I get a lot of cold pitch emails (guest post, "will you promote X", etc), and I turn almost all of them down.
Most of them are just so poorly pitched, and don't tell me anything about why I should risky my reputation with my audience promoting whatever it is they want me to promote.
Today I'd like to share with you a strategy I used a few years back to grow the Double Your Freelancing newsletter.
At the time, it was getting about 5-10 new subscribers a day (or ~3,000 a year.)
But over the span of June-July of 2016, I took the list from just under 10,000 to 23,000 people.
Here's what I did:
Borrow other people's audiences.
I had recently launched the new course version of Double Your Freelancing Rate, and while it sold well to my list I was looking to get it in front of more people.
Along with the release of the course, I also created a free email course called Charge What You're Worth, and the job of this email course was to prepare people to be receptive to DYFRate, and then pitch them on it. That email course leveraged the LBPS model I personally use and recommend.
I knew that there were plenty of other non-competing people & companies who served the same audience (freelancers). i.e.:
Invoicing & proposal SaaS companies
Communities of freelancers that were monetised by events or ads (and not by competing products)
Personal brands that helped people become entrepreneurs (even if "freelancing" wasn't their focus)
Fortunately, I'd gotten to know many orgs like this through conferences, Twitter discussions, and the network of friends/peers I'd developed.
My thought process was that I could reach out to these companies and offer to include my free LBPS lead magnet, Charge What You're Worth, to their list.
Any sales – both from the pitch at the end or any lifetime sales – would be split down the middle. I'd get half, and the partner would get half.
And while I absolutely had the ability to get warm introductions to many of the orgs I wanted to reach out to, what made orgs less likely to dismiss me right away was that I came prepared.
I had created a Promotion Pack, and it worked really well.
What's a Promotion Pack?
Simply put, it's a document that quickly lists out why doing a partnership together is good for the business you're reaching out to and their audience.
Mine is a Google Doc that I'd link to when emailing/DMing potential partners.
Here's a teaser from mine:
Additionally, the Pack also includes information on:
What you'll be teaching their audience
How you'll present your audience with three options at the end of the educational sequence: do nothing, figure it out yourself (risky), or buy-my-thing-and-I'll-help-you-do-it (safest)
What your pitch will include – how you create urgency, how you aren't bashing people over the head to buy, etc.
Optionally how you'll present a secondary pitch (I did mine as a joint live webinar with the host + me to buyers and non-buyers alike)
How they'll get paid and how refunds are handled
Statistical averages: given X people register for the LBPS lead magnet, what percentage end up buying? As you get more partners, you'll be able to pretty easily speculate, "Ah, so given your audience and list size this is how well this will likely do..."
This document is ultimately a sales pitch
"Here's what I can offer you and your audience, here's why they'll love it, and here's how it'll make you money for relatively little work."
The biggest risk for a creator – and the reason most of us ignore most of the cold pitches that hit our inbox – is that we end up throwing our list to the dogs.
I know some people are fine pumping and dumping offers on their email list.
But that's not me, and that's not the sort of thing I want to be associated with.
When thinking through how I'd pitch this partnership, I wanted to ensure that:
Even if someone doesn't ever buy anything that (hopefully!) they'll get something pretty valuable out of the free stuff.
That pushing someone new onto a paid product from a random stranger using artificial urgency isn't always ideal. Sure, they'll get pitched, but it won't be smarmy AND if they buy after they finally see the value of what I offer – maybe 6 months down the line? – then the partner will still get credited.
That I truly understand I'm leveraging the trust the partner has with their audience, and anything I say, do, or pitch ultimately reflects on them.
So how'd I ultimately get those 10,000+ subs?
I sought out a few friends who had similar-ish size audiences.
I offered the option to just do a live webinar or to do the email course pitch + live webinar later.
This flexibility worked out well because carving out an hour for some random webinar from some dude named Brennan is a bit of a hard sell, but an email course is comparatively much less effort.
The first month was spent getting it right:
I started with people I knew from conferences / podcasts / and so on.
How should I pitch total strangers differently from people who are already on my list?
How do I best involve my partners? After all, their audience trusts them and has their guard up with me
How should I best pitch the course at the end? This led to offering a special bonus for those who bought during the webinar vs. those who bought afterward
If the partner went with the webinar-first approach, how long should I keep the cart open afterward?
And, most importantly, what do I send BEFORE any live webinars that increases the likelihood that people actually show up? (This was key, and ultimately led to me learning loads about segmentation – more on this in a future email.)
Once I dialed all of that in, I then started approaching bigger fish. I had more experience at this point and also more stats to amplify my pitch.
The second month was where things went wild:
I moved "upmarket" to less familiar friends and/or brands who would make a great partner. I leveraged the list of past partners to help me get my foot in the door.
The big fear from those with larger audiences (which for me was 25,000+) was that you'll totally bomb and make them look stupid. Fortunately I had recordings of Month #1 webinars, email feedback from people who went through my partner trainings (feedback loops ftw), and the confidence that only comes with repetition and refinement.
I was able to average 4-5% overall list opt-in rates. This meant that a partner with a list of 50,000 sending one or two emails immediately netted me 2,500+ new subscribers!
Those that went the email course route started adding me to their subscriber onboarding sequences. This had a really nice cumulative effect over time.
This month (July 2016) I added just north of 8,500 subscribers from the "big fish" partners and made close to $52,000 in course sales within 30 days (and paid out the same to other partners.) It felt great.
I ended up getting promoted by brands like WooThemes, 99u, Bidsketch, James Clear (pre-Atomic Habits) which, in my mind, added a ton of credibility to Double Your Freelancing.
The only real downside to doing this...
The subscriber quality, at least in comparison to those who organically opt-in on your website, was noticeably lower.
This is to be expected, especially if you end up pushing everyone onto your email list after they just registered for a one-off webinar with you + Mr. Clear.
I think it was ultimately the right move. If people didn't want my emails, they'd unsubscribe. But I probably could have made things more explicit and even given people a "click here to keep hearing from me after these lessons/webinar" option.
The upside? Relatively easy revenue, hundreds of new customers, and thousands of new subscribers? Totally worthwhile.