There’s Lots of Advice Out There
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that your goal is to get your business, product, service, or organization more attention. The number of Gary V-inspired YouTube videos and listicles dedicated to this subject is alarming. Most of them tell a similar story, full of personal anecdotes that involve more luck than skill, and abstract advice like, “focus on content marketing” or “refine your one sentence pitch.”
If you’re like me, you want something actionable, not just inspirational. And while there are a thousand ways to get attention, there’s one incredibly simple, low-lift, and mostly free way to do this: talk to the right person.
If you’re a startup media company, wouldn’t it be great to talk to managing editors or content officers at places like The Washington Post or Buzzfeed? If you sell beauty products, wouldn’t you want to hear from CFOs or heads of creative at Everlane or Glossier? If you’re a budding gaming company, wouldn’t you love feedback from brand managers or VPs of talent acquisition from EA or Blizzard?
FiscalNote, a leading government relationship management software platform, famously got their first seed round by cold emailing Mark Cuban. They’ve since won the Technology Pioneer Award at the World Economic Forum, and provide thousands of congressional offices, law firms, trade associations, lobbyists, corporations, embassies, federal contractors, and public affairs professionals with the data they need to function.
Moonshot? Anomaly? Luck? I say nay. By strategically reaching out to the right people and starting the conversation, you too stand a chance at having your own FiscalNote story.
Below are five tools that enable you to “hack” your way into the hearts and minds of influential journalists and industry leaders.
But First, A Note On Not Being an A**hole
Harvesting emails is bad. Sending generic marketing emails is never a good look. Adding people to mass Mailchimp lists without their permission is a no no. Trust me, I’ve made these mistakes.
If you’re going to send a cold email, be humble (that means be short, sweet, flattering, and personalize it as much as possible – no boilerplate marketing language or business canvases). Ask for their guidance (for industry folks) or opinions (for journalists), and send the message directly. Be transparent about who you are, and do not subscribe them to your company’s email blasts (without their permission).
Your goal should be to build genuine, friendly relationships with media/industry contacts, and keep an open line of communication with those contacts. So, yeah, don’t be an a**hole.
Five Growth Hacking Tools That Just Work
Clearbit Connect is a personal go-to. I’ve used it to get in touch with one of my favorite podcasters, get some earned media for Fake News: The Game, and connect a friend to the president of a major media company.
It integrates with Gmail (or Inbox), and is as simple as typing in an organization’s name. Once you’ve identified an aspirational company for your business, you can search by that company’s URL, and boom. Just like that, Clearbit outputs an organized list of emails by name and position/title.
Are you an alternative-protein food company? Do you make elderly care products? Is it not clear which journalists cover your industry? Hey Press is the perfect place to start. Enter just about any subject, topic, or area of interest, and Hey Press will return journalists’ names, their Twitter handles, recent articles and the publications they write for.
Ingest the information gathered here, and then take it to Clearbit. Find other journalists from industry-specific/niche publications and shoot them a message.
Real hackers code. Photon is a powerful Python library that can scrape a website for URLs, files, and what’s known as “intel,” i.e. emails and social media profiles. This is useful if Clearbit is unable to find the email address you’re looking for. I tested it on ISL.co, and it discovered a number of useful emails (including my own).
Note: this requires Python 3.0 and a baseline knowledge of Python (or a similar language). Running Photon or other foreign Github repos without understanding the impacts on your computer may result in damage. Code responsibly – grab a developer to help you out (shout out to ISL’s own Alex Barbato for helping me set up a virtual environment and install the right packages).
Remember when I said “mostly free”? There are some services out there like Howler that – for a relatively low fee – will do the grunt work for you. We used Howler back when it was called Aidem Network to promote BitcoinRegret.Club. Spending just $50, Aidem blasted our story out far and wide, helping us hit our 100k user benchmark.
Howler’s database is nearing 1M journalists. Each journalist is categorized by what they’re interested in writing about (based on what they’ve written about before and what they’ve tweeted about). Back when they were Aidem, they were unable to provide substantial ROI reporting. But Howler offers end-of-month reports including emails sent, open rates and reply rates.
Our Own Growth Tracking Dashboard
We’re tinkering with our own Google Analytics dashboard to track earned media, cold email success, and other critical metrics. I’ve extracted a few widgets and created a template. It’s very much a work in progress. You can try it out here.
The challenge is creating a template that can be adapted to your own growth objectives. I advise creating UTMs for the links you share in your emails, using the recipient of the email as the “source” and changing the medium depending on outreach mechanism (e.g. Howler, email, etc). So your URL might look something like this: isl.co/?utm_source=name-of-recipient&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=growth-hacking. This way you can categorically measure who’s clicking through to your site, who’s the most engaged, and who’s worth a follow-up.
I encourage you to make it your own!
If You Take One Thing Away
Be strategic, courteous, and data-driven. Yes, “growth-hacking” is just another buzzword, but if you believe in your product or business, then you should share it with the people that could act as a stepping stone (or catapult). You never know who might respond.
Got questions about this article? Additions to the GA widget? Success stories you want to share? HMU: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to Catherine Salm at United Entertainment Group, Matt Henderson at Howler, Daniel Landsman for sharing the FiscalNote insight, and ISL’s own Alex Barbato for helping me with all things Python/pipenv.