My guest today is Kai Davis, host of the Make Money Online and Get More Clients podcasts, and author of The Outreach Blueprint and Podcast Outreach. In this episode Kai will teach you the importance to building relationships with people and the 7 steps to launching your first marketing outreach campaign. Marketing outreach is one of the most important marketing skills today, so listen in to learn the best ways to approach it as well as Kai’s recommended resources and software tools.
Listen to this Episode:
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Why outreach is so important as marketers
- Using you-focused outreach language
- The 7 steps to launch your first marketing outreach campaign
- Automation versus personalization
- Outreach sequences and successful follow-up campaigns
- Measuring a successful outreach response
- Kai’s recommended resources and software tools
- The Importance of Writing You Focused Emails by Kai Davis
- Email Finder at Hunter.io
- Reply.io, Bluetick and Drip email automated tools
- Pipedrive CRM software
- The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza
- The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- Free guide from EveryoneHatesMarketers.com: How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers
Louis: It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. What I’m talking to you right now is completely improvised. I can see the background, a little painting that says, “Fuck you, pay me” which is brilliant because you actually charge $200 an hour for calls. I’m happy to be able to talk to you for free. It’s a great honor.
Kai: The invoice is in the mail. It might take a little bit to get delivered to you but I promise.
Louis: That’s why. I’m waiting for the invoice to come.
I have a small story to tell you. Seven months ago, I had this small project called Transparent Nation which was about trying to reach out to founders and marketers who were really transparent about what they were doing; their revenue, their struggles, the lessons they made, the lessons they learned, the mistakes they’ve made, and all this kind of stuff.
What I’ve done is I had put together a list of all of those people based on the articles they wrote. I would, for example, have David Darmanin from Hotjar and one of his key articles around transparency. At the end, I had a list of maybe 400 people, their name, the URL of the article and a description of who they were in order for me to be more accustomed to them.
I reached out to every single one of them about the project. The reply rate was off the roof, more than 50% of the people replied. That was just crazy.
Kai: That’s epic.
Louis: That was really epic. This project was actually the start of this podcast, that transitioned into this podcast. The relationship I have with David Darmanin now, who’s my CEO because I work at Hotjar, or other people I talk to today, were all from the same outreach campaign.
Today, we’re going to talk about outreach. Why do you think it’s so important? Why do you think outreach is such an important topic for marketers?
Kai: I think outreach is important because it really boils down to stimulating conversations and building relationships. I came into outreach marketing actually through the search engine optimization and link building door. I was, years ago, working for ecommerce stores, helping them get more links, get more reviews for their products.
Let’s boil it down to a dichotomy. There were two options for initiating these conversations; emailing people and saying, “Hey, would you link to my thing?” A few people would do that, not so many. More people would be responsive to, “Hey, you’re creating awesome things. Thank you so much. Let’s have a conversation. Let’s build a relationship. What are you working on?”
I found that by focusing outreach as a whole on stimulating conversations and building relationships, it produces better results because first and foremost, you’re building a relationship, an authentic relationship with somebody and then that could naturally build towards, “Oh, would you like to be on my podcast?” Or “Would you link to this resource?” Or, “Do you want to collaborate on something?”
I think outreach is so important for marketers because if we view it through the lens of building relationships and stimulating conversations with people who are involved in relevant industries or relevant projects, it helps build our network, build our connections, build a better business, and help improve other people’s lives.
The flip side is it’s very easy to view outreach as a one to many, blast it out, email everyone type of tactic. I typically see that on outreach campaigns where people aren’t investing a lot of time in qualification or positioning, as Philip Morgan discussed in his interview with you, and how to understand who your actual target market is.
With an outreach, I think it’s so important because a focus on outreach forces you to understand who you’re trying to reach, boiling it down to the best 50 or 100 people to reach out to and focus first and foremost on building a relationship instead of selling or pitching.
Louis: That, I think, is the most important point of all of that. As marketers, we tend to forget that those people in the spreadsheets, all those numbers on Google Analytics, are actually people. We are social animals, we want to be in a relationship with people. That’s how things work, really. To me, it’s the basic of marketing. You get a relationship and this is how you grow.
This is the same to me as word of mouth. I don’t consider that to be a channel at all. I think it’s just a natural consequence of good marketing. Outreach, if you do it well, it seems natural as well. It doesn’t seem like a channel you are using. It seems like you are reaching out to the right people, you’re asking them the right thing, they give you their thoughts in return, they help you in return. That’s how you would do it in normal life, right?
Kai: Very much so. So many of the best practices that I espoused or evangelized when it comes to outreach marketing come from saying, “How would I email a friend about this? How would I want a friend to email me about this?”
There’s an article I wrote a few months ago on my blog about the importance of you-focused language in outreach emails. Listeners can find that at kaidavis.com/you. What I see in emails that I receive, emails I send, there’s such a focus on talking about yourself first, “I this, we that, our company this.” Nobody cares. People want to hear about why it’s relevant to them, why it’s important to them.
I think by adapting this lens of, “How would I want to be spoken to by somebody reaching out to me?” or “How would I talk to a friend about this?” Focusing on the you-focused language? This is important to you because it helps you solve this problem, achieve this outcome. Are you experiencing this problem? People read it. They put themselves in, let’s call it the protagonist’s shoes. They’re the hero, reading this email, experiencing this on their journey.
If we focus on the emails being you-focused on building that relationship, we’re helping the protagonist achieve their goal, we’re helping uncover what that goal might actually be.
Louis: So many things to say about what you just said. But first of all, very nice plug. You managed to link your blog within the sentence. It’s kaidavis.com/you. Really well done. That was smooth, really smooth.
What I want to do today really is try to make listeners understand that this is probably one of the most important things you can do in the business you have, whether it’s a big business, small business, whether you’re a marketer in the business, whether you’re the founder of the business, outreach is really something you should consider.
What I like to do together is really having a step by step methodology that people can take away from. You said a lot of interesting things. Basically, the fact that people don’t care about you, they care about themselves. That’s a very big lesson.
Let’s go back to the root of it. Let’s say I’m trying to sell pillows. I have a brand new pillow company that makes all the other pillows obsolete because it’s so good, you sleep so well on them. And I want to reach the right people, to spread the word. First of all, what type of people should I contact?
Kai: That is actually the question I was going to ask you. Great job anticipating that. The way I typically think about it is first and foremost, we start up with an idea of who our target market is. The way I like to think about product creation and product marketing is first and foremost, who are we trying to reach?
I’m going to be selfish and pick this because I’m about to head to Burning Man in three weeks from this episode. Let’s say we’re trying to sell to two Burners, people who are attending these small 70,000 person arts festival in Nevada each year called Burning Man, and we have pillows. We want to sell pillows to them.
The first question that comes to mind is, “Who are we trying to sell to?” We’re selling to people who are attending Burning Man. The second question that comes to my mind as we start to think about outreach and building these relationships, building these conversations is, “Why the heck would somebody care about the pillows we have? What’s unique about them? What problem does it solve for the person buying the pillow?”
To answer that question, I advocate market research, having conversations with people, understanding what sucks about the pillows they’re currently using at camping trips, what’s wonderful about the pillows they love, what features do they enjoy, just so we have a better understanding of the entire—
Louis: Let’s slow down because you’re saying so many good things. We need to break that down. First of all, we identify our target audience. It seems trivial but it’s actually not. It’s a very good exercise to put that on paper, “Who am I actually trying to reach?” People in Burning Man, as we call them Burners, which is really funny because I’ve never heard the term before. Burners. Now that we know who they are, we interview them. You advocate talking to them over the phone or even face to face?
Kai: Talking to them on the phone, talking to them face to face, researching online, forums or communities they’re posting in, seeing reviews they leave for different pillows, seeing reviews people leave for different camping pillows, just understanding what the conversation around these types of products is, what they like, what they don’t like, what they wish for aspects of the product, all of these honestly, I think, is necessary and valuable before we even say design or amazing, beautiful pillow.
We want to understand who we’re going to be selling to, what attributes they care about. Do they care about it being compressible in like packing down? Do they care about it being a wonderful, soft, firm, resting place for their head while they camp? Depending on these needs, that all informs the type of product we’re going to be creating.
I think market research in these conversations with potential customers, prospects, early buyers is incredibly important to understand what exactly do people want to buy and that starts to answer the question why do they care? We’re creating a pillow that solves these problems, solve these pains for them. It makes it so much easier for them to say, “Oh, wow. Of course I’d go with this pillow. It seems like such a better option.”
Louis: You have your value proposition. You know exactly why you’re different from the other competitors and you can also have key sentences that people will use over and over again in their own words. You’d be able to use that in your marketing. What will be step three once you have that?
Kai: Step three is we have an idea of who we’re trying to reach, we have an idea of the pains and problems that they’re experiencing. At this point, some people might jump to creating the product. We’re going to build our pillow, we’ll get some ideas of it. I like to jump forward and start understanding through conversations with people, through outreach of people to a deeper level, what are people looking for, what do people care about, what’s interesting or what’s an interesting proposition for them.
For a product like this, this jumps forward a bit but I think it’s relevant. I think we want to start thinking about, “We’ve identified the community we’re trying to reach, we’ve identified what they’re looking for in this product. Where do these people naturally congregate online? Where do they spend their time? What podcast do they listen to? What sites do they read? What authors do they follow? What magazines offline do they read? What communities do they belong to?”
Because when it comes time to actually implement outreaching and start marketing our product, we want to approach these communities and say, “Hey, we have this thing. It’s for the people that make up your community. Would you be interested in learning more about it? Would this be something your audience would care about?”
Again, it comes down to what’s in it for them. I find that by first understanding what our product is, why it’s relevant to that audience and then contacting the people who are marketing to that audience or have built up an audience of those people, it’s easier to reach people at scale.
Louis: That’s really similar to what Rand Fishkin is saying about identifying influencers of the people you’re trying to reach. I hate the word influencer. I don’t really know what to replace it with, VIPs or whatever it is. But those people who are basically influencing others through their actions, through their thoughts, through what they’re doing or what they’re not doing. I very much like that. Would you say this is step three? Once you have this audience, you can understand what influences those people?
Kai: Exactly. I use the term audience builder or audience owner typically to refer to the person who’s created or built up this tribe of people around them. We want to understand what influences these people and we want to understand what influences the audience owners, the people building these audiences, what motivates them?
If they built up a podcast that has 5000 or 50,000 listeners, what would be exciting and interesting for them to share with their audience? Would it be a review of the pillow? Would it be a discussion about four things you never knew for packing for this type of event and why a pillow is so important? Would it be something else entirely?
By understanding what motivates the end buyer, the customer, the hero, the protagonist and this audience builder, this person we’re reaching out to through outreach marketing to build that relationship, it helps us better understand both sides of the equation. How do we pitch something so people are receptive to it as we build the relationship and what aspects and attributes make sense for our product overall? People say, “Oh, wow. This is an interesting product. This seems to help me get towards that outcome I’m looking for. How do I learn more? What’s that next step?”
Louis: We have this list of so called influencers or as you said, like tribe owners, the audience owners. What’s the next step? Do we reach out to them?
Kai: I very much advocate reaching out to them. I like a very soft approach. I like reaching out, starting that relationship, focusing on building that relationship first and foremost by either adding value to the conversation, sharing an interesting resource, sharing an interesting article, saying like, “Oh hey, I notice you run this blog on this topic. I just saw this podcast interview over here on a similar topic. I think you’d love it. Here’s a quick two-sentence summary of it. Thanks for all the amazing work you do.”
Reach out with no real ulterior motive. The goal is to stimulate a conversation and build a relationship. We’ve all made friends on the internet before. At the heart, at the core of it, all the outreach marketing I espoused boils down to reach out to people and stimulate a conversation like you would with making a friend through a forum or a discussion group. See what common interests you have. Share something interesting with them to start that conversation.
Chet Holmes, I believe, in The Ultimate Sales Machine advocates focusing on the third or the fourth sale before you even think about the first sale. Within outreach marketing, I take that similar mental approach, I’m focusing on building the relationship first before we even think about the first sale. When we start thinking about the sales, I want to say, “How could we make this such a valuable opportunity, such a valuable relationship for the person I’m talking with that the fourth, the fifth, the sixth collaboration feels like it’s already set in stone, feels like it’s a natural next step?” Rather than leading with, “Hey, we have an amazing pillow. Do you want to review it for your audience?” Instead, we’ll reach out and say, “Hey, you’re creating an amazing thing here. How could I help? What’s interesting? What would be motivating for your audience?”
Louis: This is exactly what happened to us. We’re friends now. We just have email conversations. Overtime, we just had a relationship that enables us to have this conversation right now for the podcast. But this step is actually a big one and there are many substeps to it. Let’s get into the details. We have this community, we have the name of the people who might manage them or we have those influencers in front of us. First of all, how do we find their email address?
Kai: Getting very tactical, I like you saying first and foremost the tool called Email Hunter, available at Hunter.io. It’s a wonderful tool. They basically scraped the web and said, “Okay, can we identify email addresses for different sites?” You could go to hunter.io right now ad enter in kaidavis.com and see all the email addresses hunter.io has identified for my site. It’s been a wonderful tool as I ran outreach campaigns and hit that step of saying, “How do I contact the right person here?”
First, we want to identify who that right person is. If it’s a small podcast or content site, we might immediately reach out to the founder or the person running it. If it’s a larger site, maybe there’s gatekeepers, maybe there’s organization, maybe there’s hierarchy involved. We want to identify that right person.
Once you figured out who the right person or people are, we could use a tool like Hunter to find their email address. Now we have their email address, their name and their site, we’re able to move on to that next step in outreach.
Louis: You mentioned 50 to 100 people as a list but I’m pretty sure that you’ve done outreach with much bigger audiences before and even personalized email based on certain things. Do you advocate to semi-automate the process of sending bulk emails with specific tags or would you say no, I send manual emails only?
Kai: It really, honestly depends on the campaign. As I get a campaign or as you, dear listener, get an outreach campaign sort of to scale and I’d say scale is when you start feeling overwhelmed with the volume of replies or follow-up emails you’re sending, then use an automated tool. I use Reply.io and Bluetick by Mike Taber for my outreach campaigns.
I found them to be very wonderful because I no longer need to worry about sending the emails. I could just rely on the tool to send the emails out for me, follow up for me on the schedule I’m setting and if and when the person I’m contacting replies back then we’re able to start that conversation. But, that jumps ahead of it for anybody I coach on outreach marketing or outreach strategies, I say for the first 20, 30, 50 people, we want to send the emails manually because there’s so much benefit in that.
We get a better understanding of how to write the emails. We might start first with the draft template that we send to one person and by the time we send email two, we’re like, “Ooh, I want to change the wording a little bit.” Email 10, we refine the wording even more. By starting with a manual process, we’re able to incrementally optimize what our emails are, what messages we’re sending, how we’re building that relationship based on the responses we get or the engagement levels we get.
Then, we’re able to say, “Okay, let’s write this follow up sequence. How do we make sure that people respond to us?” The best way to ensure a reply is to demonstrate that this communication, this relationship we’re trying to build is valuable to us and we do that by making sure we send polite, persistent follow up emails that add more value to the conversation.
I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving side of emails that are, “Hey, did you receive that last email I sent you?” A week later, “Hey, just checking in. Did you get that last email?” I think of those as non-value added follow up. It’s just basically knocking on the door and saying, “Did you get my letter?”
What I think is a much better approach is focusing on adding value. We send the first email to start that conversation. Maybe we don’t hear back. We already have the second email drafted which might be like, “Hey, just following up. I wanted to share this podcast interview, or this article, or this piece of market data on this topic, Burning Man pillows, the importance of pillows for camping,” whatever it may be.
We’re adding value to the conversation rather than it simply being, “Did you get that last email I sent you?” It’s, “Hey, here’s something of value.” Now we’re able to stimulate a conversation off of the resource, the podcast, the article, the marketing material, whatever it may be that we sent over and we just follow down the line.
If we get no response, we want a third email prepared that adds more value and stimulates the conversation. Typically, I advocate five to six emails in that outreach sequence but I’m always having it focused on adding more value, stimulating that conversation and focusing on building a relationship.
Louis: My job today is going to be to go back to what you said and step it down because there’s so many things you’re saying that are valuable. Before we think about following up, we actually have to write an email. You started to mention that at the start, it has to sound natural, it has to sound that it’s all about them, not about you.
I have a tip for that. Sometimes, you would write marketing material like an email newsletter or copy for your landing page and you’re like, “It sounds bad. It sounds salesy. It sounds odd.” Usually, the best process for that is to just scrap it altogether and just voice it out. I would actually, out loud, imagine I have a friend in front of me, and I will just explain it to him. I would say, “Actually this video does that and that. It’s really easy because you can do it.” Then, it’s much easier. I just write it down as I say it.
It’s tough to do because it seems like you have this hat on. As soon as you’re trying to write it’s like the shitty salesman hat that makes you say stupid stuff that you will never say in person. Maybe you share this, maybe you disagree but if I write an email, I would always try to do that. First of all, make sure that it’s about them and second, make sure it reads as if you’re saying that to the person in front of you.
Kai: Completely, completely agreed. I do the same myself. I’ll sit down with either a friend or a business partner or somebody I’m just close with, just to voice the email out loud to them. I say, your only job, to your friend, is to ask why would I care whenever I stop talking because I want to get the person I’m speaking to, the person I’m voicing this email out loud to, to the point where they say, “Oh, wow. This is interesting. Tell me more.” Instead of that natural hesitancy, resistance we might have to marketing of, “You’re just trying to pitch me on a thing.”
I see this in program more often as the rubber duckie idea where, “Hey, I’m stuck on a problem I’m imagining a rubber duck. Okay, let me talk through this problem to the rubber duck and see where I get to.” I think applying that same process to writing these emails makes perfect sense.
Let’s voice it out loud, let’s imagine we’re talking to a rubber duck. Why should this other person care about what we’re promoting and what we have to say by getting that pushback either internally as we voice our email out loud, as we write or from a trusted associate or a trusted colleague. It forces us to improve our messaging and make it more you-focused.
Louis: Once you have that first draft, you would send it to 25, 30 people manually and see what’s the response rate. I can hear people already asking what’s the average response rate for this type of cold outreach. What would it be, even though it depends on a lot of things. What’s the typical reply rate you can see from those?
Kai: Honestly, it varies across the board depending on how refined you played your target market, how you’ve qualified your list and what your message is. What I advocate first and foremost, is focusing on a smaller more qualified list of people early on. Maybe we identify 100 people and then we say, “Okay, let’s pretend I only have enough energy or enough credits to email 50 of these people. How do I qualify down just to the 50 or the 25 best buyers, the perfect candidates?”
If we focus on that qualification first, response rates rise, engagement rise because we’re emailing only the best buyers. Beyond that though, in response to your question, what’s the average rate, what could we look for, it really depends. I have outreached campaigns running right now where we have a 3% reply rate and we have a 30% reply rate. It depends on the audience, it depends on the messaging, it depends on the follow up emails.
What I tell people who I coach on outreach marketing is send that first campaign to the 50 or so people, record what your metrics are, see what the open rate and the reply rate was across the campaign per email and then say, “Okay, great. This is my baseline. This is what I’m comparing against.” Sure, somebody must have just written a post about how they got 120% open rate, good for them. That’s wonderful. But for us, all we could do is look at past performance and compare our current performance to that past performance.”
Louis: What has been the most successful outreach campaign you’ve ever done?
Kai: That’s a good question. The most successful outreach campaign was one where the client, a week into it, said, “We need to pause because we’re getting too good of results here and we spent the entire budget for promotion that we expected.” It was promoting a fashion wear company and we were reaching out to bloggers to build relationships and say, “Hey, would your audience be interested in learning more about this product or running a giveaway for your audience?”
We had something like an 80%, not reply rate, acceptance rate, people saying, “Yes, we’d love to do this.” Incredibly qualified list, incredibly refined messaging, and the owner was like, “This is wonderful. You’ve exceeded expectations. We need to hit pause now because we can’t afford to ship more dresses this quarter. Let’s move forward.”
But that probably stands out in my mind as the most successful campaign and it really comes down to a focus on early qualification. I started with a list of 1000 fashion bloggers and refined it down to probably 250 and a focus on messaging.
I spent six months studying this industry, studying how these bloggers talk with each other, emailing with them and understanding the language they use so when I pitch them or when I worked on building this relationship, it was using their language, their words, their vocabulary, and written in a you-focused voice so when they receive the email, it wasn’t like, “No, god. Not another person pitching me on a thing.” But, “Oh wow! This person is interested in building a relationship, working together in the long-term. That’s excellent. Please explain what the next step is if there’s a clear call to action. Let’s move forward. I’m interested.”
Louis: That’s quite impressive. You have this email, you send this email and then you’ve been saying a few times in this podcast, and I’ve read a few times from you as well that following up is actually even more important than sending the first email. You started to explain a few minutes ago, why is it important, what type of schedule should you put in place, and what type of scheduling of having follow up emails should you send, because you mentioned the first email is about creating a relationship, starting a discussion. What will be the second one then?
Kai: The second one, I think, if we look at it from a “jobs to be done” framework, in any initial outreach sequence we’re sending, the job at every single email is to get a reply, be it yes or a no or an f off, I don’t want to hear from you again. We want that reply because that reply is either a strongly positive reply or a strongly negative reply, lets us know we’re touching a nerve we’re engaging and people are responding back.
I had outreach campaigns where I could see that, very extensive what I’m running right now because there’s 13 follow up emails, there’s one person in that campaign who has opened 11 of the emails so far and has yet to reply. That’s interesting to me because they’re engaging in the sense, they’re reading the emails, but it’s not enough to get them to reply.
I never liked being in that middle ground of somebody saying, “Hey, it’s good enough for me to read but not reply.” I want to evoke that strong emotion of either, “Yes, we’d love to work together.” Or, “Hey, it’s not a fit.” When we get the not a fit response, we’re able to move them off the list and focus on just the best buyers.
Louis: What would be a typical follow up email? What do you focus on?
Kai: I’d focus on whatever I determine is relevant to that blogger or that industry. Typically, when I’m building an outreach campaign, I’ll spend time doing the research process, identifying relevant articles, relevant pieces of market data, interviews either myself or the company I’m working with has taken a part in, and use that to build the follow up emails.
Each email has a bit of a value add to it. It’s not me just saying, “Hey, email number four. I’d love you to review this thing. Hey, it’s email number four. We just had a guest post go live over here in this site. I think you’ll love it. It shows the type of reviews that we get, what people think about our products. If you’re interested in writing something similar, please reply. But here’s a link that just illustrates what that guest post is.”
It adds more value. I think of it almost as a [00:27:33], an excuse, an object that allows us to email the person and follow up with them but not struggle to say the same thing again and again, instead we’re focused on sharing new and relevant information either about ourselves, our product, them, their industry, but it’s all under the purpose of stimulating that conversation to engage with them and get that response.
Louis: Would you send those manually or do you have tools that you also use for that?
Kai: Early on, initially, I send the follow ups manually just because again, I think there’s value in going through that process, experiencing the pain of following up with 50 people manually and iterating on the copy and the content within those messages.
As we start to hit that point of, “Oh my, I’m sending 50 emails and I have to follow up with 50 people. I have 40 follow up emails. This is getting a bit head melty.” I advocate moving to an automated tool like Reply.io or Bluetick by Mike Taber because that allows you to say, “Okay, I have to find this outreach sequence. I have to find this follow up sequence. I’ve started to see responses and replies from it. Let me load it in place so now I’m able to delegate to this tool, the process of sending the emails. Following up if you don’t get a reply, and then once somebody does reply, the follow up sequence stops and we’re able to engage in that conversation manually, nurturing them towards a strong relationship.”
Louis: I don’t think there’s something more annoying than this type of email, when they’re not targeted and when they’re all about the sender. To listeners who want to try that out and have never tried before, be extremely careful of what you’re sending and be extremely targeted and really try to picture whether you’d be willing to say what you’re just writing to this person face to face. If you’re not, then you have to either not send it or rewrite it altogether.
Don’t do the, “Dear sir/madam, this is our SEO professional services. This is what we refer.” Please don’t do that. I do receive a few cold emails that I reply to because I enjoy reading them because some of them are actually well-written and you could see that they’ve made their research. It doesn’t feel like a cold email at all. It feels like they’ve actually made their research, they mention a few episodes, they mention a few things from the episodes that you basically have to listen to it to understand, to know whether it’s true or not.
There is a bad way and a good way to do it. What you’re advocating is definitely the right way. Once we are doing that, we should expect relationships to be built and you shouldn’t really drop the ball. You should hopefully put them, those people, in the CRM and keep building relationships. You should subscribe to their newsletter, you should follow what they write, what they talk about, you should go to their conference and just be in a relationship like a normal human, like a human being.
Kai: Entirely. I use Pipedrive as my CRM. For every single campaign, for every pipeline I have, I have a ready for follow up column. Once you’ve started that conversation, they replied, you’ve had a placement or we’ve done something together, I want to continue maintaining that relationship.
I think one of the biggest fall off points in relationships or outreach marketing or marketing in general is, and I think you talked about this on your previous episode, potentially with Philip Morgan, is you have that sale, you have that engagement, and then there’s no attention paid to that customer, that hero, after you’ve worked on this placement or had a purchase happen, or had some conversion esque event happen.
By focusing on that follow up, by focusing on maintaining that relationship, we, A, build a stronger relationship with that person which will pay off in different ways, B, set ourselves up for additional placements and additional opportunities, additional ways to work together. By focusing on maintaining that relationship, building it into a stronger relationship, it pays off for us, it pays off for them, and it pays off for each of our respective audiences.
Louis: Am I in your CRM?
Kai: Yes, you are.
Louis: I can’t wait for the next follow up. That’s been really helpful and I hope that listeners will have a lot of stuff to take away from that. Obviously, they can email you, Kai Davis, if they want to. I suppose they just have to go to your website and they’d be able to contact you pretty fast. What’s the email address that you would prefer?
Kai: Absolutely. The best way to reach out to me is most likely signing up for my daily email newsletter. I send out daily tips about freelancing, consulting, and marketing. You’ll be able to sign up for that at kaidavis.com. Every email I send is from my personal email address. If any subscribers have questions, I encourage them write back, reply, ask me questions. I always love being asked questions about freelancing or marketing or outreach.
The best way to initiate that relationship is to visit kaidavis.com, sign up for my daily newsletter. If you sign up today, you’d be guaranteed to get tomorrow’s newsletter. And reply, tell me about yourself, tell me about what you’re struggling with or what you’re working on. I always love offering any advice I can.
Louis: I need to stop calling you Kei because it’s actually Kai. That’s pretty bad of me. We’re not over with this episode. If listeners are planning to stop this, it’s not the right moment. I have to say your emails are really good. I really love the way you write them. It really sounds like you’re talking to me in a sense that it’s a natural flow which I’m trying to do in my own emails but I’m not as good as you are just yet.
Moving on to bad marketing and bullshit marketing, outside of what we just talked about. Why do you think marketers have a bad reputation in general?
Kai: I was just thinking about this question for the interview actually. I’m so happy you asked this. I think it’s because we see some channel work, marketers in general, we’ll see some innovators, some early adopters test the channel, see successful rates with it. Let’s say Facebook bot messaging. I see reports about 80% open rates, 80% clickthrough rates, it’s an amazing marketing tool. That’s great.
It’s an untapped channel right now which means people are seeing extraordinary results with it but more marketers will move into it, start using it, start following, just the same copy and paste tactics and not really say, “How does this relate to my audience? How does this help my audience grow? Is this a marketing channel or communication channel that actually helps my business?”
We see sort of a raise to the lowest common denominator there. I think we see this overpopulation of channels and we see there’s a boombust cycle, “Hey, we discovered a new channel. Hey, great, it’s working well. It’s kind of getting oversaturated. Ah, nobody uses it anymore.”
We can see this with the growth of Twitter, with the evergreen cycle of webinars, with all these different channels. As soon as something new comes on the scene, we have early adopters use it, have great results, and then it sort of becomes the lowest common denominator. Everybody rushes to use it to get the best results possible but it ends up alienating the audience. Am I answering you well?
Louis: You are. The more I’m interviewing great marketers like you are, the clearer it gets in my head, this idea of the fact that you should focus on tranquility instead of this constant buzz around what’s new, what should I try next.
Tranquility is really the value of knowing that you’re doing the right thing and that sooner rather than later, what you want to achieve will happen. You don’t know when but it will happen. Instead of chasing everything around you, just focus on the lighthouse in the horizon and just keep doing it.
I feel that this is, if not the most important aspect of marketing as a discipline, your ability to focus on what you’re at, regardless what’s happening around you and just focusing on the first principles, focusing on building relationships like we talked about today. Absolutely, you answered it.
I hope that listeners will really be convinced by this because I stopped using Twitter and LinkedIn recently, I don’t look into it anymore. I just schedule a post when I need to. It just created so much happiness and balance in my day that I don’t see how I managed to do it before. Consider deleting a lot of your channels that you’re not using, consider not checking many things that you don’t like checking anyway and just focus on your craft and what you’re best at.
Kai: Completely agreed. In your interview with Philip Morgan, he talked about how he sees so much importance on focusing on a few channels and doing them right. For him, one of them is email. For me, also, one of them is email. I think there’s a lot of value in saying, “I want to do two or three things exceptionally well rather than do 30 things at a so-so level.”
There’s a concept within the productivity sphere of context switching. If you’re working on one thing and switched to working on a different thing, there’s a ramp up period for you to get mentally settled and mentally ready to work on the new thing. This is why interruptions could be so devastating to productivity.
I think when we look at marketing and look at all the different channels, we could see a similar principle in effect. If I’m trying to work on 10 different marketing channels at the same time, I might spend an hour an email and now I’m switching to Twitter, I’m not going to be as productive with that switch immediately as I was on email so I have to ramp up, it’s going to take more time.
Now, I’m on Facebook ads, now I’m doing a webinar, now I’m working on my latest blogpost, now I want to do something on Pinterest, now I want to do something on Snapchat. It becomes overwhelming and the cost of that context switching within a marketing space can just devastate your productivity.
I think focusing on a few channels done well and slowly, incrementally, obviously testing different channels, seeing if it makes sense, seeing if your audience’s response to them and if they don’t say, “Hey, I’m not going to do this anymore.” I think your point about Twitter and LinkedIn is exceptional. You made that decision that, “Personally, they aren’t fun. I’m not enjoying them. I’m not getting value out of them. I’m going to schedule a post and then not think about them anymore.” You just freed up so much mental bandwidth that you were before spending on these channels, thinking about them. “Has somebody ever tweeted me? Has somebody replied?”
Whenever I take a social media break or such, I noticed the same effect myself. I’m no longer worried about it. I’m less stressed and anxious about it. Then I have that epiphany of, “Hey, if I was stressed and anxious about a marketing channel, why am I doing it? This should be fun. This should either be producing amazing results for my business or if it’s not, I don’t want to do it anymore.” An amazing result might be I have a lot of joy engaging on this channel.
I use Twitter myself but it’s very much for personal expression. I’m tweeting on things. I’m tweeting about building a Burning Man Camp. It’s not the latest marketing tips from Kai Davis, but for me, there’s personal enjoyment and fulfillment that comes from it and so I keep it around as a channel but I think it is valuable to ask that question, “Is this producing a return for me? Is this helping me reach my audience? Is my audience really using this channel? Do I want to continue doing it? Or do I want to focus on fewer things done well?”
Louis: That’s it. You summarized everything. Nothing much to add to that apart from how many emails do you send a week? Is it one email a day?
Kai: It’s one email every week day and I have a few additional campaign that I run to separate groups on my list. Right now I’m testing a new project. I have a small group of people that I’ll email and say, “Hey, here’s a new thing. Do you want to learn more about it?” Typically, it’s one email a day to my list.
Louis: What’s the typical open rate?
Kai: It varies between 30% and 40%. I know that my weakness is very much writing subject lines. When I’ve written a very, for a lack of a better phrase, clickbait-y subject line, I’ve got an even much higher open rates. I send out an email a few weeks ago with the subject line, “Classified. Secret Project. Don’t open.” 48% open rate. Something ridiculous to my entire list. I had a large number of replies from that since it was a short email with a call-to-action of like, “Hey, reply here.”
Because I’ve built up this personal relationship with people, people who would receive this had been on my list for at least 90 days. It connected with the personality they have been accustomed to, it excited interest there, they were like, “What is this? Tell me more.” That alone should be, “Okay, there’s some gap here where I can improve my skill at writing subject lines, increase my open rate and see a better result here, have more people engaging with my content.” But if I’m sending a daily email and seeing around 30% open rate, I’m very, very happy with that.
Louis: That’s really impressive. What tool do you use to send the emails?
Kai: I use Drip. I’m a big fan of Drip.
Louis: Me too. I’m using ConvertKit but I’ve tried Drip. It’s pretty good as well but I don’t want to get into the habit of changing tools all the time or else I’m going to lose my mind.
Kai: I completely agree. If the tool works for you, stick with it. I always like using a tool until I sort of run into the metaphorical corner of it not working for me anymore and then say, “Okay, now I know exactly what that problem is, what I’m not experiencing within this tool. Let me find something that solves that exact problem.” It gives me an easier path to upgrade to something new than just jumping to the newest tool.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 20 years or even 50 years?
Kai: I think it’s really to focus on conversation first before automation. I received a ton of email because I invite people on my email list, people listening to podcast episodes like this, to email me because I believe in the power of conversation. I want to have as many conversations as possible.
For a few months, I was running a promotion on my list for people who engaged at a certain level. I send them emails saying, “Hey, I want to have a 15-minute conversation with you. Here’s a link, schedule the time. I want to talk about whatever would help you grow your business.”
I had 30-40 conversations with freelancers and consultants on my list off of that. It was wonderful for me because I was able to learn more about what people were experiencing, what they were going through, what they were doing, those wonderful recipients, they were able to get business advice, they were able to ask questions and they were able to build a stronger relationship with me.
I very much focus on conversation first. And when I use automation tools or tactics, I use them to serve the purpose of how can we stimulate more conversations, how could this get a higher engagement or a better relationship between myself and the people I’m trying to connect with.
Louis: What are the top three resources you would recommend marketers?
Kai: They are all books. I’m a big reader so they’re all books that I love. The first one would be Sean D’Souza’s The Brain Audit. It’s a transformational book for me. Sean is a wonderful gentleman. His book, The Brain Audit, on why customers buy and why they don’t, I recommend it to every coaching student I worked with, every colleague I encounter.
The story I love to tell about the book is the first time I was reading it, I was reading it on the Kindle, it was a summer day a few years ago, I was walking down to the river just to sit there and read the book there and just enjoy the beautiful summer day. I’m so engrossed in reading the book, just flipping through it. I don’t see that there’s a parked car five feet in front of me and I walked face first into the car leaving a face print smudged into the back study window.
I told a friend about it. She ends up telling Sean. Sean emails me and he’s like, “Can I use this as a testimonial? That’s pretty funny.” And I’m like, “Of course.” The book is so good. It literally was a page-turner that resulted to me walking into a car. I’ve read the book probably seven times now. I absolutely love it. Again, The Brain Audit by Sean would be the first resource.
Louis: You’re quite a storyteller. Sorry to cut you but at the time when we’re going to publish your episode, Sean’s episode will be already live. I’ve read his book. I have to say, you must read it. It’s a very simple framework to write copy that makes sense for your customers and for people you’re trying to reach out to. I do use it all the time. Plus one to this.
Kai: Second resource I’d recommend, Chet Holmes’ The Ultimate Sales Machine. It holds the record as being the book that I’ve marked up the most. I write in the margins of every book, highlight passages, put little flag post-it notes in there. It probably has 150 passages highlighted. It is one of the most valuable books I’ve read in my life.
The third would be Robert, and I always butcher his last name, I think it’s Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s a hugely influential book for me. I think I read it when I was 21 years old, right around the time I was graduating college. It very much just opened my mind to marketing and these principles of persuasion, and how do people respond to these different aspects of it. My top three recommended resources, The Brain Audit, Ultimate Sales Machine, and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
Louis: Very nice books. I read the first that you mentioned, the third you mentioned but not the second. I’m going to buy it as soon as we finish discussing. Who is the next person I should interview? Now you know that Sean D’Souza, I’ve already interviewed. I interviewed Philip Morgan. I’ve interviewed Seth Godin. Who else would you know? David Darmanin from Hotjar. Who else should I interview?
Kai: Two friends come to mind. One is Jonathan Stark of Expensive Problem. He focuses on helping software developers understand how to escape hourly billing. I think a part of it is also how to better market themselves similar to how Philip Morgan talks about positioning. A lot of Jonathan’s work is helping people escape from the trap of being a commodity or being seen a commodity.
The second person would be Nick Disabato who specializes in conversion rate optimization and A/B testing for ecommerce stores. He’s a designer first and foremost so he’s taken his design sensibilities and the importance of research backed design and applied it to this world of marketing and A/B testing for ecommerce stores. They had generated amazing results, published a number of books, recently released a course on A/B testing, The A/B Testing Manual. I think either of them would be wonderful guests.
Louis: I’ve never heard of them. I think that would be good guests to interview and invite on the show. Thank you so much. Kai, once again, thank you very much for your time. Thank you very much also for the value you’ve been providing in this podcast.
I have to say, just for the listeners that might not know that, I don’t tell my guests in advance of what the topic our episode will be because I want to make sure that we’ll have a normal conversation, not just somebody reading his notes. I told Kai literally two minutes before we start to record that I will ask about outreach. Thank you for being so accommodating and running with it. Once again, how can people reach out to you and start the conversation with you?
Kai: Absolutely. The best way to reach out and start a conversation would be to sign up for my daily email list at kaidavis.com. It’s one of those annoying full page opt in forms. There’s a nice little link that says, “Take me to the articles,” if you don’t want to opt in. But subscribing to my email list gets you the daily articles as they’re released. It gets you the most up to date content and it also gives you direct access to me. Just reply to an email and say, “I have a question about freelancing or consulting or marketing.” I’m always happy to reply and share an answer.
Louis: Nice. I think that’s a wrap. Thank you very much.
Kai: Thank you so much for having me on.