reach effect

There’s no free lunch in outbound marketing

Outbound marketing. The challenge of gaining new eyes on your product. In every business there’s a threshold — somewhere — of what’s right and what’s just plain “don’t do”. I experienced that on Friday. As a new startup desperate for growth, I’ll do anything to get my product in front of the faces of my customers. Anything, once.

Here is where I learn. I typically learn from others’ mistakes but this time I had to go head-long into the fray and screw up myself. You see, last week I read this fantastic article about how Ramp T-Shirts expanded their contact base and made millions….via “cold email”. Well that didn’t sound too bad, right? Well, I thought, this should be pretty easy for savvy-old-me!

Question for the audience: Does cold = spam?

The test

Sidekick has over 30,000 companies listed in it, but the challenge is to reach all of those awesome companies and show how cool Sidekick is for them to grow their business. I had the domains, so I used to capture emails. As a “test”, I grabbed 5,000 companies. I received 50K emails, half of which had name information. Little did I realize this was the slippery slope of what would happen next!

Leveraging the awesome power of SendGrid email marketing campaigns, and did you know, they’re in Sidekick? Right here! I set my initial announcement to those 25K people with a friendly easy-to-unsubscribe email. That campaign launched at 9:30 (and 0 seconds) am.

The result

9:30:30am…my account was suspended; only a small portion got sent. The ISPs throttled that raft of emails because they had no idea I was coming.

In my zealousness to tell the world of Sidekick’s offering, I skipped over the part where I compared what I was doing to…spamming. For all of the right reasons I was doing the wrong thing. SendGrid was totally correct in suspending my account. After all, I was abusing the trust of others and making myself look bad! I’ve even designed Sidekick so we don’t get inundated with meaningless email notifications, so what the H#77 was I doing?! SendGrid helped me out and we’re friends again after some serious mea culpa!

Ok, so what did I re-learn from this episode? (because in order to be agile, growth hack, disrupt, gain traction, etc., you have to push boundaries. Nobody is going to buy a quiet meek wallflower) I remembered there’s no free lunch. There’s a price to pay and you have to be respectful of others. My bad. Won’t do it exactly that way again.

The results? Well, that’s the fun part (and reinforces the addiction of pushing boundaries). Of the 1,144 unique opens, 999 clicked open and just under 600 went to the site! Those are excellent numbers for email! Of those that clicked, I gained 10 new paying…PAYING…customers. All from one email. Now, as far as a customer acquisition cost (CAC) that’s extremely good, because it didn’t cost me much: some reputation, pride, image perhaps, but nothing harmful.


In my growth challenge, the value proposition is sound, the addressable market is accepting the idea, the content message is good (great traction from those emails) and the offering works for the market (revenue!). This is all a GOOD thing. Small, but good.

It’s just that I came about it in a bad way. That part I’ll tweak for the next test, because while this worked, I still need growth. 🙂

4 thoughts on “There’s no free lunch in outbound marketing”

  1. Amazing figures, Doug! Even if it didn’t last that long!

    Do you mind me asking about the content and Subject line? Must have been some killer copy!

    p.s. Thanks for linking to our post, too.

  2. Hi Neil!
    Apologies for the delay. Startups….

    For the subject, it was “I found [insert domain here] in Sidekick Marketplace!”

    and the copy, well, tell you what: I’ll email you the “lastest version” even though it doesn’t have customized contextual content.

  3. Hey Doug – I’ve only just noticed this, too! I need to check the notification settings on our blog. Did you send me the email?

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