Today is a good day. Today we got the first user on our “Early Access” email list. And even better, it’s the first person we sent a cold email to. I know it won’t always be easy (and actually, it wasn’t easy at all), but we’ll take it! Here’s what we did…

Our first step was to identify about 50 companies we thought could use our product based on the fact they’ve done live blogging in the past. Then we tried to find the email address and first name of the right person to email in each company. We were successful for about half of them.

Next, we read a lot of articles giving advice on writing cold emails and took notes on the ideas that either were consistently mentioned or made sense to us. Then we wrote the cold email using one of the techniques we’d read about, in this case using a list. Finally, we went back through the notes we’d taken to see if we should apply any to the email that was now written.

The opening paragraph would be customized for each person being emailed.

One of the key parts of that email template was the opening paragraph which would be customized for each person being emailed. We wanted it to be 100% clear this wasn’t some blast to hundreds of addresses, but was instead a one-to-one email from a company that was trying to help. Below is a sample of the email sent. We obviously didn’t send one to our own content site, LaughingPlace.com, but if we had, it probably would’ve read like this:

Subject: Saw you use 24 Live Blog, you may find this interesting
Hi Doobie:
Firstly, I have to tell you that I, too, am a huge Disney fan. Like you, I run a Disney fansite and know how hard it can be, so the fact that you’ve been able to do it for 18 years is commendable.
The reason I’m writing today is I noticed you have done some live blogging on your site with 24 Live Blog.  As a former user of 24 Live Blog, I am familiar with its pros and cons. Ultimately, we decided to create our own solution and are now making it available to others.
It’s called Easy Live Blog, and here are 3 quick reasons I think Easy Live Blog might be a good solution for you as well.
  1. Our overriding goal is to make live blogging painless through features like our clean, powerful WYSIWYG editor, automatic image uploads, automatic embedding of all link types (Twitter, YouTube, etc.) just by entering the URL and automatic website link previews.
  2. Easy Live Blog also has cool automation features like the ability to post to your live blog via Twitter or email and one-click tweeting of your live blog posts.
  3. We also make discovering content quick and fun via our Twitter Streams panels. Create Twitter searches using multiple keywords, users and other criteria and easily add them to posts in your live blog.
When you have a chance, please click over to Easy Live Blog. We have a couple of demos that show it off. When you’re done, can you let me know your thoughts on the product and on live blogging in general?
Thanks,
Doobie Moseley
Founder, Easy Live Blog
Phone: (321) 284-1558
doobie@EasyLiveBlog.com

This email was sent to one prospect then a little later to two more, customized for each. According to our email tracking software, all three opened it and all three checked out the website. And that was it. No signups, no replies, nothing else. Which wasn’t a surprise. We’ve read enough to know that it takes more than one cold email to start a relationship. Our expectations were adjusted accordingly and we were already thinking of the timing and content for our follow-ups.

Then last night, something surprising happened. We received a reply from the first company thanking us for the compliments and saying when they start live blogging again, they’d check it out and give us some feedback. I responded asking if it would be ok for me to manually add them to our Early Access list and they said it that would be fine. And that was that! The first email we sent actually resulted in a signup…. Which is a long way from a trial, which is a long way from a subscriber. But it’s a good start!

If we’re going to ask them to give us that much money, I think it’s fair for them to ask us to spend a few minutes learning a little bit about their site.

You might be reading this and thinking that’s a lot of effort just to get someone on a mailing list. And you’re right. But there are two important points to remember:

  1. Ultimately, we’re going to be asking people to give us hundreds of dollars per month. If you walk into an appliance store to buy a $800 stove, they’re going to expend a lot of effort to sell that to you, as they should. If we’re going to ask them to give us that much money, I think it’s fair for them to ask us to actually spend a few minutes checking out and learning a little bit about their site.
  2. Of all the things I’ve learned in my startup education, the one that sticks with me the most is “Do Things That Don’t Scale”. Search it on Google and you’ll see it pops up everywhere. It’s a necessity for a startup. Maybe someday you’ll be able to survive on SEO or advertising or even word of mouth. But when you’re first starting out, you have to do anything you can to get those early customers. There are things that you obviously can’t do when you’re trying to add hundreds of new customers per month, but when you’re just trying to get that first 100, you have to Do Things That Don’t Scale.

We put a #1 at the end of this title because this won’t be the last time we blog about this. Even though we’re just starting out, it’s already clear how important this is.

So #1 is in the top of the funnel. It’s been a great day!