How to Get a Great Job without Networking

I moved to Austin jobless in the summer of 2012 after having worked exclusively on self-funded passion projects for 2 years. I won’t even call my projects “startups” because that would be hyperbole.

Basically I split my time between playing online poker, creating an online dating ebook, and writing a blog in the self-help / humor niche.

While I enjoyed the freedom and thrills of entrepreneurship I needed the stability and financial security of a job that could provide guaranteed income. So job hunting, I went.

Everyone told me that my best bet to find a job in Austin was to contact friends & family and see what kind of opportunities came my way.  It was also suggested to me that it was best “to just settle” for my first job in Austin and then use that job to network and position myself for a better job once I knew more people in town.

That sort of strategy wasn’t for me.

I don’t like asking for help. And, naturally, I wanted the most sought after job in Austin: marketer for a small tech company / startup.

I found out later that the marketing job I got had a 100+ qualified applicants.

Here’s how I got it.

Craigslist Job Search

I used to think you couldn’t find good jobs on Craigslist. I was wrong. Smart companies put their job listings on Craigslist – especially startups and small businesses who are looking to hack systems and avoid paying exorbitant headhunter fees.

My Craigslist search process was nothing special, but I’ll list it here for those who care. I searched two separate ways, almost daily:

  1. By profession: >> jobs >> marketing / pr / ad
  2. By keyword: >> jobs >> Search for: Startup, entrepreneur

I can’t remember which query brought up the posting for my current position but it was one of the searches listed above.

I should also say beware. Some savvy internet marketers create fake Craigslist job posts to solicit email addresses and arbitrage the cheap clicks available in these forums. You’ll have to sift through some mud and dirt to find the gold, but when isn’t that the case?

Resume Prep and LinkedIn Profile

My resume and my LinkedIn profile were somewhat similar. Here’s my Linkedin profile:

If you want a copy of my resume, join my email list and I’ll send it to you. You’ll get the exact template I used to score this job…for free.

While you ponder signing up, here are some key resume concepts to consider:

Professional Experience: At a high level, I focused on specific professional accomplishments that could be quantified numerically and easily proven or fact checked.

Some people litter their professional experience section with tons of jargon & acronym-filled bull shit bullet points. I didn’t do this. For each of my previous jobs, I wrote 2-3 bullets points in complete sentences in plain language with specifics about what I was actually doing for the past 9 years of my life. I assumed the person reading it would be more like me and less like an idiot who’s easily fooled by resume speak.

I also employed 1 subtle psychological trick. In addition to listing the title of my most recent position, I listed the dates and titles of all my previous positions. This demonstrated my track record of getting frequent promotions and indicated that I was a top performer.

Skills: I tailored my skills lists to match the skills listed in the job posting where possible. I stuffed in so many keywords that you’d think it was blackhat SEO. My goal was to catch the eye of any resume reader who was looking for a candidate experienced in a specific technology platform that I was already familiar with.

Education: I didn’t do anything to special here. I listed my University, my degree, and my GPA. Check my Linkedin profile to see my GPA…nosy ;).

Activities and Interests: More psychological tactics.

– I listed my volunteer experience as a Youth Mentor to indicate that I wasn’t a creepy axe murderer and I actually cared about others.

– I listed my Intramural volleyball experience to show that I wasn’t socially awkward or completely physically inept with crappy energy levels.

– I listed my Wakeboarding hobby to make them think I had a boat that they might get to ride on Lake Travis (sadly…I don’t have one).

– I listed my passion for Cooking to make them think I might actually bring in a dish for everyone to try every once in awhile (note: this has actually happened a couple of times).

Other tips and tricks: I made sure the email on my resume used my full name (my primary email was something ridiculous like but I created a new gmail address that was because it looked more professional. Note: I had to use the “1” after my name because was taken by a high school football coach in Nacodoches, TX who shared the same name.

I also had my real phone number (773 area code) forwarded through Google Voice to a local Austin 512 phone number. Most companies like to hire local and hate paying for relocation, so I didn’t want to give them a chance to reject me based on the assumption that I lived out of town.

Oh and I did this all in 3/4th’s of a page. The key is brevity, small font, and wide margins. You’ve probably heard this advice before, but I think you should try to keep your resume to one page or less. You don’t want to be overlooked just because some HR manager has a hard & fast rule to trash resumes longer than a page. For the record, I think those policies are lazy, but they exist.

Final note: The one thing I’ll say about LinkedIn is that you should invest the time to take a decent high resolution photo of yourself in good lighting and then post it. You don’t have to look model hot in your photo to get a job, but you shouldn’t be posting grainy, cell phone pics either.

Apply Via Email

Be confident, be (constructively) critical. That’s how I would sum up my advice for the email application.

Beyond that, I went OCD and parsed out every job qualification listed in the job post and tried to address each as specifically as I could, citing previous experience where relevant.

I also spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out who to address the email to. The Craigslist posting didn’t specify who replies should be sent to, so I went straight to the top and addressed my email to the CEO after doing some Linkedin research on the company.

Here’s the original job posting and the email I sent along with embedded explanations for why I wrote what I did.

Interview Prep

There may or may not have been a phone screen before the in-person interview. I can’t remember it, so it couldn’t have been that long or meaningful.

What I can remember is that before my first interview, I went through a rigorous research process and here is the exact outline I used to guide the process:

  • Researched all 6 businesses in the company
  • Learned the sales funnel. Where/how is product/service sold or monetized? What are the steps to purchase?
  • Made notes on landing page strengths and areas of opportunity, social media presence and history, blogs, etc
  • Tried to get a feel for the target customer – Who are they? Where do they hangout online
  • Reviewed the expectations for the role and made specific notes on how I can help:

-Build a magnetic social media presence

-Blog to generate targeted traffic

-Establish and affiliate marketing program

-Grow the email list

-Deliver online contests and other promotions with positive ROI

Based on what I could find online, I made analytical notes that included what I liked about their marketing strategy, what I didn’t like, and where I thought I could make an immediate impact.

Just to give a you an idea of how specific I got with my notes, here are a few verbatim examples:

  • If you click the “buy now” button you should go to checkout or cart, not product details page. Product shot is too big, especially since the visual isn’t what’s being sold. The testimonials fall below the fold on a laptop. That’s a problem.
  • Email subscription bait is not that compelling: “Be the first to know the latest keyboard news.” How about: “Get our free report on how to double your typing speed overnight”
  • The blog format is a little strange with all the previous blogs available by side bar on the LHS. A lot of the titles are chopped off which is going to hurt click rates.
  • Is there a way to integrate a typing competition with attractive women who may appeal to the target audience?
  • Is there an app that could replicate the mechanical sound? You could sell it as a monthly app to users who could it on their iphone or on their work computer or laptop when others are around and don’t want to be bothered by the sound (they hear the sound through headphones)
  • Send product warrantee /instruction manual through email to save paper and collect email addresses.

I also wrote down a list of questions in case I blanked on follow up questions during the interviews. Here were my fall back questions in a pinch:

  • What are your goals and dreams  [rephrased as ambitions during the interview]?
  • How can I help you be successful?
  • What have others in my role or similar roles done to be successful?
  • What are the main objectives for my position?

When all was said and done, I had 12 pages of typed notes that I printed out and brought with me to reference during the interview. I also mentioned several times during the interview that I was “kind of a nerd” and made 12 pages of notes and pointed to the thick stack in front of me. That’s Ramit Sethi’s briefcase technique, for the win.

The Interview(s)

When you prepare as specifically and I carefully as I did, the interview becomes an exercise in building rapport and not fucking up. So of course I proceeded to fuck it all up.

I spent the night before the interview role playing interview scenarios in my head and agonizing over proper responses to certain tricky questions I had entirely made up. It was a complete mind warp that turned me into an insomniac. I maybe got 2 hours of sleep before waking up at 6am for an 8am interview.

To make matters worse, I forgot something, and, fittingly, I can’t remember exactly what that something was anymore, but it was either a pen, a notepad, or a resume. All I can remember is the sheer anxiety I felt when I realized I hadn’t brought the item with me to the interview.

It was one of those instances where you’re in the middle of a conversation and you realize you forgot something important and then you can’t focus on anything that the person is saying for the rest of the conversation. That happened to me in my very first meeting with the HR manager.

All that said, my preparation was a savior as it became my source of confidence and my go to during sticky points in the interview.

I came to the interview with a plan of action with real examples of what I would do and what I thought would help the business grow. I would offer compliments what I thought they did well and constructively mention areas where I thought I could help.

I tried to establish rapport with each interviewer, subtly mimicking their posture and trying to pick up on how they accessed information based on what types of words they used (visual, audio, sensory words) and then I would adjust my wording accordingly. It was sort of a rudimentary application of NLP and I have no idea if it really worked or not, but I did get the job.

I tried to come across as nerdy (expressing interest in the technical parts of the business), and humble (recognizing their successes, owning up to limititations, and acknowleding parts of their strategy that I thought would be challenging to execute). Nerds are non-threatening and humble people are well liked– at least that was my rationalization. I am nerdy and I am externally humble (although internally I skew a little over confident) so this wasn’t much of a stretch, but I wanted to make sure that my words properly conveyed these traits.

I reinforced the words “growth” and “how I can help.” I asked each interviewer how I could make them more successful at their job. I asked each interviewer what they expected from the person in my position. What did they want that person to accomplish? I asked each person what their goals and aspirations were in the company. It helped that I was genuinely curious about these things and genuinely wanted to help. Still do.

I opened up about my interests and tried to smile as much as possible until my lips got dry and started sticking to the top of my gums. I made fun of myself. I told stories.

The Wrap Up

In total, I went through three days of office interviews and one separate lunch interview before being offered the job. Much of the process was repetitive with the same people asking similar questions. I guess with 100s of candidates and several interviews for the position they forgot some of the details.

I initially turned the job down because I wasn’t thrilled with the offer.  But the CEO restructured the offer to meet my needs and we later came to an agreement that worked for both of us and, voila, I was employed.

Where I Screwed Up

I’ve always loved a good blooper reel. It provides a strange sense of closure.

Near the end of the interview on day one, the CEO asked me about my strategic marketing plan and instead of summing it up for him in about 3 nice sound bites, I proceeded to nervously thumb through my notes and give him ticky tacky details. I could see his eyes glaze over as I made it down my nerdy little list. Luckily the rest of the interview went well or I could easily have seen that as a tipping point for not receiving a call back.

After the 2nd interview, I never sent a follow up email or thank you note. My justification was that I wanted to play hard to get. That’s stupid. I think it was laziness or some sort of resentment for the fact that I wasn’t hired immediately after the 1st interview.

Interestingly, I’ve over heard one of the managers in my company who was a key decision maker in hiring me say that “the follow up email is very important” when evaluating a separate hiring decision. So this mistake easily could have fucked me.

In fact at one point I went like 4 days without hearing from the company and I sent a little “what’s up” email and the CEO wrote back, “I’m glad you wrote.” As if to say I’m glad you wrote because we weren’t going to write you back. We were just going to wait you out and then forget about you if you never wrote.

What You Should Do Now

Take what you’ve learned in this post and start applying to jobs. Don’t focus on results. Focus on the process. – ryan


Live Demos might Save Your Startup

Paul Graham recently wrote a blog that suggests we should be doing more things that don’t scale. Live demos with customers is one of those things. Here’s why I think you should be doing them.

Why You Need Live Product Demos

1. Your trial-to-paid conversion rate sucks.

– Some apps just drop you into a dashboard and send you on your way to figure out how to use it to solve your problems. They convert horribly to paid accounts and can benefit greatly from live demos, where someone can take the customer through a perfectly curated product experiences that matches the features of the product to the problems the customer wants to solve.

– You don’t have scent detection set up, or a failproof automated demo /video, or a scripted tour like Patrick McKenzie wisely recommends. Even then, I’d still recommend giving demos to customers who requested it, but maybe I wouldn’t push as I hard.

– Your initial product experience is like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel rather than a well-lit tunnel with only way through.

2. You’re small.

How small is hard to say. I’d say if you’re getting less than 500 new sign ups a month, then you’ll have the capacity to do the demos without expanding your staff. This assumes you have atleast 2-3 programmers, 1 marketer / salesperson , 1 customer support person, and 1 product manager. This is trading time for dollars but it’s better than most other time-trading activities. It’s certainly much better than most other ways your non-programming staff could be spending their time.

It also has a valuable halo benefit for your marketers as they get value product experience, user feedback, and immersion experience that they’ll never get otherwise. Force it on them. Trust me, it was pseudo-rush-forced on me and I’m thankful for it. I’m a much better marketer now and I have a lot more ideas for content whereas previously I felt like my mind was a barren wasteland for how to come up with interesting articles for IT Directors and System Administrators.

Product managers, customer support staff, and sales team are all great candidates to poach in for demos. Just train ‘em up, put them on support duty for a week, have them sit in on 3-5 demos with a technical person and voila they’re ready to demo.

3. You need to do some product research / customer focus groups.

A product demonstration is kind of like a 30 minute focus group. Ask the attendee how they found you? How’d they hear about you? What problem are they trying to solve? What other solutions are they trying? Get them talking, you’ll learn a lot by stepping out of the ivory tower and getting on the ground with your users.

This is especially helpful for those who were hired into the company and not part of the initial research process that went into building the product.

4. You like things with massively positive ROI.

Our demo participants convert to paid at 5x the rate of our non-demo participants.

Now, some of that is just a subsidy where a demo is like a freebie we’re giving to a customer who would’ve bought anyway, but some of it is, maybe a lot of it, a real conversion increase (it’s hard to parse out the true percentage lift unless you do one month cold turkey without demos which we’ve never done since launch).


In the next blog, I’ll discuss how to get new customers to actually attend your live product demos.

How to Buy an Email List

I call it lazy man marketing. Start with obvious, simple marketing tactics and then move to more subtle and complex stuff. Keep track of results and repeat anything with a positive ROI.

One obvious and simple marketing tactic is an email list buy, which is exactly what the name implies. Buy a targeted list of email addresses and then sell your stuff to the list.

Your boss/founders will not like the name, nor the description of this technique, so tell them it’s relationship marketing via email. That’ll buy you enough time and budget for a test run. If it doesn’t work, I never told you about this.

Forecasting ROI for email list buys can be a crap shoot because click through rates (CTRs) vary quite a bit.

You can make an educated ROI estimate using industry standard click rates:

(Go here for complete data set.)

The table above doesn’t take into account list quality. That’s a problem because you can’t accurately predict list quality without open rate and CTR histories, which vendors will be very hesitant to release.

That leaves a gaping hole in your ROI equation:

[(# of Conversions) * (Value of Conversions)] – [Dollar Spend] = Return on Investment

(# of Conversions) = (email tactics, list quality, list industry)

(list quality) = (bounce rate, open rate, click rate, conversion rate)

Since you can’t accurately estimate one side of the equation due to the list quality blind spot, your best bet is to focus on the other side of the equation – the cost. Make the cost low enough and you’ll turn a profit no matter how crappy your list.

This is where negotiation skills come in handy. Below I detail the process I followed to negotiate a 57% discount on an email list buy.  All example emails are from the same deal. You can follow the exact process below to replicate the results.

1 – Request bids from multiple email list vendors.

Use a list aggregator like and submit a request to buy a targeted list.

After the request is submitted, several list providers will ping you back with offers.

This bidding process is beneficial because it creates price competition and gives you more negotiating leverage. The goal is not to save money by picking the vendor with the lowest bid. The goal is use the lowest bid to negotiate with the vendor who has the list you really want.

Here’s an example of a bid I received:

Vendor: Many thanks for inquiring with us on [Redacted Company]. We understand you’re looking for IT professionals in Education, HOAs, tech consultants, law firms, churches, and small business owners in the US. We have 10,000 to 15,000 such contacts. Our price for this list is $0.30 per contact.  We may need some time to review the list (and perform a quick refresh) before we deliver the list. This will ensure higher accuracy. Please let me know your thoughts, and how you’d like to proceed.

The price is quoted on a per email basis, which is fairly common.

2 – Qualify yourself

You want vendors to know you’re a qualified lead so they respond quickly to your emails and don’t completely blow you off when you start trying to negotiate.

To qualify yourself all you have to do is ask knowledgeable questions.  If you’re not sure what to ask, start by peppering them with questions from this list:

  • Geography- Is the list US only? North America only? If it’s multi-country, what’s the percent breakdown by country?

  • Records Included – Besides the email address, what other contact info is shared? Name? Job Title? Company Name? Phone Number? Address?

  • License Rights – Is it a one time rental (single deploy)? Multiple rental? Full turnover?

  • Split Testing – Can you AB test different emails to small samples before doing the bulk send?

  • Timing & Process – What do they need from you to get the deal done? How long does it take them to deploy after they receive your content?

  • List segmentation possibilities- Can you filter the list by job title? By state? By income? By company revenue? By number of employees? By company name? etc.

Here’s an example where I chose to inquire about the geography of an email list.

Me: What % of the list are in the US? What % are in English speaking countries?

Vendor: This is entirely US. We don’t have lists for other countries for these verticals but can take this up as a custom requirement. Please let me know.

And another example of me asking about the process

Me: Can you tell me more about how this works? Do you send me a file with all the email addresses? Can I segment the list by industry? For example, can I send a separate email to School ITs vs HOA vs Tech Consultants?

Vendor: We will send you a list in excel with all contact details including email addresses. This will include the industry (so, you will be able to segment the list by industry). As I mentioned earlier, we will refresh the list before sending it to you – this may take 3 to 4 days.

The vendor now knows I’m a real guy, with real interest in his list. This starts a dialogue from which we can build up to a negotiation.

Here’s another question I’ll ask in the later stages:

Me: Do you have click rate and open rate info for these lists?

Vendor: We don’t manage our client campaigns for these lists and hence do not have information on the click and open rates. However, because we run our lists through extensive hygiene tests, including email testing, the bounce rate on the lists should be 5% or less. Hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions, and if there is any other information I could provide.

Notice that the vendor cannot answer my question about click rates and open rates. This is going to set off red flags. Any list owner who has decent open rates and conversion rates is going to be promoting those statistics. Since he doesn’t divulge anything I devalue his list and I’m going to seek a deep discount. Important stuff.

3 – Use the phrase “best offer” instead of “best price” or “lowest cost”

Since you won’t know the negotiating prowess of the person who’s offering the email list, your best bet is to use an open-ended request for their “best offer.”

Notice I wrote “best offer”, not “lowest price” or “best price.” By writing the word “offer” you at least suggest some semblance of appreciating value and don’t just come off as a bargain hunter. People can appreciate someone who’s looking for value, but vendors are less willing to work with someone they perceive as a cheap skate.

Here’s an example where I got right to the point with my request for the best offer:

Me: Great. Send me your best offer and we’ll think it over.

Vendor: For the US list, I have already given you a rate lower than our standard rate (we usually charge $0.4 to $0.5 per contact). I can further reduce it by 10% and offer $0.27 per contact. For the custom list, before I could quote, can you please let me know what countries are you interested in?

The five-word phrase “send me your best offer” results in a 10% discount. Not bad. You can use this phrase repeatedly over the course of the negotiation.

Here I use the same phrase again in the same negotiation and land another discount:

Me: What’s the best CPM you can offer if we buy the whole list of 10K+?

Vendor: As I’d mentioned earlier, the price I quoted was for the combined 10 to 15K contacts we had estimated for all IT contacts in all the verticals you wanted. Please note that this is much lower than our standard rate. I’m already offering a significant discount on our lists as we are keen to take up your work. That said, If you buy all our IT Education contacts (10K+) I can reduce it further to $0.23 per contact or $230 per CPM. This is the lowest I can offer. Let me know how would you like to proceed.

The vendor lowers the price another 7%. Notice how I make reference to buying bulk. That always helps.

Make no mistake, if the price is right, I could buy in bulk. But even if I decide to do a lower volume purchase, I now have a lower anchor price to shoot for. Is the vendor really going to try and not give me the $0.23 price if I buy say 5,000 emails instead of 10,000. Maybe, but I like my odds.

4 – Act like a whale

If you’ve seen the movie, Boiler Room, then you know that a whale is a prospect who has the potential to spend a lot of money.

When negotiating a list-buy it’s advantageous if the vendor thinks you’re a whale. You want to make it seem as if they can hook you for a small deal, then there will be many larger deals to come.

Here I tell the vendor about other targets I’m considering for email list buys. Notice how I take advantage of the opportunity to request another “best offer” and toss in the fact that I’m running the numbers and comparing costs versus the competition.

Me: We’re also looking college/university employees who work in tech/IT/admin or are known to make software purchasing decisions. Do you have any lists like that? Also let me know what your best offers are on these lists. I am running the numbers and if you’re not in a certain range of cost per thousand, then we’ll have to use a different list from another source although I’d prefer to work with you.

Vendor: We have 2,000 to 3,000 IT contacts within colleges and universities in the US. These are all ranks (admin, managers, director, VP, C). We can offer this and the IT contacts list mentioned below for $0.25 per contact or $0.27 for each individual list, as a final price.

 Of note, the “best offer” line nets another discount, 7% off this time.

5 – Ask for total price

Vendors will most often quote a number that reflects the variable cost per email (eg. $250/1000 emails or $0.25/email). But there are all sorts of additional costs that are hidden until the contract is written:

  • Per email costs – the price you pay for each contact.

  • Implementation costs – some vendors take on fees if they send the email on your behalf; common if you’re buying a one-time deploy.

  • Personalization costs – some vendors charge fees if you want the email to include the recipients name in the subject line or greeting.

  • Filter costs – some vendors charge fees if you want to be able to sort the contacts by specific search criteria such as ‘job title’ or ‘company name’; common when a contact list is turned over to you as the owner.

  • Etc

I like vendors to announce these costs early in the conversation so I ask them to provide a rolled-up total contract price assuming a specific number of emails, usually total cost for 10,000 emails for simplicity sake.

Not only does this clarify the total contract price for me, but it also gets the vendor to see the potential value of the deal. This transparency also reminds the vendor how much commission he’s going to lose if he doesn’t make the sale. (see email example in #6)

6 – Trade time for dollars

In this case, I’m encouraging you to get the vendor to invest his time in the deal because that will ultimately save you dollars. For example, I ask vendors to do tasks for me during the negotiation because the more time they commit to the sale, the less they’ll want to walk away from our interaction with nothing to show for the hard work.

Here’s an email that requests the total price and asks the vendor to send a sample file:

Me: Ok, so what’s the total count(s) on number of email addresses? And what’s the total price altogether? Can you send me a sample of what the excel file will have in it, in terms of columns etc? Please send an example excel file.

Vendor: So, the total counts should still be 10 – 15K for both the lists. The price (@ $0.25 per contact) will be $2,500 to $3,750. I have included a sample file (note that these aren’t necessarily relevant contacts for your requirement – this is just a sample output). Do let me know if you have further questions. I look forward to hearing back.

I try to request tasks that are actually useful and mutually beneficial so that I’m not totally wasting the vendor’s time.

7 – Leverage competitive bids

It’s wise to let your vendor know that better offers are available. There is some gamesmanship involved because it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples price comparison between lists because you can’t account for quality.

For what it’s worth, I’ll make reference to a competitor’s bid, but I’ll never disclose the actual figure. Discussed further, below.

 8 – Request a first time trier discount

I also always point out when I’m a first time trier as that is a good reason for a vendor to give you pricing concessions while still retaining their dignity and ego. You need to give your vendor an excuse to lower the price while saving face.

9 – Say “we have the budget”

I use this phrase in every negotiation to let the other guy know that as soon as I feel the deal is reasonable, they’ll get paid. It’s subtle psychology that works.

10 – Appear unafraid to walk away

When the concessions and discounts start to stall, you’ll need to use a phrase that suggests you’re not afraid to walk away from the deal. You can see what I said in this example:

Me: I’m not sure if it’s because school is almost out or what, but we’re getting much better CPM offers elsewhere on the School IT lists. Plus we’re getting larger first time trier discounts. We have the budget, but I can’t justify spending higher CPM with you to buy a list when we have better offers. If you can come down on price, let me know. Otherwise thanks for your help and I wish you continued success.

Vendor: I have offered a rate lower than what we usually offer. However, as I mentioned, we are keen to work with you. If you can let me know what rate you had in mind, I’ll see what I can do.

Now he’s thinking, oh crap, I’m going to lose this sale. Notice how I try to be cordial by wishing him continued success so he can’t hate me and still wants to work with me and understands that the only reason I can’t accept his deal is not something personal. I like him, it’s just that I have other better offers…I really want to work with him, but I can’t if he doesn’t lower the price.

11- Push for “deeper discounts”

By this point in the negotiation you will have exchanged several emails (and maybe a phone call or two) and established some rapport. It’s important to acknowledge the rapport any way you can. In this example, the vendor was the first person to contact me so I pointed that out. I also mentioned the possibility of a recurring relationship where he’d have preferred provider status.

Those are powerful cues that can yield impressive discounts:

Me: I can’t share the CPM offers I’ve received, but it seems to be the introductory rate for School IT list buys this time of year is much lower that what you’ve quoted. You were first to email me and have been helpful. If you can work with us on a much deeper discount for the 1st buy, we can look at a recurring relationship with you and secure you as our preferred person for these type of buys.

Vendor: If you can buy the 10K records and considering that we could be your preferred provider for your data requirements, I can offer you the list for $0.15 per contact. This will be our discounted price for a first buy only.

Boom. The mother load. An 8 cent discount just saved me $1,000 and represents an additional 25% discount (the fourth such pricing concession in this negotiation). I realize how silly it sounds to get excited over 8 cents, but that’s a fairly accurate representation of how happy I was when he sent over the note.

There’s a lot that happened in this email. Let’s revisit.

He wants me to name a price, but I won’t – instead asking for a “much deeper discount.” I’m not going to give in to his request to name a price because the price I really want, if I named it now, would most likely insult the vendor.

I also don’t disclose competitor bids. If I need to, I’ll suggests I’m beholden to some mysterious boss or governing body who won’t let me. I also let him know there’s some serious pricing pressure. That’s important.

I acknowledge my appreciation for him and note that I really want to work with him. That’s important too. It fosters feelings of rapport and exclusivity. The reference to a deeper discount, suggests that I want him to stop cutting 10% at a time because that’s wasting my time. You need to make deep cuts. Then, you can sell me more than once. Preferred partner. Mutually beneficial. Win-win.

12 – “No” isn’t final; pour on some time pressure

Eventually the vendor is going to reject your requests for additional discounts and say “no”. That doesn’t mean the deal isn’t getting done. It just means you hit his price floor and need to use a few special tactics like time pressure to rekindle the negotiation.

Here’s an example of me getting to “No”.

Me: Without disclosing too much about the other list offers we’re considering, if you can do this first list buy for $0.085 per contact, then we can get this first deal done and name you a preferred partner. Otherwise it’ll be tough for this 1st one given the other offers we have.

Vendor: Many thanks. I’m afraid that is a price we can’t match (considering the levels of hygiene we include in our lists and subsequent costs). I would appreciate if you could keep us in mind for your future requirements.

I finally found this vendor’s breaking point. His go or no go point. If I had to guess, the vendor probably paid .03 cents per lead for the list or acquired it himself and he spends a bit of money on overhead, etc to upkeep the list. He says no to my offer, but that just tells me that he won’t do the deal for 8.5 cents per email. It doesn’t mean a deal can’t get done.

So what’s my reply? I go back to old faithful and request his “best offer”

Me: If you can’t meet the 8.5/CPM what’s the best price you can offer? I’d hate to not have a longer term deal with you as a preferred partner just because we can’t reach a good price on this first buy. Let me know if you can come down below .15.

Vendor: I appreciate your comments. As I mentioned, we are also keen to establish a long term relationship with your company. However, I have already provided you a price that is significantly lower than our best offers to other customers. Anything below this isn’t justified at all for us (please note that this is barely covering our costs considering the various processes we run on these lists). I  would love to offer an acceptable price, but this is the best I can do.

Notice the references to a longer term deal, preferred partner, “really want to work with you”, etc.

The vendor concedes that he wants a relationship, but he’s barely covering his costs. That’s an important point. In most first time deals you should be able to get the price close to breakeven, because if they really want you long term they’ll be willing to take a pittance on the 1st deal.

He says he can’t go lower. I think he’s bluffing. I make one last attempt.

Me: We’re looking to make a decision on this today. Can you come down to $0.13 per for this first list buy? It’s a small difference in price but a big step in closing the gap vs competition and getting you in as a preferred partner for list buys. If so, I can work to get the approvals, paperwork and payment done.

Vendor: Okay, we have a deal – lets do $0.13 per contact for this first buy. I look forward to next steps.

I add some time pressure and suggest that things can get done super quickly if he says yes. I indicate that a small change in price will mean a big difference to us.

He comes down to $0.13/email. His original bid was $0.30/email. This represents a 57% discount. Awesome.


Notes from Ryan:

(1) I might have been able to edge the deal down to $0.11 or $0.12 per email, but sometimes you have to know when to let up. If you expect to do multiple deals with a vendor, it’s best to let them have a little taste of profit so they don’t avoid you on the next deal.

(2) If you’re buying a new email list, don’t send the initial blast from your primary email service provider account (i.e. don’t use the same MailChimp or Aweber account that you normally do). Create a new account and send it from that new account. This way, if you buy a bad list with a heavy bounce rate or unsubscribe rate, you won’t be penalized on your main account which will be a major inconvenience. If the new email list turns out to be a winner with low bounce rate and unsubscribes, you can always import it into your main account at a later date.



These definitions may prove useful as you start negotiating email list buys.

Email List Rental – Vendor sells single deployments to the buyer. Also called “single deploys” or “one-time deploys”. The buyer pays for each deploy individually and can arrange for multiple deploys at discounted rates. Some lists are only available on a rental basis. Other lists can be purchased via turnover.

Email List Turnover – Vendor gives a list license to the buyer who can use the list for a specified period of time, usually one-year or unlimited. This is the most valuable type email list to purchase.

Email List Selects – A select is an attribute that can be used to filter a subset of an email list. You often are asked to pay for the privilege of using selects when you purchase an email list.

Personalization – Vendor personalizes the email to include the recipients name in the subject or body. You are often asked to pay for this privilege as well.

TLDR? The following topics were covered:

How to buy an email list.

How to negotiate the price of an email list buy.

How to make an email list buy profitable.