By Andrew Neitlich

More real data from marketing on a shoe string

By Andrew Neitlich

The non-profit venture I wrote about last week (http://www.actioncorps.org if you are interested) continues to chug forward, and can provide you with some new data about what works and doesn’t. As it turns out, one offer has blown all the others away, easily by a factor of 50-100!

As you may recall, I’ve tried press releases to local and national media, my own network of friends/colleagues, and this Sitepoint blog as ways to get attention.

The only one of the above that has really delivered so far has been a release to a local, obscure online publication, which got me a request to speak at Rotary tomorrow, which will easily get me 50-60 sign ups (when you speak, always have a form that you give to all participants with an offer to get them to sign up).


But the best offer/tactic by far has been my own consulting mailing list plus a special free offer. I sent out a broadcast message asking people to join this venture (which only requires giving an email and name), in exchange for a free leadership ebook valued at $99.

Response has been so overwhelming that I’ve invested in an autoresponder to collect names.

What are lessons here?

1. ALWAYS start where you are. A small list of contacts that know you and trust you almost always does better than a huge list of people that don’t know you. This lesson also applies to choosing a target market, as you will get more clients for less work with a focused market, even if it is smaller than the illusory appeal of 14 million small businesses.

2. A related offer will increase response significantly. In this case, the non-profit venture is about taking on assignments to help those in needs. So a book on leadership is a great premium to offer in exchange for signing up. Free books or guides on your subject of expertise can generate prospect names and show them that you are more than a mere vendor.

Non-profit and profit ventures have obvious differences, but these lessons on operating on a shoe string apply to both.

(BTW, if you want that free book, just sign up and you will get it; I’m now sending it to anyone who joins as the response is too strong to not do across the board).

  • This is some great advice. I must admit. I really love this blog, I’m in the middle of starting my own business and this stuff is gold.


    Heh, cheap plug, but I learned it here!

  • aneitlich

    Nick B:

    Thanks for post. But please clarify: Do you really think above is a cheap plug, and were you being 100% sarcastic?

    If so, I will never again share data from my sites, even the non-commercial ones.

    So far, I’ve shared the following data, in terms of a rough index of response:

    Email to my list with offer for free book: 125

    Speech at Rotary: 60 (Source: local press release)

    Speech at local club: 5 (Source: same local press release)

    My own network via emails: 10

    Specific Releases: 10 plus 2 invitations to speak; 75 total

    Blog: 3

    General Releases (PRWeb and BusWire): 2

    If sharing the site’s URL comes across as a cheap plug, so you can see the offer being made, then I will stop sharing this data.

    It is in your hands. Please reply promptly.

  • I’m really surprised that links from Sitepoint didn’t work out for you. That would be my guess as the best method since a lot of people are interested in what you have to say.

  • bob

    I think Nick B was saying he was making a cheap plug, not you…

  • thanks for all the great articles. I enjoy them a lot.

  • Sorry to offend, I was being fleeting. I didn’t mean any disrespect.

    The data you provide is very useful indeed. It’s hard to be sarcastic online, I forget that tone isn’t printable. Apologies…

  • I was serious about the love this blog part, though. I really do. It’s a shame that my first comment came across badly, my fault.

    Interesting data. I just checked my site stats and sitepoint is now my number three referrer. My site has been live for about a month now and I find that fantastic. I never meant to come across as saying that SitePoint links don’t work, as they obviously do.

    Thanks, Andrew!

  • These have been extremely valuable posts. People are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on press releases and other promotion methods when the most effective solutions may be right under their noses.

    If you have ever heard about John Reese’s $995 Traffic Secrets I think he did the same thing. It appears that he got 99% of his initial momentum through e-mail. Word of mouth combined with an affiliate program spread like wild fire and delivered extraordinarly targetted traffic to his site within a 24 hour period.

    It seems too often we want to rush and grab an anti-airsoft missile to do jobs that a .22 can do quicker, cheaper, and far more effectively.

  • MarkB

    Case examples such as this are the perfect way to learn what works for people (and could possibly work for you), and what doesn’t (so may not be for you). Thanks for posting these, Andrew.

  • I think this thinking is flawed. What would have happened if you offered the free ebook in the press release? You will always get the greatest response if you give away something valuable …

  • aneitlich


    You are correct, although I suspect that the release still wouldn’t have been picked up by the media. Definitely worth a test on next release though! Thanks.

  • Flawed?!? His intention was (is) to promote the new not-for-profit site and get people to sign up, at a smallest cost possible. His goals are being met so how in the world is this flawed?

  • drakke


    I think Sasa was trying to say that it may be the free offers that generated the response and not the medium (ie. press release, newsletter etc).

  • Despite the fact tha Andrew said it was the free offer (through his consuting mailing list) that generated the best response, I still don’t see why this line of thinking is “flawed”

  • aneitlich

    Nick b:

    Thanks for clarification. “Composure” has been my issue this week (per last blog), and so I’ve had a tendency to react strongly or over-react. I appreciate your kind words though, and probably need to get some stronger meds :).

    As an aside, Sitepoint is EXTREMELY strong as a referrer to me for books, consulting, etc. However, the non-profit concept might not fit the interests of this audience (as it is about international aid, not web design and development). So that might be why response has been less strong for this particular venture.

  • Gonjiness

    Addressing Andrew’s last comment; I agree that the reason why many SitPoint people didn’t sign up is because we are interested in web design, and (not non-profit organizations).

    I’m sure many of us checked out Andrew’s site, but I know that most of us were looking at the design first and the idea second.

    I am involved in three non-profit groups so the site’s content did appeal to me and I decided that would read the site more thoroughly at later that day. Andrew’s ebook offer sealed the deal for me (although I most likely would have signed up anyway).

  • Hey Andrew,

    Don’t worry. I can see why my comments came across the way they did. I agree, we are sort of tailored one way…web development. I’m doing work on a non-profit site right now and I find that the focus tends to be so specific that it’s hard generating a lot of interest anywhere, let alone just at SitePoint.

    I’m looking forward to more posts Andrew! Keep ’em coming. I promise I’ll proof-read my comments more closely in future…;-)

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