The Things We Send

9 05 2011


We’ve mailed out a lot of shirts over the past few weeks – well over a hundred now, in all shapes and colors.  It involved a lot of carefully printed shipping labels, trips back and forth to the Post Office, and a lot of t-shirt folding.  It’s been incredible to read the tweets and see the photos that stream in of smiling people wearing Wistia shirts.  I’ve started a rolling set of them on our Flickr page.  We also did a blog post to show where all the shirts ended up.

Most people, after hearing that story, ask me if all the money we spent on the t-shirts was really necessary.  After all, when we could have gone with the standard cotton issue, we instead chose premium American Apparel t’s from the amazing Uberprints.  To answer their question, I refer them to a great post by Alexis Ohanian from Hipmunk that stuck with me.  In the post, he described the competitive advantage companies can get from doing things way beyond the “just enough”.  He says, “if you’re ever feeling like you’re doing something a normal person wouldn’t bother doing, you’re on to something.”  Sending out these t-shirts accomplishes so much more than just “sending out swag”.  It allows us to tell our customers how much we appreciate them, how hard we will work to help them achieve success in their endeavors.  

Sending out t-shirts isn’t just a side activity we passively work on – it’s a serious part of our marketing strategy.  And what is marketing: it’s attempting to get in front of potential customers at the best time and with the most relevant message for them.  Connecting with your paying customers is a practice that is well-documented.  Read any blog from a startup marketing sensei and you are guaranteed to get loads of better advice than I can give.  But sending out the t-shirts also gives us the chance to connect with a segment of people I think stable startups neglect far too often: the knowledgeable user who is not a potential customer.

We recognize that some people we come in contact with are just not a good fit, and we think there is some value in telling them that up front, before they have spent a dime with us.  With most companies, that’s it – if you are deemed a poor fit as a customer you will never hear from them again.  You’re a bad lead because you won’t convert.  To us, that isn’t so, and that’s why we’d like you to have a t-shirt.  

Today, I sent out two more shirts to a couple guys we met at a bar last week.  They aren’t Wistia customers, nor is it very likely that they will become customers in the future.  But they are smart guys who are now Wistia fans, and I would argue that in the long-run, that sort of “social karma” can be just as important.




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