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This is how you hustle (jacksimpson.co)
108 points by jbsimpson on Jan 17, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

Not a huge fan of this to be honest. From my perspective as a user, I don't want businesses I have no involvement with contacting me out of the blue. It's not quite spam, but I would treat it largely the same.

I'm also unsure that it's a good long term strategy for the business. It may generate some customers, but building a customer base on people who have A) shown themselves to be relatively fickle in choosing a host and B) have a tendency to use public channels to raise issues strikes me as a unstable base.

> I don't want businesses I have no involvement with contacting me out of the blue. It's not quite spam...

Unsolicited email from parties you have no involvement with is spam by definition.

And note to spammers and marketers on HN, I know I'm abusing my spam filters, but if I see emails from parties I don't recognize because "I subscribed for updates to one of their partners" (or some other bullshit explanation like that), I instantly flag them as spam, even if they have an unsubscribe button, because I can't unsubscribe from something I never subscribed to and I refuse to validate my email address like that.

The easiest way of killing spam is to hit the spam-button in Thunderbird. Spam is always spam and I have more fun things to do than find some unsubscribe button. That will only mark my email as active and give a better price when selling it further.

It's even more fun doing it in GMail, because if enough other people do it then spam is more likely to be widely dealt with in the manner it deserves.

You can create a filter for the word "unsubscribe" if you're feeling dangerous

I'm with you.

But I know people around me making a lot of money with it. Because, unfortunaly:

- a lot of users open those mails;

- they read it;

- they click on the links;

- they don't report it as spam.

It sounds crazy, until you spend a lot of time working on website for people outside of your geek bubble.

I worked in porn quite a lot, and you see 80% of the male population in there. Spams work on them. Crazily stupid ads as well : "click to fuck now for free". Yes they do click. And yes they pay.

In my opinion, this is not hustling but ambulance chasing.

Every tech company is going to have bad operational issue days. Going at your competitors customers regularly when your competitors have bad days will net you more negative reactions than positive, in my opinion.

My reaction entirely. I wouldn't want to build my business up on these types of customers, because as quick as they left X and came to you, they'll leave you as well.

Not to say that you shouldn't do your best to make sure your customers are always able to continue business, but like you said, everyone has their bad days. I'd choose to have loyal customers that aren't jumping on social media at the drop of a hat and publicly "chastising" the company.

* Also, "I'd love to speak to you more about the issues you're experiencing" does not mean "offer to help fix the problem" as he mentioned. Unless he means, leave his current provider to move to them.

To be honest, the hosting provider I use is so cheap I don't think there was too much loyalty to begin with.

If your hosting provider is cheap, then that's one reason for why they might provide bad service. You get what you pay for in general. Or in other words, changing one cheap hosting provider for another won't help with reliability much.

Fair point, although one could argue that its situations like these that are potentially most likely to make you reassess how much you want to spend on hosting - these guys are actually more expensive.

It's also literally spam - unsolicited advertisement.

Is it unsolicited when you post your issue on a public medium for all the world to see? I consider any such public announcement a direct request for the target's response and an indirect request for the public's response.

On that medium, yes. By email, no. Every tweet I post is not an invitation to the world to send me promotional emails.

This is not spam by the US definition. It is by some European countries, though.

What is spam by the US definition?

I agree with this site about it: https://www.spamhaus.org/consumer/definition/

The key here would be unsolicited (yes) and bulk (possibly no). It is impossible to tell based on the blog post, but I find it less likely that there was a bot designed to find customers after a rival outage than a human doing it. If there was a bot however, that would be spam.

I think many people on here would agree that it is annoying and would probably be ignored or marked as spam, but I don't think it is spam.

It is definitely spam in other countries, though, where the criteria is unsolicited.

I don't agree with labeling as spam only messages sent in bulk.

The flaw in this definition is that the recipient has no way to tell whether a message was sent in bulk or not. After all, if spammers have a database with your address in it, they can have your name as well, or they can guess it from the email address and thus personalize the email you receive. And if the recipient can't tell whether a message was sent in bulk or not, then guilt can't be easily established, requiring a costly investigation from competent authorities.

The problem with email is that it's very cheap to send, much cheaper than making phone calls and the problem with spam is that if unaddressed, it renders your email address unusable, with important, legitimate email being lost in noise, so it does have a high cost for recipients. And that cost for recipients is the same, whether those emails where sent in bulk or not.

So you see, such a rule is designed to protect spammers, to shield them from legal liability.

Perhaps not bulk, but dehumanised emails? I don't mind receiving "cold-calling" personal unsolicited comms, if it's specific to me. Quite often I get something interested from someone reaching out, and certainly wouldn't classify that kind of activity as spam.

Something can be bulk and spam without being automated.

Ambulance chasing would count as hustling.

They've approached someone out of the blue, and offered no incentives or value over their competitor other than some arbitrary statements about how they 'just know' their service will be somehow better.

This avenue of "cold calling" is a bit new and interesting, but the way this webhost has done it just reeks of desperation. This isn't hustle, this is begging.

I would also be a little wary about it, but they're reaching out to a potential customer, with a targeted message at the exact moment they know the potential customer is frustrated with their current provider and possibly more open to change than normal.

That's awareness, hustle, and smart targeting in my opinion. Now, I'm not going to change hosting providers over a single outage, but the time to reach out is when I'm down...

That's exactly my thinking. If I actually made money off my site or it was happening too often I would have been really ripe to poach.

Lots of people pointing out this was likely automated and provided no proof of customer benefit, etc, all of which may be true in this instance. I do have a similar story that impressed me, however. Three years ago I was in the market for my first 3D printer and was looking for a specific model, but the manufacturer had a long delay for shipping. I tweeted asking if anyone knew where I could get one fast. A competitor quickly replied telling me they could ship me their printer within 48 hours. But that wasn't the end of it, they then proposed that they would print anything I wanted and take photos of it for me to show the quality, which I took them up on. Emailed them a file, and pretty quickly got emailed back photos of the print in progress, and then another email showing the final print close up so I could see how well it came out. Pulled out my credit card then and there.

This is how you turn e-mail to crap - not how you hustle.

If they had tweeted to him back or DM him (i.e. used the same medium as him) then I understand. Sending unsolicited e-mail that capitalizes on a competitors stumble just makes you look petty IMO. Also, people should want to consume your service because they LIKE what you do more than your competitors not because you are pouncing on another's misery to flog your own thing.

Please do not encourage this kind of behavior by writing blog posts about hustle.

> capitalizes on a competitors stumble

If I was actually making money off my site, I would probably be livid enough to dump my current provider - this is by no means the first time this has happened (although of course I bring this on myself by choosing an extremely cheap hosting provider and completely accept the risks I take).

Yes, it is sad when people stuff up, however if I was earning a living off that hosting, then I wouldn't see something wrong in a competitor specifically offering to fix something that is hurting my income.

I feel the OP likely may have been duped by an automated message that was setup to send during status issues or Tweets to a company's customer support representatives. I've sent some Tweets to customer support before (threatening to leave) that were "loved" by a competitor within seconds.

I hope the OP does realize that. Perhaps it's just the thought to put out a bot that scans twitter and sends such automated emails? The bot may take active effort to script, so there is at least some "hustling" going on.

It wasn't, I emailed him back right away and we ended up exchanging multiple emails in a very brief period of time. Either that or chat bots are smarter than most humans these days.

Or the initial email was sent by a bot, but the follow-up was human?

I'm really used to getting those bot emails by now, the personal greeting (left out of my post for brevity), speed of getting back to me, and conversation I had with the fellow after made it fairly clear it wasn't a mass spammed message.

Nope, I ended up exchanging a few emails with the guy about this strategy - it was not a bot. I removed identifying info to shorten the emails but it was quite obviously not a mass email.

I disagree. I think trying to take advantage of your competitors outage situation is bad form, mainly because you will mostly likely suffer an outage as well. From a marketing point of view, it may be good for a while, but can be used against you in the future. This is the first thing my first manager taught me 20+ years ago in software, and I still tend to agree with him.

I completely agree - if you swoop in and promise better uptime etc then you're making a deal with people that they won't experience this problem. You now need to be sure you can deliver.

Nice. Some email recipients will be creeped out or annoyed by this tactic, but their negative response is far outweighed by the positive response from someone like OP. Too bad for the company that he didn't name them in the post — that would have been a real coup. Think of the backlinks!

I thought he did mention them - PeoplesHost? Or is that a fictitious name?

Yep, PeoplesHost and JustHost are real companies. They kinda sound made up though :P

I think the comment was a sly way of insinuating that the original blog post may or may not be 100% authentic.

I also wondered whether the blog post might be native advertising.

Can you tell me how I can get people to pay me to write articles on my personal blog? So far I've mainly written about my interests in machine learning and science, but as a graduate researcher an extra source of income would be great /s

I should have clarified that I looked around your blog and based on the other in-depth content there, I figured it was a genuine post. It was just that my first impression was that this might be native advertising -- which says more about how the rest of the internet is nowaways as opposed to anything about your writing style or blog content.

Oh I see, that's probably fair enough - I did toy with the idea of leaving a message at the end clarifying that I had received no money for writing it, but ended up leaving it out.

I didn't edit the names out when they were mentioned in the email but I did try to avoid gratuitous references to them in my main content.

You actually read cold sales emails, and believe promises by sales people like "customer service" or "solving your problem?"

That well was poisoned by "hustlers" (in the derogatory meaning) a long time ago. Unless I have experienced it myself or a trusted acquaintance recommends it, it goes into the bin for me. No exceptions.

"cold sales emails" There's a difference between cold sales emails that are completely impersonal and emailed out to thousands of people an an email that is personally addressed to me and my current situation.

"believe promises" No, you're reading in to what I believe. I stated that it made them look good since they were responding to me more quickly than the company I was paying which had stuffed up.

There was an article within the last few weeks here where, in the comments section, this tactic was discussed. Lead generation by watching for Twitter complaints about your competitors. Wish I could find the article.

Great article! While the company's methods is arguably on the edge of playing dirty, I think the line hasn't been crossed; all of us are just trying to do our best in this world, and those with the best hustle win. I think this company's method is a good example of someone thinking outside the box to get new customers, and I respect that.

From the customers point of view, their methods is probably really useful too- if I was paying for something, I'd want to make sure that I'm getting the best product my money can buy. I don't necessarily care WHO it is I'm paying, as long as the end product I get is the best value. So honestly it would be a "spam" email I'd be glad to receive!

Thanks for sharing!

Interesting that the user that submitted this article is a spammer buying votes. Have comment karma farmers found their way to HN?

Thank-you for the insightful contribution.

'spammer buying votes'

Wait, so posting your own writing counts as 'buying votes'? It was something I enjoyed writing, apparently to be pure I should never tell others when I write something?

'comment karma farmers' The intense bitterness makes it seem that you have an irrational devotion to who gets your imaginary internet karma.

Maybe we need to scale up the specific approach (thought experiment).

Let's say that 10% (a small minority) of companies offering hosting adopt the same strategy, and that 20% (again a rather small minority) of them manage to get your email address (assuming that the other 80% missed your tweet or did not monitor specifically the twitter account or were lazy or are incompetent, it doesn't matter).

If there are 1,000 such companies, in no time after you post a tweet on your current hosting company you will find in your e-mail box 20 (unsolicited) messages, if there are 10,000 such companies that will be 200.

Would you react in the same manner?

I don't see how this does anything other than encourage spamming. I make a point of marking this sort of email directly as spam, and I would certainly hope others do too - it needs to be discouraged.

I don't know, I see a difference between an email personalised to myself and my current situation seeking my business vs mass spam.

Hello Everyone,

Instead of responding to comments individually I wanted to make one comment (and one comment only) to the responses to this article.

This is ONE of many strategies PeoplesHost employs to acquire customers. To address some questions or concerns others have mentioned in the comments made earlier:

- The blog post is authentic. Jack is someone we reached out to earlier today. He responded by complimenting the hustle and giving him inspiration to write that blog post.

- This is a manual human process and not automated or in bulk. Monitoring social media is a very tedious and timely process that we do on a daily basis.

- Yes, there are many who disagree with this approach as well as many who don't. We receive an equal share of people who respond in a positive light as well as those who call us ambulance chasers.

- Yes, no (hosting) company is perfect. Every hosting company will experience some sort of outage, disk failure, etc. at some point in time. It's inevitable and we understand that. When an event like this occurs, the web hosts should communicate and be honest with their customers base, which often times isn't the case. Customers are given the run around, canned responses, and shown a facade on social media that support is actually responsive when in fact all other support channels (live chat, phone, and tickets) the customer is left hanging where the public eye doesn't see.

Many of the vocal people we reach out to on social media are people who aren't receiving the support they deserve as a customer. These customers are taking to social media channels because they're receiving no updates or responses to their requests; it's their last resort to motivate their current provider to help them. For example, tickets going left unresponded to for many days. That's unacceptable and customers deserve better service. Many times, these customers are on their last string and ready for a move.

We understand that many of these targeted people run their businesses online and it's their livelihood. This is our livelihood too and we truly show our customers that we value them and their business..we wouldn't exist or be in business if it weren't for our customers. We've built a solid foundation of customers and built the company off the premise of exceptional and personal support.

- Some will see it as spam and others won't. We target these customers online who are 1) publically pleading/crying for help 2) have their domains listed on their profile and 3) have no private registration on their domain. This allows us to find their information in the public WHOIS database (again, it's a manual and timely process) and reach out via email, twitter, or directly on their website’s contact form.

- We are not desperate and have a very healthy customer base. Our reviews speak for themselves.

- Many of you may or may not know how competitive the hosting landscape is or how the industry works. Larger conglomerates (I won't name names) spend upwards to $200+ to acquire shared hosting customers via paid search, affiliates, and reviews.

Generally speaking, most consumers don't understand that the "review" sites they trust and rely on are getting paid $200+ for any referral sent to the hosts listed on their top 10 charts. These charts are solely based on who (which hosting company) is willing to pay the most for a referral and/or which host converts the best earning that review site or affiliate the most commission. We simply thought of a new way to target customers in a way that doesn't break the bank.

With that said, it is very enlightening to see other's thoughts on the subject in a public forum.

"We're spammers, but we work really hard at it!"

I wouldn't call this spam. Specifically because it is prompted and truly individualized. Moreover, they use only intentionally public info (twitter and whois).

They also aren't pushing hard, this is essentially the softest sales-pitch that is actually a pitch.

I would call it Unsolicited Commercial Email, because that's precisely what it is.

I suppose you could philosophically contort a meaning by which "it's not really spam if you squint", but if I get that garbage in my GMail I hammer that "report as spam" button so fast, and encourage everyone else to do likewise.

Beyond the semantics, the meaningful difference to me lies in the targeting. This was targeted by a human and very specifically. It was also targeted at a business.

I see a big contrast between this and high-volume automated advertising sent to any email the sender could get his hands on. Even more so because business can benefit from such unsolicited email. Unsolicited email to consumers / personal mail is worse in my opinion.

It is not completely Unsolicited because the client has asked for help on twitter.

If I tweet something and someone tries to email me to sell me something about it, that's completely spam and I will continue to mark it as such and advocate that others mark it as such. How the hell is that not spam?

> Instead of responding to comments individually I wanted to make one comment (and one comment only)

That's not how this works. I mean, you can do whatever you want, but if you show up to a discussion, give a long rant, and then leave, I'm definitely labeling your comment a PR stunt and adding your company to my "never do business with them" list.

I think they were making a point that they were going to clarify these things but didn't want to get involved in arguing online.

I also wouldn't exactly call that a rant, I call that a bullet-point explanation of their logic. Personally I'm grateful to them for clarifying things. Until that point I had multiple people making comments about how I couldn't tell a bot from a human.

Thanks for commenting and clarifying things :)

You summed it all up. Nice work.

So ambulance chasing gets you customers!

There's no better time to spam me than in a crisis!

Well, they sent me a personalised message, deliberately at a point when I was frustrated with my current hosting provider. I don't make money off my site, but if I did I'm pretty sure I might have been livid enough to take them up on their offer. When you

All this post shows is that some people are easily impressed. Nothing original or praise worthy to see here.

I thought it a rather novel strategy and an interesting experience.

> I sent them a Tweet to ask them to please resolve the issue. Before they even responded to me, I suddenly had this email in my inbox

How did the Company that was trolling their Competitors' twitter account have access to this guy's email address?

I'm guessing that they looked up the domain, saw the email associated with it and then emailed me directly.

> saw the email associated with it


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