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How One Startup Generated 400+ Leads Through Other People’s Content

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Here’s how one startup generated 400+ raving fans by piggybacking on other people’s awesome content. Image via Barn Images.

At some point in your entrepreneurial life, you may be in a situation where you want to launch a product or service in a space where you have no audience. You may even be in that situation now.

You know you need to build a large list of people in your target market. And you know you have to start by fostering relationships with that list (rather than reaching out and trying to sell to them cold).

While all of this can be achieved through content marketing, you also know that effective content marketing takes a lot of time.

…That is, if you’re creating your own content.

But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could piggyback on the awesome content of others?

When we first started NinjaOutreach, our blogger outreach software, we decided to try this new approach. In the end, we attracted over 400 signups for our beta. Now, I want to tell you how we did it (and how you can too).

Start by finding articles relevant to the problem you solve

For starters, you’re going to want to find articles that address the same problem that your product or service solves.

Let’s say that you’re launching a digital product in the marketing niche. You’ll want to search for articles that target similar keywords as those from your product launch campaign.

For example, you can run a search in Google for something like, “Best SEO Tools”:

best-seo-tools-search

From this one piece of content, there are numerous people who have demonstrated that they’re looking for a solution to a specific problem.

They’ve engaged with the content, now all you need to do is tease them out.  

The very first step will be to create a spreadsheet; this is effectively your outreach list. The exact columns are up to you, but undoubtedly you’re going to want columns for Name, Contact Info, and anything else that will allow you to personalize your email to them later.

So, let’s start with getting authors.

How to extract authors from their posts

For the author of each post, you’ll want the following information:

  • Name
  • Contact info
  • Social profiles

You’re also going to want to look for anything else that can help you personalize a future message to them (think latest tweets, recent articles, etc).

A nifty Chrome plugin that helps with this is Ninja Outreach Lite (which, full disclosure, is my own plugin which I built for this purpose).

Here’s what it looks like:

ninja-outreach-lite

The plugin makes it very simple to add these to your outreach spreadsheet and file away.

Moving on down the post, we’re going to target commenters, too.

How to extract commenters from posts

People tend to comment on posts that interest them. They’re engaged enough that they’re asking additional questions, which shows that they have a specific pain point that needs solving.

In most cases, comments redirect to the individual’s web page – so now I just need to extract them.

There’s a bunch of URL extractors for free on the internet. We use our free one at NinjaOutreach.

You simply put in a URL and it will catch all of the links on the page. They are grouped in order, and it’s relatively painless to find the ones that belong to the comments section.

ninja-outreach-url-exctractor

This is an extraction from one of Ramit Sethi’s articles.

Just look for the section where there are a lot of URLs that do not point at the author’s domain. From there, you can simply use the above extension to get the information you need.

Now, let’s step outside the post just a hair, and grab the linkers and sharers.

How to extract linkers from posts

This one’s pretty straightforward.

Of the posts you’re working with, there are people who will have read the post, commented on it and committed it to memory. Then, at a later date, they might link back to the post in an article they write.

Articles that link to useful resources indicate to Google that the author is citing their sources, but they’re also relevant to us in the context of this strategy. It’s likely that these other posts strive to solve a similar problem, and have authors and commenters who belong to a similar target market.

It’s easy to take the post and put it into Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer to find all of the linking domains to it.

open-site-explorer

Even with a free account, I can export these links and add them to my document.

How to extract sharers from posts

To complete our outreach document, we simply have to add sharers. These are people that have demonstrated their interest by sharing relevant posts with their social network.

There is at least one solid way to retrace social shares: Twitter Search.

Simply hit advanced search, then put the title in “This Exact Phrase,” then, when the results populate, hit “All” (instead of “Top”).

twitter-search-example

This will show you all the influencers who have shared the post. You can head over to their Twitter profiles, on which they will usually have their website and name.

Converting prospects to sign ups in three simple steps

By now you’ve managed to build a list of hundreds of authors, commenters and sharers in your target space by leveraging content entirely written by other people.

Amazing, right?

But that’s only half the battle – the other half is getting them to care about what you’re doing.

Step 1: Create your landing page

You’re going to need a place for people to opt in to hear about updates for your launch, and that means you need a landing page. This is the one we created for our launch:

landing-page-coming-soon-example

If you’re not sure how to get started or what your page should look like, check out one of Unbounce’s many free “Coming Soon” templates. You’ll have an optimized landing page up and running in no time!

Step 2: Engage with them

I’ll be the first to admit that engaging with a list of hundreds of influencers is daunting to the point of impractical.

But the fact is that engagement will increase your conversions. If they know who you are, they’re more likely to care about what you’re doing.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider picking the top 25 or so on your list who you’d really like to win over and focus your efforts on them.

If you’re looking for ways to engage with your list, I suggest the following:

  • Comment on their blogs
  • Subscribe to their newsletter and respond to their messages
  • Follow them on social media
  • Share and link to their posts
  • Write them reviews on Amazon and iTunes (if applicable)

Overtime, you’ll get noticed – and I’m willing to bet they’ll be more responsive to you when you finally reach out to them directly.

Step 3: Outreach

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the pitch.

Now is as probably as good time as ever to talk about cold outreach versus spam. After all, there is a difference – cold outreach is NOT spam.

But that requires that you meet these six conditions:

  1. Don’t misrepresent who you are in the email.
  2. Don’t use misleading subject lines.
  3. Identify if the email is an ad.
  4. Include your business address, such as a PO box.
  5. Give them an opt-out option.
  6. Honor opt-outs.

While covering the above is necessary to ensure youre not spamming anyone, it still does not necessarily make for a perfect pitch. Here are the characteristics of a good pitch email:

  • Personalize it. Do not send mass emails!
  • Be honest about what you’re asking for.
  • Keep it succinct.
  • Offer something of value to them and their audience. For example:
    • Giving them a discount when the product is launched
    • Offer them access to your beta before anyone else
    • Offer to prioritize any advice/feedback they give

Here’s what we sent out when we were soliciting feedback on our new idea:

outreach-email-example

If the individual responded to this, I would reply with a link to our “coming soon” landing page so we could stay in touch during launch.

If I had to do it over again I probably would have made it much simpler, and asked the person if they were okay with me asking them a few questions. Getting those small, incremental commitments in general ultimately leads to better response rates.

Final thoughts

With these straightforward tactics, we were able to recruit 400+ leads for our beta back when we were absolute nobodies in the space.

We started with a list of around 1,000 influencers and their websites, and then turned to these 14 tips to find anyone’s email address.

Over the course of one month we spoke with as many people as we could to get feedback about our idea. This built relationships with them, and down the line led to them being beta testers when we finally released the product.

And with a little effort, a landing page and absolutely zero budget, you can do the same.

About David Schneider
David Schneider is the cofounder of NinjaOutreach, an innovative new Blogger Outreach software for marketers. You can also find him on Google+ and at SelfMadeBusinessman.
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  • Hello David,
    This is a highly powerful technique which I’ve seen hinted at before, however the extraction of the interested parties part really had me sitting up and looking closely. This excellent idea will be of interest to many and, like you say, will work in any niche that has an online presence. Thank you for sharing this with us. It could easily have been WSOTD on Warrior!

    Regards,

    Steven Lucas

    • Thanks Steven I’m glad you feel that way!

      • David;
        I read your comment and I was really curious to know what you meant with WSOTD Warrior. I agree with you, it’s a great technique and I think a lot of people should read this article and the great content it has. Thanks Dave

  • Hey brother, that is seriously beautiful; a really smart way to do that (and congratulations on pulling it off).

    The headline had me thinking it was going to be an article about curation, or similar, and I wasn’t that interested (but I gave it a shot anyway because I recognized your face). I do have a few questions though.

    #1. How did you come up w/ this way of doing it? You wrote…

    “When we first started NinjaOutreach […] we decided to try this new approach”, but you didn’t mention ‘where’ (or maybe ‘how’) this new approach came into being.

    #2. Had you tested this same process prior, but on smaller scale projects maybe? And if so, can you tell us about any failures you may have had (either in those previous tests or even any in this one)?

    People don’t typically rush to talk about failures, but I find that they’re often as instructive as the successes are. And I’d imagine you probably agree w/ that.

    Thanks in advance if you reply to this
    (because I’d really like to see those answers)

    Stay cool & keep smilin’ ;-)

    Vic Maine

    Follow me up on twitter too btw if you get a minute @GetWeeTweets,
    I’d love to pick your brain a bit the first time I try this technique for myself.

    [+]

    • Hey Vic

      Thanks for commenting. I just came up with at out of thin air mostly. I thought, how can I reach out to my direct market – where are they hanging out?

      I hadn’t really done it before in this way, and there are no failures to speak of.

      Following you on Twitter.

      Thanks!

  • Absolutely great tips, David! If you could choose only 1 place to pull the data from, which would you choose and why?

    • Blog comments, because everyone is clear about their first name, website, and you have a bunch of things to reference and personalize the email with

  • Sam

    I’m reading more and more about connecting with influencers BEFORE (<- yes that is is caps!) publishing content you want shared!

    We found a free WordPress theme which offers a very simple 'coming soon' landing page, if you're interested I think it's called 'launch'.

    Sam

    • Sam

      Please note the WordPress theme is quite limited when compared to Unbounce!

    • Hey Sam

      It makes sense right? If you engage and contact influencers beforehand in a positive way, your bound to see better results.

      Thanks for commenting

  • Hey David! Thanks for this great article! I’m going to apply this to my business to get a larger reach and target audience than I have now.

    • Hey Jake

      Glad you enjoyed this post.

      And it’s all about taking action and implementing this stuff right away

      Thanks for commenting

  • Hey Claudia

    Glad you enjoyed this post

    Thanks for commenting

  • Hi David! This is exactly the Stumble I’ve been looking for! Doing strictly inbound marketing, my focus has been on discovering where my target market are hanging out. I am very optimistic about this approach. I’m currently working on launching a new website that provides a better user experience. I currently use Instapage for lead generation, providing content (white papers, tech briefs, etc). Would another landing page be the best way to offer insight regarding our updated website?

    • Hey Tyler – sorry but I don’t understand the question?

      • Hey Dave,

        My apologies. I was just wondering if the same process could apply to not only product launches, but re-branded website launches as well.

  • I’m pretty sure this is one of the best processes I’ve seen for building an audience. Thanks David!

    I don’t work on any startups but the techniques can easily be applied to building new fans for long established brands/websites. Finding the right influencers is so important these days.

    • Thank for you Kind words and I’m glad you liked the post.

      I feel like working with influencers has always been important it just seems to be talked about a lot more nowadays.

      Anyway good luck with your future plans

      And thanks for commenting.

  • I haven’t done the outreach yet and this one is a good guide to start the venture. Time to break a leg. Thanks Dave!

    • Hey Vivien

      Glad you enjoyed the article and it has given you the inspiration to get started on a area of your marketing that will really help you grow your business.

      Good luck with all your future endeavours.

      Thanks for commenting

  • I have been playing around with how to get posts from other sites by contacting authors, but wasn’t sure how-to. This article gives me a great starting point. Thanks for posting.

    John