Stacking the Bricks Podcast
EP22 - How to make an offer they can't refuse (Outreach Masterclass with Kai Davis)
In this episode…
When Kai Davis sends you an email, there's a good chance he's asking for something. Amazingly...he does it without looking like a total jerkface. Is he some sort of wizard of persuasion? No, no. He has a process.
Kai is an outreach consultant - which we'll let him describe in this "live masterclass."
But you're going to want to listen to this episode because unlike prior Masterclasses where Amy and I coached one of our students, Kai is actually coaching ME (Alex) through building an outreach strategy to get our new Year of Hustle Roadmap in front of new audiences.
Let Kai break it down one step at a time - and then you can use these strategies next time you're trying to get a guest spot on someone's blog or podcast, get a testimonial, or simply ask a colleague for a favor.
Kai Davis: You’re coming through a little hot, a little hot. I think that’s the term?
Alex Hillman: Cool. Alright. Is that better?
Kai Davis: That’s much better.
Alex Hillman: Cool. Definitely the new Beyonce. I’m not like a Beyonce believer or anything like that it is just, it is an unusually…I’ve had it on repeat for like two days now.
Kai Davis: That’s the sign of a good album!
Alex Hillman: It’s just so different, every track is different. So many different genres and there are definitely a lot of messages going on and I haven’t even listened to it on that level, just in terms of like good listening, it’s awesome.
So, like we sort of talked about in Slack, I think we’ll do a quick little intro and work our way towards that sort of concept that we were talking about. Sound good?
Kai Davis: Perfect. I made notes.
Alex Hillman: You made notes? Good, you’re prepared, I love it!
I’m super, super excited to be joined by my friend, Kai Davis today. Kai, how are you doing?
Kai Davis: Doing incredibly well, so excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me on!
Alex Hillman: You are probably the most cheerful person in my life – and today in Philadelphia is a gray day; it’s been like Seattle all week long, so just to have a little bit of Kai Davis happiness today for me is good, and for the folks that are listening, I think it is going to be good as well.
Kai, one of the things that I like to do when we kickoff these episodes, especially for those people who don’t know you, I want to know how you introduce yourself at parties? So not necessarily something where people know about what you do for business, how do you explain what you do? How do you introduce yourself at parties?
Kai Davis: Good question. Cocktail party scenario – somebody says, “Hey, what do you do? Who are you? Why are you standing in line?” I’m like, “Oh, I’m Kai Davis. I’m an outreach consultant.” The response I always get is, “Outreach consultant? What the hell is that? I’ve never heard of that before.”
I was really intentional about picking that as a title, because it sparks those sort of moments. If I said, “I’m an SEO consultant”, they’d be like, “I know what that is”, but when I say outreach consultant, they’re like, “I’ve never heard of that before. Tell me more about it.” Then I’m able to go into, “Well, hey, what I do is like digital public relations. I help product creators and consultants promote their best content online and grow an audience.” And suddenly they have this aha moment where they go like, “Oh, okay, cool. I can see what an outreach consultant is and how it’s this new take on this thing and who you work with.” It basically lets me move from, “This is the job description – SEO consultant”, to, “Okay, now you understand who I am, who I work with, the problems I solve.” I think it creates a referrable moment.
Alex Hillman: That’s super interesting. So you just described sort of three different titles that it sounds like you could theoretically fall under any of them, which is SEO – search engine optimization, which is about helping people find your stuff online; PR – which is combination of online/offline, but also about getting the word out about a thing that you’re doing, that you have, that you want to invite people to, make them aware of; And then this thing that you’re calling outreach consulting.
I get why you’d want to call it something different to spark that conversation, but when PR and SEO are such known terms, why would you abandon them to go to something that you then have to go ahead and explain? We’re going to get you to explain exactly what an outreach consultant does in just a second, but I’m curious if there’s a particular reason – other than sparking a conversation – that you would leave those things behind?
Kai Davis: Absolutely, and it actually is a funny story. I was describing myself as an SEO consultant for about two years when I was doing primarily SEO consulting. I get on a call one day of a prospect that came through my website, filled out a form, wanted to work with me, he saw my prices. We get on a phone call just to qualify each other, make sure we’re a good fit. The first thing they say to me is, “Kai. I just want to let you know, there’s two things. I hate lawyers and SEO consultants”, and this is a guy who wants to hire me for SEO. I realized in that moment; people know what an SEO consultant is. People know what a public relations consultant is, but because it’s such a known phrase, there’s so much baggage associated with it.
If I say, “Oh, I’m an SEO consultant”, people will say, “Oh, it’s $500 a month. You’ll get me to the top of Google, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I wanted to distance myself from the preconceptions and preconceived notions that people had about the outcomes that could help them achieve. The best way I could figure to do that was switching what title I chose to identify with. So, we sparked those moments where I say, “I’m an outreach consultant” and people are like, “I have no clue what on earth that is. Explain that for me”.
Alex Hillman: Okay. Now you have to explain what that is.
Kai Davis: An outreach consultant – I frame it as I help my clients build relationships and manage their most valuable relationships. So, in a sense, it’s really drawing on both of the other disciplines we touched on – search engine optimization, link building, public relations, but I put it all under the umbrella of, well, we’re focused on building relationships and maybe that’s a relationship with another influencer or authority in your industry – somebody who has a large audience.
Maybe it’s building relationships with members of your audience. The process of outreach, I see as initiating these conversations with people, engaging in a dialogue with them, finding out opportunities to help them that in turn promote your best content. So as an outreach consultant, I help my clients manage this process of getting in touch with their peers or their colleagues or people who are in their audience and say, “Well, how could we work together? How could we share something that’s valuable for you and your peers or your audience?”
Alex Hillman: What does the beginning of working with somebody in that capacity actually look like? Somebody is presumably coming to you, wanting to accomplish something, what kinds of things are people trying to accomplish? Are they trying to get products out there? Trying to get guest appearances? What kind of outreach, what is the outcome of the outreach that you’re actually doing?
Kai Davis: The outcome of the outreach I help my clients with is landing cast appearances, getting guest article placements, coordinating joint venture webinars with other partners in their industry, promoting their most popular products or content.
I’ve done a good amount of work in the eCommerce space and there it’s building relationships with bloggers and saying, “Hey, you know we have a great brand. We have an exciting product. You have a cool audience. How could we work together? What would be exciting for your audience?” When it’s somebody who’s selling an educational course or a consultant who’s selling their knowledge it’s saying, “Well, what audience are we trying to reach? How could we get you on a podcast that reaches your target market? How could we set up a joint venture webinar where we could get 300 people who are potential clients attending?” So, it’s sort of identifying these opportunities and then coordinating and manifesting them for the client.
Alex Hillman: All right. I’m putting myself in their shoes – not necessarily with the person who’s your client, although maybe we’ll get to that in just a second. I’m thinking about the person who you’re doing the outreach to, that sort of upstream person, you’re trying to connect with them, build this relationship, earn their trust ultimately. What I’m reading between the lines here is you’re trying to do is get them to want to pay attention to you and actually trust and like whatever you’re bringing to the table. If I’m a busy person with a big audience, I’m probably getting hit up 10, 20, 50 times a week, or maybe a day who knows.
A) How do you stand out from all of the other people who were hitting that person up?
B) What kind of response do you get when somebody gets that initial contact, are they like, “Hey, other person who I’ve never heard of”…How do you overcome that hurdle?
Kai Davis: Overcoming that – so let’s tackle that one first, overcoming that hurdle takes a decent amount of due diligence research upfront. We’ve all – listeners, you, me, anybody who’s listening to this included – have been on the receiving side of a bad outreach email. “Hello. I’d love to SEO your website. Here is my link”, and it’s all ‘me’ focused. What I found is by doing research beforehand, understanding who the person I’m trying to initiate contact with is, and framing my communication to be very ‘you’ focused. So, saying like, “You both have a wonderful audience, Alex, you have an engaged list. You have people who love what you’re creating with Stacking the Bricks, of 30x500, with Year of the Hustle…it’s awesome. It’s amazing. I’d love to find a way to add more value to your audience. Here’s three ideas of projects we might be able to work on together or things I might be able to contribute. Does one of these sound valuable to your audience?”
I’m trying to frame everything in terms of the value to the person I’m talking with and their audience. No mention should be made of what the value or the positive outcome is for me. I want to frame it entirely of “This is valuable for you. This is valuable for your audience. And this is how it can be even more valuable for your audience”, and start the relationship on that foot. Really a giving versus taking approach.
Alex Hillman: There’s something subtle you did in there as well and I’d love for you to talk a little bit about. You presented more than one option. Is there a reason for that?
Kai Davis: I’m a big fan in outreach and communication of presenting a choice of yeses. It’s a concept that I took from a consulting space. When you send a client a proposal, you don’t want it to just be like option a, you could work with me – since that just presents a binary choice of work with them or not.
What I like to do is present in outreach, in pitching, even when I’m pitching somebody to be on a podcast saying, “Well, hey, here’s three different choices, three different topics, three opportunities for us to work together, which one of these sounds great?” So now it’s a choice of. ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’, or some hodgepodge mixture of them instead of work with Kai, don’t work with Kai.
I found by switching my outreach to focus on a choice of yeses, it’s really improved the response because people now say like, “Hey, none of these are quite the right fit, but I like this part of ‘A’ and this part of ‘C’, can we put them together and make something new?” And I’m like, “Yeah, that sounds amazing! Let’s do that.”
Alex Hillman: So there’s a little bit of choice architecture in here?
Kai Davis: Entirely.
Alex Hillman: It always reminds me of the thing where you go to send a kid to bed. It’s “Do you want to go to bed in 10 minutes or 15 minutes?” It doesn’t matter which one you choose. You’re going to bed at some point in the next 15 minutes. So that’s super, super smart. Well, I would love to, if you’re up for it, turn the tables a little bit and put myself in the shoes of someone that you would work with to give the folks that are listening to Stacking the Bricks, a taste of how you would actually go through the steps to think about doing this kind of outreach that you do.
For the example, Amy and I just launched – you mentioned this a moment before – Year of Hustle. YearofHustle.com is this cheat sheet, sort of a roadmap for going from, “I’ve never shipped a product that I charged money for in my life” to the very first brick stacked in your business.
The feedback on this since we launched it yesterday afternoon has been amazing. Really, really amazing, but there’s one thing that we’re not entirely sure how we’re going to approach and that’s how do we get this in front of people that aren’t already in our sphere? If I were to come to you and we were to go through our own due diligence dialogue, and I would say, “Kai, I really like your approach and style, this approach of building trust and relationships first, actually earning the opportunity to be in front of somebody else’s audience.” You’d take a look at Year of Hustle and where would we go from here?
Kai Davis: I think the first question we’d start with is saying – and I love the idea of engaging in this dialogue for the listeners – I think the first question we start with is, “Let’s talk about the problem that Year of Hustle as a product solves” so, how would you answer that question?
Alex Hillman: So a lot of folks, I think, look at starting a business, whether that is to replace their entire income or have some extra income on the side, or really anywhere in between. They look at it as sort of an all-or-nothing type game. It’s a big win or nothing at all. I think most people just psych themselves out and they never look at the small achievable step that could be right in front of them, so that’s the problem that we’re trying to solve is to show people what that first step might actually be.
Amy was able to break down – not just the first step – but the first 12 weeks, or you could do it months if you wanted to, the timeline is not strictly defined, but we wanted to give sort of a step by step - here’s how to reverse engineer the goal. In this case, we took the goal of $10,000 because it is a non-trivial amount of money, but it was also a completely achievable amount of money for anyone who has creative skills. If you’ve ever sold a consulting contract, if you’ve ever gotten a job in a creative field, you have the skills to earn $10,000 creating and selling something in that way.
We wanted to give people the roadmap, basically, I think to do two things. One is to get over the psyching out part. Like people really psychologically freak out because they never break it into smaller steps. Then once we’ve got them thinking that way, actually give them step by step, this is what you do, this is what you need and here’s how to get it type instructions, even if it’s just to get their heads in the frame of mind of, “Wow, this previously unachievably large goal suddenly has a clear next step. First, several next steps actually and I can actually do this.”
Kai Davis: Perfect, perfect. The way I typically approach it with clients is similar to the 30x500 methodology of, we start with the target market, we understand the pains that they’re experiencing, we create a solution that solves those pains, and then we present that to them target market. They’re like, “Wow, this solves the issue I’ve had” and so we’ve essentially already done that with, or you’ve essentially already done that with a Year of Hustle. You understand who this is for. You understand the issue they’re facing. You’ve created this product to help them overcome that issue and now we’re saying, “Well, how do we go one step further and reach new audiences with this?” It’s one thing to promote it to our friends and our immediate colleagues. It’s another to reach a whole new sphere of people.
Alex Hillman: That’s right.
Kai Davis: What I would recommend is a couple of different approaches. We could first look at immediately similar audiences and say, “Well, who else is helping people solve this problem? And how could we cooperatively work with them? How could we add more value to it?”. One thing I’ve run into as a challenge of content promotion is if, let’s say I create a guest article or a cheat sheet or a worksheet, I could probably unload it to one person but as soon as I go to that second person and say, “Hey, I got this cheat sheet”. They’re like, “Well, I already saw it over on Bob’s site. What’s unique and new about this?”. So, finding opportunities to add something new, unique, and valuable, maybe it’s something co-branded, maybe it’s doing a webinar or a podcast episode with the Year of Hustle as a content upgrade.
So, for each person’s audience, it’s not just, “Hey, it’s the thing you saw last time, but oh, hey, there’s this exciting and new and unique thing for my audience.” Now we’re able to take it to that next step and provide something of value – the Year of Hustle cheat sheet.
Another opportunity that comes to mind is looking for people who’ve built up large audiences, but there’s a subset of that audience that would be an ideal candidate who have this problem, that Year of Hustle solves for them. So, I think of our mutual friend, Brennan Dunn. He has a large audience of freelancers. A subset of those freelancers are saying, “I love freelancing, but I want to launch a product or I want to do what Brennan has done and elevate myself out of consulting.”
Well, it might not be that his entire audience is a good fit for this product, but a smaller subset of the audience is, so working with an influencer in that way and saying, “Well, what part of your audience would be looking for information like this? How could we work together to promote this?” Create an interesting event around it, a webinar or a podcast episode, something else and expose it just to those smaller segments of the best buyers in your audience for this product.
Alex Hillman: So in the case of Brennan, which I think again is a great example and it’s an easy win for us because obviously Brennan’s a friend – and a former student for that matter – I agree that Brennan has students running the full spectrum and he has products that sort of aligned to that where there’s the, ‘here’s how to get into freelancing’, ‘here’s how to level up in freelancing’ and then there is an upper band of people that have sort of gone through all of Brennan’s steps and say, “Okay, I’ve gotten good at this. What’s my next move?”
Let’s say we weren’t friends with Brennan. How would you recommend that we would approach Brennan? Because right now it’s as easy as sending a message on Slack saying, “Hey, let’s do something together”, but if we were to approach someone like Brennan, if there was no preexisting relationship and maybe even no awareness of each other, how would you help us cold approach Brennan and his audience, knowing what you know about him and knowing what you know about us?
Kai Davis: Step one is to immediately provide value to the person you’re trying to build that relationship with. So, it’s doing it unsolicited, and it’s doing it out of generosity, even if nothing may come of it. It might be realizing, “Oh, Brennan’s just, released a new version of Double Your Freelancing Rate – one of his main products, writing up a review of it and emailing Brennan and just being like, “Hey, Brennan, I took Double Your Freelancing Rate before, I love it. I saw you have a new version of it. I haven’t taken the new version yet, but I wanted to help promote it. So I wrote up this 2000-word review of my experience with your product, with your program and I shared it out there. Just wanted to let you know.” Suddenly we’re able to initiate contact with somebody, we’re not asking anything of them, but we’re saying, “Hey, I did this thing and I just wanted to let you know about it.” And that’s the seed that starts that relationship.
So, finding opportunities like that, maybe it’s tweeting out one of their relevant articles, writing a review of a relevant course, sharing a relevant blog post, but taking efforts to build a relationship where it’s focused on giving. I’m giving access.
Alex Hillman: Well, and the thing I love about the example you just gave actually, both of them, is they’re essentially thank you notes, but in a larger capacity and in public for that matter. So, me saying thank you to someone and that being potentially visible as something that they’re going to be able to share. That’s a really, really, great strategy.
Kai Davis: There’s a wonderful book, I always blank on the name of Robert Cialdini wrote it, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and he goes through the seven laws that are almost hardwired into the human brain that influence how we react to different stimuli. It’s almost like a click-whirr-response.
We’re presented with something and our brain just responds in a specific way and one of the laws is the law of reciprocity. So, when we give something to somebody, they’re more likely to respond to a request from us down the line for access or for a favor or for something else. In the examples, we just illustrated by writing a review, sharing the content, writing these thank you notes in public, we’re taking advantage of this law in a sense; we’re putting something out there.
So, we do one, two, maybe three of these types of things then we’re able to reach out to Brennan and say, “Hey, Brennan, I’ve been sharing these things and I just wanted to check in. Have you seen some visitors come across from them? I want to make sure that they’re helping you.” “Oh yeah, they’ve been great. I saw some subscribers come through”. “That’s wonderful. Hey, by the way, I’m curious, are some members of your audience interested in building products?” “Yeah, you know, I have some freelancers in my audience who are looking to build products.” “You know, I put together a cheat sheet that helps people get over that hump of building their first product and making that first $10,000. Is it okay if I send you a copy of it to review, just to check out and make sure it would work for your audience?” This gives them a choice of a yes or no there, instead of just saying like, “Hey, here’s the PDF to go check it out”, we’re asking for permission. It’s almost an escalation of yeses. So, we’re saying, “Hey, I’d love to share this with you. Is that okay?”, “Yeah, Sure!”
They’re already mentally priming themselves to expect and to want what we’re going to share with them. We share the Year of Hustle cheat sheet with Brennan. He has an opportunity to read it and be like, “Oh, this is really cool”, and now we’ve built up a decent amount goodwill. We’ve shared content. We’ve written these thank you notes in public. We’ve built up a relationship. Now we’re able to make our first ask. Can we share this with your audience? Would you send out a tweet? Can we co-write a guest post together for your site? And so, we’ve leveled up our engagement, our relationship, to the point where it makes sense to make this ask and it’s not coming out of nowhere.
Alex Hillman: So there was a really subtle step about asking permission and I think that’s one that people so consistently forget, they just show up and they drop a pile of whatever on your email doorstep, so to speak, and expect you to be ready to look at it. What you’re saying here is that just by asking, “Hey, I’ve got something that I know is probably a little bit more for you to look at. This is going to take time. I appreciate that. Would you be okay with me sending it to you?” Just gives them the opportunity to say yes – or maybe somebody says no, what happens then?
Kai Davis: If somebody says no, well, we’re able to say, “Oh, okay, great” and back away and come back a couple of weeks later or a month later, or we could follow up and say, “Oh, I realized it’s a big ask. You know, it’s like a 12 page PDF. This could take time. There’s one section that I think is really, really applicable. Is it okay if I just send you this one page that you could check out?” Slimming down the ask to a smaller version is a backup. A no doesn’t necessarily in this context mean, “Hey, we can’t work together in any way.” It might be a soft no where they’re hemming and hawing and like,
eh, maybe, I don’t know. It’ll take time. I’m busy. I’m going to a conference” and you’re able to follow up with, “Hey, how about the smaller ask? How about we hop on a five minute call or I record a five minute audio thing talking about it and you take a listen to it?”, finding another way to expose them to that content and see if there’s an opportunity to build that relationship.
Jumping back one thread to asking permission. I recently worked with a client where one of our goals was to get a testimonial for his book from Seth Godin. And we were like if we could get this, it would be wonderful. We’d love to have this testimonial, so I used a process very similar to what we’re discussing here. Reaching out, engaging, getting a referral. I came from a place of trust and then emailing Seth and saying, “Hey, one of my colleagues has a book. It’s about leadership and management. We think it fits in with what you’re working on. Is it okay if I send you one chapter that I think is especially relevant because of this recent blog post you wrote and you take a look and let me know if this is something you’d like to give a testimonial for?” And because I slimmed it down from, “Can I send you this 300-page book to. can I send you one chapter that I know is going to be valuable?”, because I saw this recent post, it made it a much easier ‘yes’. It’s a smaller ask. I was able to demonstrate that relevancy and get that yes, send that excerpt across and get that testimonial for the client. But I think shrinking down the ask and making sure we’re almost priming saying like, “Hey, is it okay if I send this to you first?”, really makes it easier to build that relationship.
Alex Hillman: So, can we recap the steps that you would take up until this point from cold outreach? I would even say from identifying someone like Brennan all the way through current, recap the steps for me.
Kai Davis: Absolutely. Start out, we’d identify them. We’d qualify them. Look at their site, look at their recent content, make sure they’re a good fit. We might take a look at Brennan’s site and say like, “Oh wow. He has a category about creating products. This seems like a really good fit!” Try to build reciprocity, try to build goodwill. So, we’d write a, like you said, a public, thank you note, a review, share his articles. Find some way to give before we ask and present that goodwill. Then we’d start an outreach process to Brennan saying, “Hey, we wrote this blog post, we did this thing, wanted to make sure that it was relevant to you.” And then, and only then, after we’ve sort of primed the pump with an outpouring of goodwill and outpouring of generosity, providing value before asking for anything, then we flip the switch and say, “Hey, I have something that might be relevant to your audience. You write about creating products. I have this thing that seems to align with that. Would it be okay if I shared it with you or shared an excerpt of it with you?”
Alex Hillman: That’s awesome! There’s one more alternate timeline that I’d like to explore and get your take on. I’m putting myself in the shoes of some of our students who look at the landscape of other people in their audience, in their terrain, their peers, and they look at other people’s products and say there’s already something else out there. Why would I create it? And essentially, in a very subtle way are saying, “I don’t want to turn myself into competition with one of my peers.”
I think that declaring yourself as competition is the thing that makes you the competition and a little more than that, but for the person who doesn’t necessarily see that for themselves, how do you help someone get over the idea of reaching out to someone who maybe sells a similar product to them, or something in the same category where they might be looking at it and going, “Why would I reach out to my competitor? They’re just gonna laugh at me because I’m their competition. Why would we do something to help each other?” How do you get over that?
Kai Davis: There’s a couple of different ways. One way is, I’ll share an example where I’ll say well, I can look at my bookshelf right now and see 12 different books on sales and it’s not that they’re 12 unique books on sales. They’re 12 different takes on some core concepts when it comes to selling. The fact that these 11 exists doesn’t mean that that 12th should never have been written. It’s the author’s viewpoint. The author pouring the content through themselves and creating something.
If I did the amount of research that Brennan has done about freelancing and wrote a book about how to raise your freelancing rate, it’d be similar topics and similar concepts, but it’d be through my lens, through my own perception, it’s presenting a different product. For a student who says, “There’s somebody out there already doing something similar, but I don’t want to reach out to them. It’s going to be competition.” Well, is it really competition or is it just the two of you being in similar markets or the same market and you find an opportunity to work together? There might be people who say, “Wow, I really resonate with your approach to teaching me this concept and I didn’t really resonate with this person’s approach.”
Filtering content, filtering these lessons through your own ideas, through your own perception, your own lens, produces something different and doesn’t make it a carbon copy of what already might be out there. In terms of reaching out to somebody who’s in that same space, I think the same concept applies. It’s presenting it as, “We’re both really experts on this topic. Let’s say it’s freelancing or raising your rate. Wouldn’t it be valuable to our audiences if we got together and had a conversation about this topic, you know, 90% of it, I know 90% of it, there’s going to be a 10% we both don’t know that we could fill in for each other’s audience.” There’s going to be this amazing area of overlap where suddenly we’re able to say, “Oh, you say ‘A’, I say ‘B’, I say ‘C’, and we could get really deep into it. So we could frame it as competition but we could also frame it as cooperation.
What happens when we get to really smart people who are in the same problem space or in the same market together in a room and have them talk with each other? They get really deep into an exciting area. The same thing happens when you think about outreach to somebody in the same space as you, what cool thing can come of this collaboration? It’s not necessarily me stealing your audience. It’s not a scarcity principle. It’s more an abundance principle. Somebody could be on your email list and my email list and we’re both talking about coworking and they’re like, “Oh wow, this is awesome. I’m getting twice the coworking, this is valuable to me.”
Alex Hillman: Cool. Very cool. We’ve got sort of a roadmap for our roadmap, in terms of being able to share it with someone like Brennan. Are there any other sort of outlying or adjacent approaches that we haven’t talked about yet that you might think that we should take with a new giveaway, a new tool, a new platform like this?
Kai Davis: I think one thing that’s really useful is looking at both people who are directly related to your industry and also indirectly or orthogonally related to your industry. So, one example would be, let’s say Bryan Harris, who runs Videofruit and just had a launch for his product, 10 K Subs, how to build a 10,000-person email list.
Well, he’s not directly in the build a product space. He’s more how to build your email list, but once you have an email list, what do you want to do? Well, I want to sell something to these people. So by looking around and trying to identify people who might be generating an audience who end up in the problem space that you’re solving, you’re able to say like, “Well, hey, it might not be a direct one-to-one, linkage between, I have this thing and they have this problem, but we could see that at some point in this person’s life cycle or this audience member’s life cycle they’ll have a need for something like this”, that becomes an opportunity to reach out to people.
For the example of the Year of Hustle cheat sheet, reaching out to authorities and influencers who have an audience focused on building a list, or getting their sites set up, or building an audience, or writing a book or, recording screencasts. All these sorts of things that are tangentially related, but could feed into, “I have this content, how do I make a product?” Those could be ancillary audiences that it makes sense to reach out to. Tactics there might be just Googling around and seeing who’s active in the how to make an email list space, who’s active in all of these different areas.
I know Paul Jarvis, I think a mutual friend of ours just recently released a product on Chimp essentials, how to use MailChimp to build your email list. He and Jason Zuke have partnered together on many a list building and authority building product. Again, it’s somebody who isn’t directly related to the build a product space, but might make sense for a strategic partnership to say, well, we have this thing that your audience might need down the line. Can we work something out, would this be valuable to your audience?
I always like framing it in terms of the value to the audience member, then the value to the person I’m reaching out to, and never really the value to myself.
If I was in your position, I’d never pitch it to Brennan or Bryan or anyone else as like, “I want to grow my list and get more folk in the trough for my launch coming up, let’s share this and build my list:. I’d frame it as, “Hey, you’ve got a list of people who are engaged and active, would they like to learn more about this topic? If so here’s a resource, would this be valuable for them?”
Alex Hillman: So the assumption here, and I think it was a good one for anyone you’d actually want to be reaching out to collaborate with, is that they have a built-in motivation to help their audience as much as possible. So, the one, two, three lists that you just gave, which is priority number one - help their audience, priority number two- have them look good by being there to introduce you to their audience, and then three - whatever benefits that you might gain from that. That’s the one, two, three punch.
Kai Davis: Entirely.
Alex Hillman: So this outreach strategy, I think is super, super valuable. I also like that for as soft as it is, there’s a formula that you can follow. There’s the soft outreach. There’s the asking for permission. There’s the sort of offer of multiple potential choices. A no is not necessarily a no, it’s just a not now or not in that way. All of these elements can be put together into any number of combinations.
The last thing that I’m thinking about is follow through. Let’s say we get the person to say yes, and whatever the format is, whether it’s a podcast interview, a guest post, a tweet, whatever it is, there’s all different scales and formats. What is the follow through? What happens next? Just to sort of quantify that a little bit, I’m thinking about how do I make that exchange translate into something for me and for them and for their audience, but ultimately remember that I’m going to be giving value out there. Is there a way for me to make sure that this is adding to my efforts as well, that part of the follow through, and then also over the long term, how do you continue that relationship?
What do you do to make sure that it’s not just a one off, like you said before, where you’re sort of doing a little round-robin and just hitting everybody in the scene, you’re going to show up – people in these communities, we talk to each other. How do you show up and continue to show up in that sort of genuine, generous way instead of that person who is always trying to, wheel a new deal? How do we avoid that and stay in the generous mindset?
Kai Davis: I think that’s the most important question of all. Alan Weiss has a wonderful quote about focusing on the fourth sale first, where, when we’re engaging with a client in the consultant world, it’s not about the deal on the table today. It’s about building the relationship and building the deal today so that we’re priming the pump for the sale four down the line. I pull that concept directly into the outreach world and say, when we’re building this relationship, I will literally say in email, “I’m looking to build a long-term collaboration with you. I want this to be the first step in it. I’m not sure what step two or three might look like, but I’m starting this partnership with you. We’re starting this conversation with you, in the idea that there’ll be multiple ways for us to help each other down the line.”
I think just explicitly saying that puts people at ease because you’re making this promise in a sense like, “Hey, I’m here to help you. I know there’s going to be opportunities for us to help promote each other. We’ll figure out what those are down the line, but I’m sticking around. I’m not just here to get you to tweet about my thing and then disappear back to the bat cave, I’m here to provide value to your audience, figure out how you could provide value to my audience and figure out what else might be there down the line.”
So just being, I think intentional about that part of it, there’s no real script or framework I have other than saying, if you go into it with the mental attitude of “I’m here to provide value in the long term for these relationships, I’m building”, it’s going to end up being a relationship where you will provide value in the long term for that partner. There’s no hack there other than be authentic, be honest and go into it with that mindset.
Alex Hillman: And it’s brick stacking all the way down. Right? That first ask, maybe it comes from a hunger and not necessarily a hunger in a good way, but like that showing up kind of starving. I always think of the analogy of what happens when you go to the grocery store hungry and you make all kinds of poor decisions. I think especially when you’re first starting out and when you have very little and other people have a lot, you go into those interactions sometimes a little bit too hungry, and that turns people off versus showing up and saying, “:Look, I’m here to share. I don’t have a lot to share, but I’m willing to share.”
The offer doesn’t need to be big in order to be impactful, right? Your first example was something as simple as saying thank you for a thing that you put out there. Here’s what I got out of it. Here’s what somebody else got out of it. When you’re someone who creates things and puts them into the world, you’re met with all kinds of responses, but, the ones that really stand out and make your day are the ones where somebody says, “Hey, thanks for sharing that. It helped me or helped someone that I care about about.” That really could be as small as it needs to be for that initial offer, that initial outreach.
Kai Davis: Entirely. I received an unsolicited email from somebody who found my blog, doubleyouraudience.com last night, and it was all caps, one line,” KAI, YOUR BLOG IS EFFING AMAZING!” And I had this huge grin on my face, and I replied back, “I love you! You’re amazing! What inspired this outpouring of like affection on your part? Thank you”. At that point, they followed up and said, “I read this article. It was wonderful. It changed my mindset. I wrote a similar article; I wrote a response. Would you take a look at it?” They’ve primed me in such a way, just by reaching out and saying thank you and expressing love and appreciation.
I’d taken action on their part – It might not be a big action like sent an email to your list, promoting my joint venture, but a small action, like, “Hey, would you tweet about this? Can you think of two or three people who might have a need for a service that I provide, or be interested in reading a chapter for my upcoming book?”
So, just by starting that conversation from that point of generosity, it’s easier to build off of that small ask and who knows from that small ask, you’re able to level up to a larger ask. What I found is always valuable, especially in the podcasting space, and really any sort of relationship, is saying, “Well, what’s something I could do that would help you?” I always like ending podcast interviews where I’m a guest by saying, “Hey, can you tell me a little bit about who your ideal guest is? I want to see if there’s anybody in my network, who’d be a good fit for you.” And the host is always like, “Oh man, nobody ever asks that. My ideal guest is A, B and C”, and I’m like, “Great. I’ll think about it and send you a couple of names, by the way, can you think of one or two podcasts that would be a good fit for me after we just had this conversation?” So I’ve offered something up, I’ve invested, we spent time talking together and now I’m able to make an ask that benefits me, but had I just come out of the end of that and said, “Can you think of two or three podcasts that would be great for me, Alex?” You’d be like, “Eh, maybe I’ll get back to you”.
When we frame it in terms of “How could I help you? Who would be good guest for you? Who in my Rolodex would you love to have on your show?”, and then, “Hey, can you think of a show that would be good for me?”, it feels like an equal trade. It doesn’t feel like I’m asking to take, it feels like I’m giving and then asking for something - not in return – but of equal value.
Alex Hillman: Super, super cool. I totally agree. I have one more question and this one’s sort of out of left field, so I hope you’ll indulge me. I know that when we do the kind of work for clients and for partners and things like that, we don’t always get to do all of the things that we want to do because of their own apprehensions and things like that. So I’m curious in your own work, is there anything sort of experimental that you’re doing or that you’ve tried, that’s worked really well in terms of doing outreach on behalf of yourself? Anything that you haven’t necessarily been able to do with a client yet, but you would like to, they just aren’t ready to buy in, or you just haven’t had a chance to apply it yet?
Kai Davis: There’s two things I really want to try for clients we’re in for myself. I want to start sending handwritten letters as a way to initiate the outreach process – and I have terrible handwriting and thank gosh, there are Software as a Service companies out there that do handwriting as a service for you. But I think that’d be an interesting way to breakout of the, “Hey, I contacted you on Twitter, hey, I emailed you frame” and say like, “ Hey, you have a business address on your website. I’m going to send you a handwritten note”, and just say, “Hey Alex, thanks so much for putting out everything you do. Thanks so much for recording episodes of Stacking the Bricks – I really appreciate it. Thank you, Kai.”
If a note like that showed up in my inbox, like my physical inbox outside of my house, I’d be like,
Okay. Oh my gosh, who is this person who wrote me? This is so wonderful. I want to thank them!” It just feels like it sort of breaks the expected frame of how we interact or how we thank somebody, that it shocks them into something new.
I haven’t had a chance to run that with a client yet, and I haven’t done it myself yet, but it’s an area that I think is really fruitful. How could we cross over from just digital outreach to interesting real-world outreach? For clients who have a physical book, I’d love to start doing campaigns where it’s like, “Hey, it was great talking with you or being on your podcast. Here’s a copy of my book” and have a personal handwritten inscription on the front of it saying, “Thank you so much, blah, blah, blah”. Just figuring out ways to go above and beyond, deliver more value, deliver essentially a gift to somebody and say, thank you for honoring me with your time.
Alex Hillman: That’s awesome, I love it.!
Kai, this has been so much fun, long, long, long overdue. We’ve been trying to do this for like a year and the plot twist in all of this is I’m going to be seeing you in like less than a month, right?
Kai Davis: Well, we’re going to be at Bacon Biz together and I’m so excited!
Alex Hillman: So that’ll be awesome! Well, this is great. How do people that are listening to Stacking the Bricks find out about you and catch up with what you’re doing?
Kai Davis: I’d say there’s two great ways to do that. The first is I have a free course on outreach. If you go to freeoutreachcourse.com, you could get a five email, five lessons series on the outreach principles we’ve talked about on this episode and I evangelize for people.
The other great way to get in touch with me is to go to doubleyouraudience.com/AMA. I’ve a running ‘Ask Me Anything’ page on my site, where people could just ask me any questions about outreach or marketing or consulting, or what goes on a taco and in 24 to 48 hours, I’ll respond and we could start having a conversation there. I like having those conversations in public just to create a sort of public repository of knowledge.
Alex Hillman: So wait, so what does go on a taco? What’s your favorite taco?
Kai Davis: My favorite taco would probably be pulled pork with some guacamole, some lettuce, anything could go on a taco. I’m a big fan of tacos!
Alex Hillman: Patterson is doing tacos on day two of Bacon Biz.
Kai Davis: I am flying to Philly tomorrow! We need to taste test these startups!
Alex Hillman: Okay, well maybe you can come in a day early. Cool, Kai, this was great. Thank you so much for taking the time, for sharing all of this and thank you for giving us some good ideas for sharing Year of Hustle as well.
Kai Davis: Thanks so much for having me on and thank you to the listeners for taking the time to listen to this episode.
Alex Hillman: Awesome. Cheers brother!
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