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From 2,056 to 25,084 Subscribers Using the Oldest Direct Marketing Trick in the Book

I market to attorneys and it’s expensive.
I was getting crushed by AdWords with clicks routinely costing me more than $10 a pop and often more than that.
I was frustrated.  I was looking for a reliable and scalable way to build my opt-in list but I just couldn’t find a way to make it happen using conventional digital marketing tactics.
So, I tried something radically different.  I’d heard Dan Kennedy talk about supplementing online efforts with offline marketing and offline efforts with online marketing.
So — I decided to try the most detested and universally abandoned lead generation tactic of our time.
Cold calling.
I hired a guy to call on attorneys and offer my weekly e-mail newsletter.
In 14 months I went from this…dm-trick1
to this…
I didn’t ask for money – I didn’t ask for a credit card payment – I had my caller say the following:

“Hi, this is Mike from Speakeasy. I have an important e-mail to send to Attorney X. Would you mind connecting me with him to get his permission to send it?”

Permission to send an email?
Yup – that’s what the attorneys’ secretary would tell my caller. They were totally confused as to why he was calling, asking for permission to SEND AN EMAIL.

“The reason I’m asking is that I work for Richard Jacobs, a well-known and respected attorney marketing expert. He puts out a weekly e-mail newsletter that several thousand attorneys receive, read, and enjoy weekly. The only reason I’m calling is to ask Attorney X if he’d be open to us e-mailing him the weekly newsletter. Our readers tell us it takes about 6 minutes to read each one and they are finding a lot of value in it. Can you connect me?”

…the result?
A reliable, scalable and affordable 5.25% opt-in rate.
This is an incredible result from one of the most despised forms of marketing… COLD CALLING.
Sometimes secretaries spoke up for their boss and asked us, “So he/she doesn’t have to buy anything?”

“No ma’am – it’s free and will be very useful for him/her to read it.”

I was shocked at the results but I had experienced a similar phenomenon before in my early days of going door to door, getting people to donate to a non-profit environmental lobby group (horrible, life-sucking job, believe me).
Back in the day, I learned a thing or two from a fellow co-worker who somehow managed to collect 3x more money than our daily quota of $140.
He was our best guy (I forget his name – let’s call him Frank) and he used to knock on the door, then step back about 10 paces from the door. The homeowner would open the door, see that we were standing pretty far away, and ask us what we wanted.
Frank would start explaining quietly that “we were asked to come see you” and asked if the homeowner had a minute to talk. Most times, the homeowner would say, “huh? I can’t hear you” or become confused and say, “who asked you to come see me?”.
Frank would then ask the person, (clipboard in hand)…

“Would it be ok if I approached you so you can hear me better and see this paperwork?”.

Again, the person would be confused, but almost always say, “Uh, yeah, you can approach. What is it?”
Now Frank and I moved closer to the person (who was outside their door vs. talking to us through a screen door or worse yet, shouting through a closed door) and started our pitch.
…What does this have to do with cold calling and why our permission-based-opt-in worked so well?
Because people are used to being sold to – all the time, every single day, all day.
And as you know, they’re wary and skeptical. When someone comes along and actually asks permission for the smallest, simplest, lowest-thresh hold offer that may prove useful to them, coupled with a ‘that makes sense’ reason WHY, they’re much more likely to be:

  • Momentarily caught off guard, with their defenses down
  • Open to listening to you
  • Willing to say, “uh… sure… why not?”

So now that my cold-calling gently-forced opt-in system was working, it was time to scale it up…
Today, I have a small, in-house call center of 5 full-time callers, at a total cost of $3,150 per month for all 7 of them ($450/month * 7 = $3,150). And YES, they’re overseas (not India, but you’re getting warm).
At our 5.25% conversion rate, that’s $2.86 PER OPT-IN. A ridiculously cheap price to get an opt-in, in this super-competitive, marketed-to-death, and high client value industry like lawyers.
Here’s the math that makes it work:
Each caller makes 150 calls per day, garnering 7.875 opt ins per day, per caller.
That’s 55.13 opt ins per day… 275.63 per week… 1,102.50 per month.
$3,150 / 1,102.50 = $2.86 per opt in
In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention how I build the list of attorneys to call – that cost has to be figured in as well…
I also have 5 harvesters, who spend their full time effort googling attorneys in relevant areas (there are approximately 980,000 attorneys nationwide). My harvesters are cheaper, and run me $1,750 per month ($350 per person * 5).
So to be 100% honest, the total cost for me to get an opt-in is:
($3,150 + $1,750) / 1,102.50 = $4.44
So this is how I grew my opt-in list from a paltry 2,056 attorneys 14 months ago to 25,084 at the time of this writing…
…and my goal is to reach 33,000+ by the end of this year. I’m planning to scale up my mini-call center to 10-12 people in the near future, and we’ll be on track to grow my list to 100,000+ by the end of 2015.
Insane, I know, but so far, so good. Not only are opt-in rates excellent (and holding), but opt-out rates (1.93% per month) are good, too.
I’ve found this to be a scalable way to grow my business.  I know it isn’t trendy.  I know it isn’t the hot new thing.  It just flat out works.
Try it.  Try using offline tactics like direct mail and cold calling to build your online marketing.
It worked for me, and may just work for you.

Richard Jacobs

Richard Jacobs

Richard Jacobs of Speakeasy Marketing, Inc helps attorneys in criminal defense, personal injury, bankruptcy, divorce, DUI and other practice areas use direct marketing to grow their practice and attract more and consistent quality clients.

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