Dropbox and the Golden Rule of Referral Marketing

by alec on September 14, 2010

Dropbox is a service that I both use extensively, and admire.

  • It synchronizes all of my data across all of the devices that I use – seamlessly, effortlessly, with no errors.
  • It makes my documents totally mobile.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve reached for my iPad to grab a contract or a document from the cloud, when in the past I would have had to return to my desk.
  • It lets me create on the fly “shares” in the cloud so that I can give other people access to documents.
  • Best of all, it works across Microsoft and Apple products, both of which I use.

In short, I think it’s pretty close to being the perfect synchronizing and sharing solution.  As a result, I often find myself recommending Dropbox to friends.

Dropbox tickled my inbox with an offer this afternoon.  For each of my friends that I invite to Dropbox, and who accept, they offered me an extra 500M of storage. Why not get extra space for doing something I already do?

And that’s where I made my mistake.  I loaded my Google address book into their handy program, and pressed the button, expecting to be able to write something like what I just wrote above.  I expected to be able to explain to everyone I was mailing exactly why I thought so much of Dropbox. I wanted to tell them about my personal experience.  I was hoping to encourage them to use the product because it’s that good. And I wanted to let them know that they could get extra storage by simply telling their friends.

For Dropbox, I would have been the perfect evangelist customer.

I didn’t get the chance.  Dropbox’s mailer simply spammed my contacts with the one liner “Alec Saunders wants you to use Dropbox to sync and share files online and across computers.”  I felt like an idiot.  People asked why I was spamming their inbox.  Dropbox lost a golden opportunity.


The Golden Rule of Referral Marketing?  Let me explain why I am referring this company to you.  Otherwise you’re simply asking for permission to spam my contacts, and that’s not something I really want to do.

And by the way, despite this experience, I still think Dropbox rocks.

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