. Here, your goals clarify and your budget clicks. You get the results you want with a burn rate that works for you. You spend time crossing off your success checklist, not revising it.

We love guiding entrepreneurs and venture capital investors into this optimized quadrant. Here, we make a difference for prudent yet hungry companies who can’t afford to go into debt or stay small. If that sounds like you, and you’re ready, let’s talk. »

Barnett’s Ten Laws of Sales