How Milkshakes Helped Get Me 30% More Investor and Customer Meetings

Aaron Dinin, PhD
Dec 10, 2019 · 2 min read
My milkshake brought all the investors to the yard…

During a 15 year career as an entrepreneur and startup founder, I spent tons of time sending the kinds of emails most parents (and 25% of all Law and Order episodes) warn people to never respond to: I asked thousands of strangers online if they’d agree to a meeting.

I emailed potential investors: “Hey, my company is a great company that’ll make you tons of money! Wanna meet for coffee?”

I emailed potential customers: “Hey, my company is a great product that’ll make you tons of money! Wanna meet for coffee?”

I emailed potential employees: “Hey, my company is a great company that’ll pay you tons of money… and we’ve got an office ping pong table! Wanna meet for coffee?”

For non-entrepreneurs, these kinds of online solicitations might seem strange in a “To Catch a Predator” kind of way. For me, the only strange thing was that I didn’t actually like coffee. And yet, most of my meetings took place in coffee shops.

Because I got tired of meeting at coffee shops and having to spend the first 10 minutes of every conversation defending my dislike of coffee (it tastes terrible! am I the only person who realizes that?), I decided I’d try something different. Instead of inviting strangers to meet for coffee, I started asking them if they’d be willing to meet for milkshakes.

My conversion rate for turning “cold emails” into in-person meetings increased over 30%. I got more responses from more people, and more of the people who did respond agreed to meet.

If I’m being honest, the reason my conversion rate increased was probably because suggesting a milkshake — as opposed to coffee or beer or lunch — was unique compared to the kinds of email requests people usually got, so it caught their attention and made them willing to respond.

But screw being honest. Let’s romanticize the reason. I want to believe milkshakes are so delicious that nobody with whom I could reasonably expect to have a thriving business relationship would ever turn one down. It’s a sort of compatibility test. It says: “If you’re as interested in slurping down a smooth, creamy, malted cup of sugary heaven as I am right now, then we’ve got a solid foundation on which to build a thriving partnership.”

So if you want a quick way to convert more cold emails into meetings, try my milkshake trick. And even if you don’t care about getting more meetings, consider this: I’ve left plenty of coffee meetings thinking “that was a waste of time,” but never a milkshake meeting. No matter the conversation, I always leave a milkshake meeting thinking: That meeting was delicious! Can you say the same about all your meetings?

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Aaron Dinin, PhD

Written by

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @ aarondinin.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +588K people. Follow to join our community.

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