I quickly learned that cold calls suck, so I used cold email instead when growing my agency to 7 figures.

Back in 2008 I started up a digital marketing agency. I knew I needed to reach business owners, but cold calls suck.

Times were tough. I was bootstrapping the business and the economy was on the verge of collapse. This was long before cold email was a thing.

I needed to figure out some way, somehow to get clients. There was one thing I knew for sure:

I hate cold calls. I hate receiving them and I surely hated doing them.

So I wasn’t going to get clients that way.

Had to Get Scrappy

I tried several different things (Craigslist scraping, filling out contact forms, looking to see what clients didn’t rank well, etc). Because, did I mention, cold calling sucks?

The one consistent lead generator though was email outreach.

I had developed a little process:

1. Track businesses online – I would track businesses down in search results and in various business directories.

2. Look for contact information –  I would review their website and look for contact emails. If I didn’t find any on the website, I went to who.is and looked there.

3. Email them and Follow up –  I created various cold email messages (which I butchered at first by making them too long, too self promotional, etc). Eventually, I realized I was missing the follow-up so I created reminders to follow-up with the people I emailed.

Sometimes I would even call these people and then reference the cold email. For some reason, this felt MUCH softer than traditional cold calls. I referred to this as “Warm calling“.

Here’s a visual look at the process.

cold calling

This worked decently well, but it was very time consuming. I found myself spending almost half my day working through this process.

Building Software to Save Time

Usually, where there is a manual process like this and it involves data, you can automate it. So I started to look at my process systematically.

By this point I had a couple developers I had used for various client projects and I began mapping out what I needed the software to do.

It would go to directory sites and use things like Google Maps to pull in as many businesses as possible. It looked through the website automatically to try and find email addresses and then it would go and pull in other third party resources (like who.is, social, etc) to find more contact information.

I had it to where I could batch send cold emails with my email template once I filtered through the emails.

and it was working!

Now I still needed to input the search queries and filter through the emails, but my 4 hours per day was down to about 30 minutes per day.

I was regularly getting interest from people, calls were getting lined up, meetings were taking place, and more importantly deals were closing.

After 3 years in business, I was finally hitting the $1M in revenue mark. It wasn’t solely done through cold email outreach, but it was a large majority of our business.

The Rise and the Fall

cold calling

A couple of years ago, I brought on two partners and we started a company that provided newsletters to apartment communities. The newsletters would have community news from the apartment complex as well as special offers from nearby businesses.

It was at this business where I had learned the power of follow-ups. We used a similar version of my original software, but added on an automatic follow-up email component.

The follow-ups would let them know time was running out, we were going to print, remind them they needed to sign the contract, etc.

This led to automatic sales. It was unbelievable.

This led to automatic sales. It was unbelievable. Click To Tweet

Projections were over $50 million a year. We were having day long meetings trying to map out how to make this digital so we can scale more efficiently.

Then, as fast as it took off, it came crashing down. The one thing we didn’t validate came back to haunt us. Residents didn’t care about the special offers. They had their Groupons, LivingSocial, etc and that’s all they needed.

Taking What I Learned

I knew I had a pretty magical process that basically just made hot leads and sales appear out of thin air. So I began thinking about how I could apply this system to other startup ideas I had in mind.

I had never thought about offering up my system and process to other people to help them grow their business until recently.

I wanted to challenge myself to launch a brand new business from the ground up in 24 hours. I decided to launch this lead generating email outreach strategy as a productized service. I would find leads for B2B companies, prepare a series of emails (initial outreach and follow up messages) and then just forward prospects to customers as their email responses come in.

If you’re interested, I documented the whole 24 hour launch process

What are your thoughts on cold calls vs cold emails? Let me know in the comments below!