Use Cold Email To Distribute Education-Based Content Marketing

A 2-month online workshop starting February 23, 2024 to help you build a system for using cold email to reach prospects with useful content marketing.

What You Get:

  • Guidance on creating value for a cold email audience without sending sales pitches
  • Instructions for setting up a high-quality cold email tech stack
  • Support for building a relevant prospect list
  • Weekly 90-minute group sessions where we discuss progress, questions, and so forth. Sessions happen on Fridays at 9am Mountain Time, Feb 24 through April 12
  • 8 private 60-minute implementation sessions where Philip will help you implement the workshop's framework and guidance
    • If you want to preview my availability for these sessions to make sure my availability matches yours, you can check out the scheduling link for those implementation sessions here: https://opportunitylabs.io/baces1on1s Again, this is not a course, it’s a workshop that combines learning with custom implementation support.

Ideal Customer: Knows their target buyers, can describe them in 1-2 sentences, and can construct a LinkedIn search to find them. Not a fit if buyers are exclusively in the EU.

Pricing:

  • $1,800 workshop fee
  • $290-739/month for the software you'll need to implement this system (price depends on the size of audience you want to reach)
  • 52% early-bird discount if registered before Feb 19

Registration

Buy A Seat In This Workshop

Questions: philip@opportunitylabs.io

Approach

Someone asked about whether the approach I'm helping you implement in this workshop would be suitable for them:

we basically scattershot our marketing because we have no idea which prospects have the budget or need for a website redesign. Am I correct in thinking this workshop might not work well for my situation?

The approach I'm starting to use for clients is an inversion of what I've long used myself and recommended. The essence of it is to build an audience of email addresses and regularly put in front of them content that is a) relevant and valuable to them and b) that content serves as a "billboard" for your company/services. The idea is that lots of us try and fail to build a sizeable audience with content when using the "content -> promote -> audience conversion" approach for several reasons, and this approach tries to bypass all of those reasons. The reasons:

We try to use the "thought leadership model" for the content and fail or succeed in only a modest way. There's nothing wrong and a lot good with this model, but it's just flat out hard for many of us to pull off. One of the content formats I've been using for clients is a curated links newsletter, which is a lot easier way to create value for an audience. My guidance on content in the workshop will center around this approach and any variations that might be suitable for individual workshop participants, and in the 1:1 sessions I can help with specific ideation.

The promotion step is another potential failure point which becomes an actual failure point for many of us. We can promote via social media, podcasts, advertising/paid traffic, informal partnerships (for example maybe there's a curated links newsletter owner who likes you/your content and semi-regularly includes it), and working to intercept narrow and broad search traffic. There are a few others I'm sure, but that probably covers 80% of the ways to promote your own content. I've had modest success with the podcast guesting route, but when I put that option in front of clients most of them feel insecure or otherwise resistant to the idea. I think this is because few of us are actually charismatic (despite our other strengths) and we know it. That's fine! The other promotion approaches require less/no charisma, but as the information landscape gets ever more crowded (and soon: with high-quality machine-created content), I think more specialized expertise in promotion will be needed to break through the background noise and actually build an audience.

The audience-conversion step is probably the least difficult step to get right, but it's often the end of a low-volume "funnel". It's not hard to get most of this step right. Lead magnets, content upgrades, single-purpose landing pages to match up with promotion efforts like a podcast tour, etc. All that stuff is pretty easy to implement, and doesn't require much specialized expertise. For example, I've seen solid performance from really mediocre (un-beautiful design, really basic content, etc.) landing pages when the upstream stuff (guesting on a podcast, for example) was done well. I think you could make a solid argument that from the perspective of optimizing a system over time, this is fine. Start with the end of the "funnel", and work your way towards the other end, progressively improving each step. You could also argue the opposite, that it's very difficult to optimize such a system when it has very little throughput.

The approach I've been using for clients is not perfect, surprise surprise. But no approach is. It trades the problems above for different problems. But let me first dwell on its benefits.

If your audience can be defined in demographic terms (market vertical(s), job role, geography, etc.), then you can turn about 50% of a LinkedIn search result set into high-quality email addresses. If you email them content that does not lie in the subject line and provides a way for them to unsubscribe, you can legally send them emails (there are nuances here and I steer clear of including EU residents in my lists). When I implement this approach for my clients, I get these results: https://opportunitylabs.io/nlsstats

I know this sounds so salesey to say it this way, but I couldn't believe these results when I first started seeing them (which, to be accurate, was with a client I worked with back in spring/summer 2023 whose numbers aren't on the previous link but are quite similar). So my belief has become: you can define an audience and start sending them content and their behavior suggests: we like this.

What I am certain would not work as well is the conventional cold email approach, which we all understand at least from being on the receiving end of it.

I said this approach trades one set of problems for another (I do think the problems you get are better problems :) ). If we compare the best possible performance of the "content -> promote -> audience conversion" approach against the best possible performance of my approach:

  • My approach is almost guaranteed to be slower. We can't just start emailing thousands of people on day one because email providers will radically degrade deliverability.
  • At least at first, my approach uses the content as a "billboard" for your company. It can indirectly feature your thinking (ex: you can include some of your more thought leadership-style content in the newsletter), but it's not quite the same as someone seeking out an answer to X, finding your site full of answers to X, being impressed by how you think, and then becoming a prospect for your services.
    • The other side of this coin, however, is that not every future prospect for your services is in buying mode NOW. But if a large % of the audience you define is likely to need your services eventually, then having seen your company name and punchy, memorable positioning statement on a "billboard" they see every week for months/years should get you in the consideration set when they do need services like yours. I say "should" because there are no guarantees here, and I don't have data that proves anything here (except that companies with the budget to do such advertising seem to always spend the money to do it, year in and year out).

Please critically evaluate for yourself what I'm about to say.

we have no idea which prospects have the budget or need for a website redesign.

That's all of us in some way; we don't know who is ready to buy when (most of us avoid RFPs which are an announcement of intent to buy, it doesn't matter to us that Coca Cola fired their agency very publicly and is looking for a new one, etc.). The core idea behind my approach: when a buyer enters buying mode for services like yours, they will first check their memory to see if they can remember an option, then they'll check their network for referrals, and finally they'll search beyond their network for options. (More detail on this: https://opportunitylabs.beehiiv.com/p/a-theory-of-marketing) If they've been included in the audience you define and have not opted out and have been seeing your "billboard", then you can "jump the line" and be in their memory and more likely to be in their consideration set when they move through their buying process.

That's a long-winded way of saying: if the cost of the software fits your budget and you're open to the approach I am teaching in this workshop, then I think it does fit your situation.

Buy A Seat In This Workshop

Questions: philip@opportunitylabs.io


Here's another useful Q&A that may help you decide if this workshop is a good fit for you:

what would you recommend if I’m unable to find enough content related to my specialized content pillars to link to in the newsletter?

Knowing a bit about our questioner’s domain, I share this concern. Or rather, I might say "enough useful content". Here's how I think about this from the ground up.

The crass way of describing this workshop's approach to content creation and content delivery is: we are looking to create content that is just good enough to justify the time spent reading it so that we can run "ads" for our business that create familiarity and memorability with the audience. When we use curation rather than creation, getting above that "just good enough" bar takes significantly less time and intellectual labor than creation would, and the form factor of an "industry news" newsletter seems to attract fewer unsubscribes than thought leadership content distributed through cold email does (though the latter works fine too, it's just that the industry newsletter format seems marginally more broadly appealing).

Just because this is the minimum bar does not mean folks can't go beyond curating the news to commenting on or providing perspective on the news. This would be one way to respond to a domain that lacks enough content for a robust-feeling newsletter every week. I'll link you to an example of what this looks like in a moment.

Another good response to a low-useful-news-domain would be to look outside the domain for relevant news in the broader context, include that in the newsletter, and comment on how it relates.

A third good response to a low-useful-news-domain would be to have the newsletter higlight a single useful thing each time you send it out. Maybe it's a current news item, or maybe something from the past. This would be a gutsy curation approach (and to be clear I haven't experimented with this particular format... yet) but if done even halfway well it would be a very appealing format.

Now for that example: https://isosceles.beehiiv.com/p/principles-tactics-davos-attendees-meet-world-leaders-ponder-grift . I'm producing a newsletter for a colleague of mine (he's paying the friends and family rate). We've just gotten his newsletter up and runing, so there are just 2 issues at the this time, but this last one is a good example of a few of the approaches I describe above. There's outside-the-domain news included in this issue, and there's POV and commentary via the intro that Ian writes.

Our process is this:

  • Ian has a Feeedbin account where he is subscribed via RSS or SMTP to every source that might have relevant stuff for his newsletter.
  • Every week, Ian spends maybe 20 minutes scanning the new stuff in Feedbin and starring anything he wants to include in the newsletter.
  • I pull an RSS feed of Ian's picks into some tooling I created which essentially uses a LLM to generate a summary of each of Ian's picks and format them for me. Until I can get my tooling to do it better, I'm organizing the newsletter items into topical buckets that match up with Ian's POV. This task is another 20 minutes that would maybe be 60 minutes if I was doing it with an LLM but without the automation I've created to speed it up.
  • At this point, there is a draft newsletter in our email system. Ian reviews it and writes the intro. Another 20 minutes if I recall correctly (but! Ian would stress, almost no emotional labor for him because he's just reacting to the items in the newsletter rather than having to get into the quite different headspace he'd have to be in for creation).
  • I return to the email system and configure the email to send on send day/time.

With respect to this question...

once the system is in place, how much time is required to keep it running?

...I don't want to over-promise, but I do think the time numbers shared above are realistic. Part of what makes that system work without inordinate amounts of time invested is the division of emotional labor, and part of it is good systems/process. I'll do everything I can to set workshop participants up with the latter.

Buy A Seat In This Workshop

Questions: philip@opportunitylabs.io