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Cold truth about a cold call

Today we had a bit of an embarrassing situation when one of our business development reps accidentally emailed Matt Mullenweg, the creator of Wordpress, with an offer to switch to Drupal. Matt posted the email on his personal blog, and it’s triggered a lot of chatter on Twitter and on Matt’s blog.

We made an honest mistake. We assembled a small list of large media sites and emailed contacts from our database an offer to explore Drupal. Obviously Matt should not have been on that list. Usually we scrub email lists to remove obvious names (competitors, etc.) but we didn’t on this email. Our mistake.

Does cold calling really work? Yeah, it still does. Every software company still uses cold contacting techniques. It’s a really tough job; I admire anyone who does it well. But the email we sent wasn’t great. We’re not really the “Redhat of Drupal”. I need to equip our sales team with better messaging. We’re going to make sure that any communication we send out to prospects and customers is better in the future.

Lastly, I have a lot of respect for Matt, but he shouldn’t have posted the contact details of our Acquia business development rep. Hoping he takes it down, immediately. (Edit: Thanks for taking down the contact details)


Posted on by Jason (not verified).

What's all the commotion? Was obviously an honest mistake. Good for you, Tom, for sticking up for your team. Matt should be ashamed. Dries would never have pulled that. He would have sent a quiet email or text to Matt to notify him of the error. Something Matt could have easily done. Eventually, karma will catch up to Matt during an embarrassing moment in his career.

Posted on by Jay Gilmore (not verified).

Tom, I have mixed feelings about Matt's posting. I did poke fun and laugh and it was an ironic flub. Some people think very highly of themselves as if every Apple user knows who Steve Wozniak is. On the flip side maybe he was secretly ashamed because he identified with some of the pain points early in the email. ;)

Posted on by Carl Hancock (not verified).

@Jason Karma? Somehow turning this around to paint Matt as the bad guy is the wrong approach to take with this.

It's a comical situation that Acquia put itself into and Matt and the WordPress community had a good laugh poking fun at you because of it. It would have been funny if it was Microsoft contacting Apple or Coke contacting Pepsi. Acquia (Drupal) contacting Automattic (WordPress) in this situation is funny stuff. Own it. It happened. Laugh at yourself. It was funny. Move on.

I do have one question though. If you are sending a "cold call" email to a mailing list of email addresses not culled from an opt-in email list, rather than actually contacting people individually (ie. not mass email), at what point does that "cold call" really become spam?

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Thanks to Matt for removing the personal details. I don't blame him at all for posting the email. I appreciate the humor of the situation, once I got past our process fail ;)

Posted on by drupal_user (not verified).

The cold truth about that cold call was that it started off with a blatant lie: "I was researching Automattic , Inc. ...". The only mistake that you acknowledge making is not scrubbing your database. How about you also acknowledge not actually researching people whom you are cold calling?

Posted on by Anonymous (not verified).

There's also the line "we assembled a small number of large media sites". Automattic isn't a "large media site" by any stretch.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Wordpress.com is a huge site. That's why they appeared.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

+1. Sometimes we don't spent enough time researching potential customers. We've learned from this mistake and will get better in the future.

Posted on by Betsy Yates (not verified).

"...my mom’s blog works great on WordPress"
(From the comments section of Matt's post)

Posted on by A Mom and programmer (not verified).

We all get that same spam everytime we register for a webinar. You spam and call that marketing, we get it.

You hire kids right out of college, with zero business experience, don't train them, and then market yourself to the enterprise. Uh, ok.

But have you actually tried WordPress lately? It's not just for blogs, and not just for moms (but nice job, Acquia employee, dispelling your "brogrammer" reputation within the Drupal community). It's grown into a pretty robust, performant, and yes, feature-rich platform for building complex sites that integrate EASILY with other services.

Try setting up a site on Wp.com then try setting up a site on Drupalgardens. There's no comparison. You have the same four templates you launched with five years ago, none responsive, none "mobile first"; you don't even have a calendar.

I wouldn't in good conscience set my dad up with a blog on DG, much less my mom, who has a PhD in electrical engineering.

But yeah, Acquia. Keep telling yourselves Wordpress is for mom blogs. See how far that gets you in the enterprise.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

I hope we haven't lost you.

We made some mistakes with how we handled this in many ways. People in the open source world are passionate about their projects and sometimes emotion trumps reason. There were a few "teaching moments" we've had with the team to improve how we handle things in the future.

And I certainly don't believe Wordpress is for mom blogs.

Posted on by Seth Brown (not verified).

Tom, I was disappointed that Matt would publicly subject another open source colleague to public ridicule by exposing his name and phone number. Everyone has and will make mistakes. We're human beings above all else. Also kudos at having the poise to look beyond the overly aggressive personal attack and still extract a lesson. I agree with Jason, I don't believe Dries would behave in this manner were the situations reversed.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

I don't think Matt was trying to be hurtful. I totally get the humor of the situation, I just wish he didn't call out one of my colleagues by name :(

Posted on by WH (not verified).

Your sales rep should have done proper research like he said he was doing in his email. A quick look at Matt's linkedin or even a google search will make is instantly clear who he is.

You need better sales people. Luckily I live in the area, in sales and know how to actually research my target market to the fullest.

Fire this clown and Hire me and this will never happen again.

Look for my resume in the morning.


Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

We could have done a better job for sure, but wasn't the sales reps fault. He unfortunately had to take the fall for it. Really my fault.

Posted on by Donald Link (not verified).

A major mistake? Yes sir, it was not the government it was a private company. The real issue is having someone working for a company that was so stupid. It is that hard to get knowledgeable people with a little common sense?

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Was an honest mistake, not the fault of the rep.

Posted on by Jack DotNetNuke Dev (not verified).

I don't quite understand why Acquia want Matt to take down the rep's contact info. If a company have the balls to called themselves the RedHat of Drupal and send out hundred if not thousand of cold calling email then own it up. It's not like your rep's contact info is secret since it's on all the cold calling messages that you send out!

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Name is perhaps fair game, but the email address and phone # isn't.

Posted on by Josh1239191 (not verified).

Perhaps this is a lesson to not pay $2 to the Philippines to mass send emails out on bulk?

Or perhaps not just getting their name, email and business name when you clearly haven't done any research at all instead of just spamming (which is clearly is).

It's not "cold calling", it's harassment.

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

I'm a huge believer in inbound marketing but even companies like Hubspot do some outbound / cold prospecting activities. Regardless, our marketing and messages need to get better and that's my job. I'm pretty new to Acquia but trust me, this is a priority.

Posted on by Vaibhav Jain (not verified).

Many thanks for admitting it. Was really disappointed when I saw this on Matt's blog. But this definitely pinged us to look into our database as well :)

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Yup :)

Posted on by Anonymous (not verified).

Acquia turned into a sales organisation. It is all about sales and Acquia can be quite annoying with that. This is also felt in the Drupal community. But they are a US company now with 65M investment money, so we all better get used to this sales stuff by them.
PS: And no, not every software company uses cold calling techniques. Your sales are agressive so don't be mad at WP when they call you out on this. Now back to sales!

Posted on by Tom Wentworth.

Agreed that not every software company does cold calling. But many do. I'd like to see Acquia evolve how and when we do it.

But it's not fair to say that we're just a sales organization. We work hard to provide the Drupal community with products and services that improve the Drupal experience.

If you'd like to discuss further, I'm at tom dot wentworth at acquia.

Posted on by Tom Geller (not verified).

This was not a "cold call". It was 100% spam.

A cold call means getting on the phone: It takes as much time for the sender as the recipient. As such, it's self-limiting.

By sending spam, your sales team is doing something intrusive, deceitful, and disreputable, no matter how well you select your "targets".

It's unsolicited. It's commercial. It's email. Ergo, it's spam.

Posted on by Sam Tresler (not verified).

Apologizing for a cold email doesn't make it less SPAM-my. Your cold call is nothing but SPAM.

Sure, it works... so does SPAM, that's why people still do it.

Kinda funny that your own email would probably get filtered by Mollom.

Posted on by Sam Tresler (not verified).

Also, I'm having trouble reconciling your post with Dries comment on the blog post you link to:

"Cold calling is wrong," - Dries
"Does cold calling really work? Yeah, it still does. Every software company still uses cold contacting techniques."

Also, I've worked for numerous tech companies and they don't all spam to get the word out there. Some use actual networking and advertising.

Posted on by Abid Omar (not verified).

Thank you for teaching me that Cold Calls work.

Posted on by Milo (not verified).

According to what Tom said, "Cold calling does work". Its not mean cold calling is the right thing to do. Actually right or wrong is not the point here. The question is can you blame somebody is not act magnanimously when he feel offenced.

Posted on by OC2PS (not verified).

> he shouldn’t have posted the contact details of our Acquia business development rep.

Why not? Folks who scrape email addresses and send unsolicited emails should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Posted on by David Moore (not verified).

A major mistake? Yes sir, it was not the government it was a private company. The real issue is having someone working for a company that was so stupid. It is that hard to get knowledgeable people with a little common sense?

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