How I Got My Cold Emailing Chops

My first job after graduating college in 2003 was as an account manager at IT Convergence which is a software consulting firm specializing in Oracle ERP software. Our company would regularly attend large software conferences like Oracle OpenWorld as a vendor and the sales reps would man our booth with the goal of generating sales leads in person by scanning attendee badges in exchange for giveaway promotional products like tshirts or mouse pads. When someone would walk by our booth, we would grab their attention, give them a tshirt and then scan their badge which would capture the attendees contact information.

IT Convergence had three main service offerings. Consulting, training, and remote support. Due to the complicated nature of Oracle ERP software, from a sales standpoint, end-user training was by far the easiest service to sell and the best way to build client trust with the goal of selling higher ticket consulting engagements later.

After each conference, our marketing manager would hand us a floppy disk that contained a spreadsheet with all of the leads we gathered at our booth. This was an excel file of all the badges we scanned that contained each leads contact details, the software licenses they held, etc. Our marketing manager was given this data as a part of our booth rental package and then she would distribute them to the sales reps which was important for tracking marketing ROI.

After three years I decided that there wasn’t much else to be gained by staying with the company so I quit and started my journey into entrepreneurship.

My first taste of entrepreneurship was essentially referral marketing for software end-user and developer training courses on a commission only basis. The business model was beautifully simple and effective.

I would purchase attendee data lists for software conferences and simply email them local training course offerings for the software they were running at their company. These trainings were really expensive often $2-3k per day per student for Oracle University courses. A big part of what made the marketing so successful was that the training cost was almost always covered entirely by the employer through their employee training budget. And if the training budget wasn’t used, then they would usually lose that money for the following year so it was a win-win situation and highly relevant and attractive offer for the email recipients. I would frequently achieve open rates in the 60-70% range in the early 2000’s.

One of the most lucrative arrangements I had was with software companies who had booked classroom facilities at a company called New Horizons. Once they booked the classroom space and had a scheduled training course date, their main goal was to fill as many seats as the classroom could hold or the instructor could handle. I would simply research which training courses were scheduled with New Horizons, approach the instructors of the courses and then ask them how much they could pay me to sell the remaining empty seats. Since any empty seat was a complete loss for them, they were often willing to pay me 50% or more of the tuition. I sometimes made $10-$20k in commissions selling seats for 3-5 day technical or end-user training courses.

All I had to do was research which conferences each software company rented booth space from, purchase the attendee list and then send emails to the list with relevant course offerings for the software I already knew they were running.

Back then I was using Salesforce CRM for all of my lead management and email marketing campaigns but Salesforce had daily email sending limits so I had to figure out how to successfully send bulk email campaigns which wasn’t easy because there were restrictions and limitations from all service providers to prevent spammers. And when using email services that had no restrictions or limitations, the main issue always came down to email sending speed.

Back in the day one of my hobbies was building and racing Honda’s and one of the guys I met at a car meetup happened to be the in-house email deliverability expert at Netflix around 1998 which he later left to start his own email marketing consultancy. This guy was a friend of mine and introduced me to an email solution called Robomail that had the performance I needed to successfully send bulk campaigns. Using this email software, I quickly made almost two million dollars in less than two years.

So in a nutshell, this is how I was originally introduced to the world of email marketing.