Good Morning. Let’s start off with some good news. As of today, New York City has entered phase one of reopening. Construction and manufacturing will resume, while retail stores are allowed to reopen for curbside pick up or in-store pick up only. If you just started getting used to not waking up from the sound of 10 jackhammers roaring through your window at 6am, you’re in for a rude awakening (literally).
In this edition we will cover:
How to craft the perfect cold email
The power of tiny gains
Barstool’s not-so-secret sauce
⏱️The Five Minute Favor
It’s no secret that the current grade school curriculum is flawed. Instead of learning about personal finance, entrepreneurship, and relationship building, students are forced into the rote memorization of a bunch of historical and scientific facts, many of which serve little to no relevance in their adult lives. The best way to learn is by doing and in many of the premier high schools (and even colleges) in the country you do almost nothing.
Any entrepreneur you speak to will tell you that they have learned more by doing, than they ever did in the classroom. There are many things that I wish I had learned earlier on, but if I could choose one, it would be how to craft the perfect cold email. In my own “doing,” I discovered that the only way you get is if you ask and that a cold email can be one of the most powerful tools to make things happen.
In the last few years, I have sent over five hundred cold emails. In this time, I have been able to take note of what’s worked, what hasn’t and adjust accordingly. Learning this in school would have saved me a lot of time and effort, and probably would put a few more bucks in my pocket.
Here are my three biggest cold email takeaways so far:
Keep it brief. Nowadays, our attention spans rival that of a fruit fly. No one wants to read more than they have to.
People love to talk about how great they are. Especially entrepreneurs. Make the message about the value you can provide for them, not the other way around.
Lead with a five minute favor.
I was introduced to the idea of the five minute favor a few years ago, as I set out to find interview subjects for my book. The concept, coined by Adam Grant in his book “Give and Take”, goes as follows: Take five minutes of your day to do something that will benefit the lives of others in your network, without expecting anything in return. This could be leaving a review on their book or podcast, sharing a project they’ve been working on, donating a bit of money to a cause they support etc. Not only will doing these good deeds make you feel good, but they can also yield exponential returns.
How Does This Apply to a Cold Email?
When sending a cold email you are most likely asking someone to give up their time to do something for you (coffee chats, job recommendations, warm introductions, etc). The recipient of the email (assuming they are a complete stranger) will normally have zero obligation to help you. The five minute favor evokes the idea of reciprocity and can help break down the initial barrier of awkwardness (we all know that no one actually hopes that their email finds you well). Naturally, we are more inclined to do something nice for someone who has already done something nice for us. By supporting and praising someone’s work before making an ask, you have already set the foundation for building a relationship and in return the person is more likely to donate their time to you.
After learning this trick, I did at least one five minute favor a day for three months, knowing that I may never get anything back in return. When it came time to send a cold email, in the first line I offered a few words of praise, subtly mentioning that I left a review of their book, shared with my audience, etc. It worked like a charm. My inbox was flooded with responses.
The power of the five minute favor can extend way past the initial outreach. The goal is to form a real connection with this person and have the relationship last way longer than a few emails. The idea remains the same, the more you can do for them, the more they will do for you. Just because someone is unable to help you now, doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to in the future. Don’t be afraid to reach out just to offer your praise. You can build on this later. The more five minute favors you do, the more relationships you can build and the more valuable your network will be when you need it the most . Start out with one five minute favor and working on building your network 1% stronger each day. You will be amazed by your growth in just a year. This is the power of marginal gains.
📈Practice Makes Really Good
We constantly hear the cliche “practice makes perfect.” While this is unfortunately not true, it also isn’t a complete lie. Practice does make really, really good. The science behind this can be attributed to the aggregation of marginal gains. The idea of getting a little bit better everyday is nothing magical. You hear it all the time. But it wasn’t until reading James Clear’s best-selling book “Atomic Habits”, that I was able to understand the true power of tiny gains. Here is a quote and illustration (which currently serves as my phone background) directly from the book:
“Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero.”
This mindset can be applied to any goal (losing weight, sending five-minute favors, learning to code etc). Growing up in the digital age has conditioned us to favor situations where we can achieve instant gratification. Working towards something without seeing immediate results can be a challenge. As someone who is admittedly guilty of this, this idea was hard for me to grasp at first. But by putting the proper habits in place early on, you are setting yourself up for success even if you can’t see it right away.
📱The Barstool Effect
Regardless of how you feel about Dave Portnoy or the company itself, there is no denying it. Barstool won quarantine. Between unboxings, frozen pizza reviews, DDTG, Mush Madness, and Coach Duggs, Barstool Sports has captured the eyeballs of media consumers everywhere. Not to mention the Call Her Daddy drama which captivated the internet and helped Barstool to emerge as one of the top five podcast publishers in the US.
There are many reasons why Barstool has been so successful, but one in particular is how they source, grow, and retain their talent. With many “influencers” deceptively hiding behind walls of fake engagement and delivering subpar returns on advertising investments, Barstool has shown how effective building core audiences around your employees can be. By investing in growing the personal brands of their employees, (instead of just the Barstool brand itself) Barstool is able to save valuable marketing dollars using their own in-house “influencers” and attract the best talent in the business.
Started by the media industry, the idea of building personal brands for company talent has started to gain steam in a handful of sectors such as fitness, beauty, and fashion. On Rumble’s website you can find the social media handles for all of their trainers, many of whom are very active on Instagram boasting over 10,000 engaged followers and multiple brand deals. Lucky Brand now features employees across all of their digital campaigns, reporting an engagement increase of 2 to 3 times what a normal influencer campaign would deliver. Even Macy’s has created #Macy’sStyleCrew, a way for employees to model Macy’s products on social media and earn commission in the process.
Building these employee personas has been shown to be mutually beneficial for both the corporation and their working members. Let’s break this down a bit further:
Companies - In a world of facetuned photos and fake engagement, authenticity matters. Consumers are tired of seeing promotions showcasing influencers with edited waists and airbrushed skin, knowing that in most cases their recommendation is powered by a check, rather than the love of the product. Instead, we want to see the faces behind the brand. The real people who make these products come to life. This is music to the ears of corporate marketing managers who no longer need to shell out the lofty fees of high-end influencers. Lucky Brand reported that their typical campaigns cost up to 10x more than their recent employee campaigns have, and as mentioned before, deliver a fraction of the results.
Empowering employees to grow their own brands is also a strong selling point for future talent. There is no denying the advantage that having an audience brings and this is a goal that many young professionals are already looking to achieve. Not to mention the larger the audience that your employees build, the more eyes that are on your product, and the more dollars that are in your pocket.
Employees - For those who have already had aspirations of building an audience, having a national corporation as a platform adds a lot of fuel to the fire. Building a personal brand as an employee can open the door to other lucrative business opportunities. While a Glossier employee influencer couldn’t promote the product of another beauty competitor, he or she could welcome advertising deals in the lifestyle, fashion, and fitness spaces or get paid to speak at industry events. This also gives the employee something to walk away with once their time at the company is done, making them a more attractive candidate for other opportunities or providing them with an upper-hand when negotiating salary with their current employer.
Barstool has perfected this model with it serving as a main driver of their business. Their content is raw, uncensored, and most importantly, entertaining. Employees from all departments of organization are encouraged to grow their own personal brands, and there is a mutual understanding that Barstool will provide the platform and funding to make them as successful as possible. The larger the internet personalities grow, the happier the employees are and the more money Barstool (and the employees) make. Everyone wins.
Enjoying Crashing Up? Don’t forget to share with friends, family, and co-workers (you know, if you’re looking to do a five minute favor). You can also follow me on Twitter or check out randymginsburg.com for more writing.