Personal Letters

Think long and hard about what you have created and who would benefit the most from it. Set your targets very high. Let's say you invented an add-on that doubled the speed of Microsoft XP—write to Bill Gates. You've written software that allows you to track down international terrorists by cleverly filtering mobile phone calls— write to the president and the head of the CIA. You've developed a cheap method of analyzing water purity for the third world—write to the head of the United Nations. Get the idea?

These letters need to be personal, completely written, and focused for that individual. They need to make the point in the headline or opening sentence, for example, "I've found a way to speed up XP by 200 percent," "I can pinpoint a terrorist phone call in under a minute of it being made," or "I have found a way of saving several million lives of those who die from cholera each year at almost no cost."

You need to explain what the product is, the benefits, and how it works. I'd also be inclined to put a short explanation of how you came to create your tool, such as, "My school was about to ditch all our Windows computers in favor of Linux because

Windows was running too slow," "I lost a close friend as a result of September 11th," or "I saw a program on disease in Africa and realized I could do something about it." Give them a short history that they will never forget. Remember to put your contact details in. Try not to go over two pages. Check the document carefully to make sure all spelling is correct, it's professionally laid out, and test it on some friends to find out if it works.

Typically such letters are screened for senior executives by a phalanx of top-notch personal assistants. If you have something interesting to say they will forward it to the boss or the relevant person.

Try and send one letter out a day. The material you build up can be used in future marketing activities.

Tempting though mass e-mailing is, due to the ease of gathering thousands of e-mail addresses and bulk e-mailing them, it normally backfires. If enough recipients complain they can have your Web site taken off the air. To reinforce this, at the time of writing this book legislation is being prepared in several western countries to make spam illegal. In short, don't spam—it rarely works and at best it could completely backfire.

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