Last updated on May 13, 2022 - My Free Marketing newsletter 👀
When Steve Chou first emailed me, I rejected him.
But a month later — because of some INSANELY well-written cold emails — Steve won me over.
I’m not the only “successful” person Steve has formed a friendship with.
Steve has also connected with entrepreneur rock stars like Andrew Warner, Laura Roeder, Amy Porterfield, Ryan Deiss, and tons more.
He’s one of the world’s best at connecting with VIPs (top performers, super rich people, and world-changing entrepreneurs).
For example, he previously introduced me to one of the most powerful women in lifestyle, food, and parental blogging: Erin from $5 Dinners. #winning
The previous week I emailed 50 influencers I wanted to chat with, including Erin. Guess what my response rate was?
For 20 hours of work I generated 0 results. (Not a good return on time…)
I couldn’t get in touch with Erin (or other people like Erin) on my own. But because I knew Steve, I was able to get in contact with Erin — and build an incredible business relationship. Today, Erin pays Sumo money every month to help grow her websites.
In other words, Steve made me THOUSANDS of dollars.
One of my secrets to success is to do more of what works.
In my own businesses — Sumo and OkDork — I’ve done a ton of research on my target customers, and I’ve found many of them were featured on business podcasts as guests and interviewees.
So what do you think I did?
I started reaching out to business podcasters who have relationships with large sites and top-notch entrepreneurs. Then, I worked my magic to get introductions to their interviewees.
In fact, through a podcast is how I met Steve Chou.
Steve runs the massively successful The My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. (My podcast is catching up to yours, Steve!)
Today, I invited Steve to share he gets high-level VIPs to be guests on his podcast. Whether this means new six-figure business contracts, new friendships, or something else, this can help you connect with whomever you want.
Take it away, Steve Chou.
Hi, awesome dorks.
My name is Steve Chou and over the years, I’ve leveraged the power of networking to build...
Most people don't realize the power of networking with other influencers.
Today, I'm going to teach you how I snag big name guests for my podcast — and how you can get in contact with VIPs, top influencers, and celebrities yourself.
In fact, my podcast is how I met Noah and now we're buds. Why else would he have a pair of underwear with my name on it? (Ask Noah in the comments for the backstory…)
Here’s the truth: The first email that I sent Noah to get him on my podcast was definitely NOT my best work. It wasn’t anything special… and as you saw at the beginning of the post, I actually got DENIED the first time around even though we were introduced through a mutual friend!
“Right now I’m a bit swamped” = Your podcast is not worth my time
“I don’t have too many new things to say” = I don’t want to talk to you right now
“Down to touch base in a month” = You have one more shot to get me in the sack.
After all, when has Noah ever “not had new things” to talk about?!
Bottom line, my email wasn’t compelling enough, and “Rhino” aka “Rabbi Can’t Lose” aka “DJ PB” needed to be wooed.
So I switched things up, got a little creative, and took a few calculated risks.
For example, here’s a weird fact about Noah: After doing a little research, I learned about Noah’s propensity to date Asian women. When I emailed him the second time, I told him that I ran an Asian dating podcast.
Instantly, he was curious and I got another chance. Here’s how I finally landed him on my podcast.
This is the exact email sequence I used to get Noah on my show before I had ANY listeners.
In addition to Noah, I’ve managed to land a lot of high-profile entrepreneurs using various tactics and creative forms of outreach.
I’m going to share my outreach strategy with you today.
Here’s exactly how I do it.
First off, I almost never ever cold email anyone.
Why? Because, even after I’ve refined and tested it thousands of times, it works less successfully than other methods. Even a well-written email will get ignored 95% of the time.
I mean, look at Noah.
He was employee #30 at Facebook, #4 at Mint, runs the 8-figure business Sumo… but the poor guy tried to cold email 50 females and got 0 responses. That’s a pretty terrible response rate and certainly not worth his time.
As an ecommerce influencer and podcaster myself, I probably receive between 3-5 pitches per day from people who either:
I ignore 99% of these emails, read the first sentence of the other 1%, and respond to less than 1%.
That’s not all I’m emailed about. I also get asked about 2-3 times per week to be a guest on various podcasts, and I turn most of these requests down.
I don’t say this to brag. There are people way more important than me, and the reason why I’m telling you this is to show you cold emailing an influencer is tough. Especially if you’re new to the game, and no one knows who you are.
Sure, you might get lucky and strike gold 0.1% of the time. But think about the effort and time involved in crafting 1,000 personal emails. Not a good ROI.
In other words, would you rather send out a thousand custom emails and get a 0.1% response rate… or would you rather focus your efforts, do a little research, and land a bigger fish on your first try?
If cold emailing isn’t the best way to connect with influencers, there must be a better way.
And there is.
The best way to get your email read is to find someone to refer you. In an ideal world, this person should be a mutual friend.
So the first thing I always do is check out my VIP’s personal Facebook or LinkedIn profile. Do we have any friends in common?
Hopefully, you’ll recognize at least 2 or 3 people that you have in common.
Note: These people don’t always have to be direct connections. There have been a few instances where I’ve had to contact a friend of a friend for the VIP. Make sure that you leverage the networks of your friend-of-friends.
Once you have a list of friends, connections, or friends-of-friends who can introduce you to your VIP person, make a list and follow the next step.
Once you have created a list of mutual friends or acquaintances, you’re ready to execute what I call the “Chou-fuschian Ambush” technique.
First, you need to email your list of mutual friends and ask for an introduction to your VIP.
In the case of Ryan Deiss, I got Billy Murphy, Andrew Warner, Laura Roeder, and Maneesh Sethi to help me.
These people don’t have to be good friends with your VIP. They just have to know who they are.
Here’s an exact template you can use yourself:
SUBJECT LINE: Hi, [FRIEND NAME]! Quick favor
I had a quick question for you. By chance, are you good friends with [INFLUENCER]?
If so, I was wondering if you'd be willing to introduce the two of us. I’d love to pick [his/her] brain. I can send you a pre-formatted email to make it easy for you to forward.
P.S. [Personalized P.S. showing you’ve been keeping track of what your friend has been up to, aka stroking your friend’s ego]</blockquote>
SUBJECT LINE: Excited for this...
Excited to send you this email today. My friend, [YOUR NAME], does [THING YOU DO].
[YOUR NAME] is curious to pick your brain, and I think it’s worth connecting you both.
Here’s some more about [him/her]:
- [YOUR ACCOLADE #1]
- [YOUR ACCOLADE #1]
- [YOUR ACCOLADE #1]
Can I make an intro so you two can chat?
To see this in action, here’s the email I sent to Laura:
I had a quick question for you. By chance, are you good friends with Ryan Deiss?
If so, I was wondering if you'd be willing to introduce the 2 of us. I'd love to have him on the podcast.
PS. Hope Edgar is kicking butt. Love the pictures I've been seeing of your family on FB
After she agreed, I sent her the exact email I wanted her to write to Ryan.
My friend Steve Chou runs the popular podcast called MyWifeQuitHerJob where he interviews entrepreneurs about how they got started with their businesses.
The show has a large following, I've been on twice and it has brought me a lot of traffic.
In any case, Steve would love to have you on the show. Can I make an intro?
His blog gets 200-250K readers per month
His podcast gets 50K downloads per month off of 4 episodes (12K downloads per)
All podcasts go out to his email list of 70K
If you have decent credentials (like website visitors, accolades, etc.), include in your email. If not, leave it out — and get creative with something else.
For example, in addition to the email I asked Laura to send, I sent similar emails to Andrew Warner, Billy Murphy, and everyone else on my list with the following kicker...
I asked everyone to email Ryan at approximately the same time a few days apart.
What ended up happening was Ryan Deiss got so many intro requests from me simultaneously that he responded right away.
If the person who referred you is someone the influencer trusts or is a good friend, you have a pretty good chance of getting them on a call even if you screw things up.
Personally, I always give every referral from a trusted source a chance.
But with Noah, even though I was introduced to him by a mutual friend, he still needed additional convincing.
This is where you have to do your research:
In Noah’s case, I simply quoted my current traffic levels, my income for the prior year, and how I could drive targeted traffic to his business. It did the trick.
For Noah, proof in numbers was enough validation. But every influencer may require a different strategy, and there’s no cookie cutter approach.
With Amy Porterfield, I simply used gratitude to get her on my show. One of her many products is a course on how to conduct webinars online.
When I first emailed Amy, I mentioned that I had studied her free material, watched all of her webinar tutorials, and managed to make $60,000 in my first webinar because of her.
In fact, I casually slipped this in the “P.S.” line
P.S. I used your webinar tactics for my very first webinar and made $60K! If you need a testimonial, let me know
Anyone who teaches a class is ALWAYS looking for success stories. Because I used her material to make money, she was much more likely to want to come on my show.
Even better news: Not only did I get Amy on my show, but she ended up having me as a guest on her show as well which brought my blog a ton of traffic.
Whether it’s Noah, Amy or someone else, my entire goal is to find a way to provide value to whoever I’m trying to get on the show.
In Noah’s case, I provided him with social proof and offered to drive traffic to his business.
In Amy’s case, I offered myself as a testimonial she could use to sell more of her courses.
Think outside the box and find ways to be of service whether it be through business or pleasure.
(Pro tip for anyone trying to get in touch with Noah: If I were to approach Noah randomly today, I might mention that I used to play Ping Pong on my Chinese school team.)
If you’ve followed the instructions above, you might have already landed your first high profile influencer on your podcast. Congrats!
Life is good. But don’t celebrate too soon. After your interview, it’s essential to leave a lasting impression.
After all, what’s the point of having a successful entrepreneur or public figure on your podcast if he or she doesn’t remember you? It’s not a one-night stand.
One of the main reasons I run my podcast is to meet and establish real relationships with other successful entrepreneurs.
I often rely on my podcast guests to refer me to other successful entrepreneurs. In order to feel comfortable asking for a referral, you have to be memorable.
Send your guests a creative follow-up email so they remember who you are AFTER the interview.
Here’s an example of an email I sent to Jadah Selner and Jen Hansard of Simple Green Smoothies.
Great interview today. Unfortunately as a podcaster, I'm forced to perform extensive due diligence before an episode goes live. And here's what I uncovered after just a tiny bit of Googling.
Erin, I appreciate you introducing me to these two, but I'm not sure that I can air the episode in light of the following scandal.
Jadah Sellner and Jen Hansard Caught In Taco Bell Starbucks Scandal
New York, NY, June 4, 2015 PRNewswire – Jadah Sellner and Jen Hansard, co-owners of SimpleGreenSmoothies.com, revealed their frustrations today as they were both spotted regressing back to their old unhealthy habits.
Jadah (pictured below) was photographed chomping down on a Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell while hiding her face underneath a hat.
"I was so sick of green smoothies that I had to treat myself to a Ranch Flavored Doritos Locos Tacos. I was literally going Loco", Jadah was quoted as saying as she took another deliciously crispy bite.
As if by fate, Jen Hansard was seen minutes later drinking a Blended Caramel Ribbon Crunch Crème Frappuccino Macchiato.
"If I have to drink another Simple Green Smoothie, I'm going to kill myself," Jen screamed as she downed her Frappuccino like a woman dying of thirst.
Apparently cleansing with vegetables and fruit is not as easy as it seems. Stay tuned for more updates.
About Simple Green Smoothies: Simple Green Smoothies' mission is to spread the gospel of healthy eating.
After I sent this press release to Jadah and Jen, we laughed about it for weeks. And because I established a lasting connection, these two later introduced me to Jonathan Fields who was one of my blogging idols when I first got started.
Just for fun, here are some other fun follow-up emails that I’ve sent out for your amusement.
This is an email that I sent out to Tony Horton, the inventor of P90X.
Hey Tony, Shawna,
Awesome interview today! Unfortunately as a podcaster, I'm forced to perform extensive due diligence on all of my guests. And here's what I uncovered after just a tiny bit of Googling.
Shawna, you were incredible in helping arrange the interview but I'm not sure that I can air the episode in light of the following scandal. (See press release below)
Tony Horton Caught In Junk Food Scandal. Fitness Career Over
Brentwood, CA, April 1, 2015 PRNewswire – Tony Horton, the award winning creator of the home exercise hit P90X, was spotted today on an epic junk food binge.
Tony (pictured below) was photographed chomping down on McDonald's french fries in a room littered with dirty junk food wrappers.
Judging by the amount of trash in the room, experts estimate that he'd been consuming filth for approximately 4 weeks.
"First I gave up carbs. Then I stopped eating sugar. And enough was enough!!!!!", Tony was quoted as saying as he shoved a handful of fries into his mouth.
His fitness career over, Tony was last spotted trying out for the Chippendales Senior Citizen tour.
Maintaining an impeccable body and being a role model for men’s health was too much for Tony which just goes to show that even well known fitness stars don't always have their act together.
About Tony Horton Fitness: Tony Horton's mission is to helps millions of people stay in shape and eat right. His next book "Eating Like Shit" is due to hit bookstores later this year.
Here's the podcast image I used for Pat Flynn. He's a big time Cal fan so it only made sense...
And then when he released his brand-new book, Will it Fly, we did another podcast interview together and I made him a custom book cover.
In the case of Noah, I sent him a bunch of non-business related follow-up emails just for fun. For example, I had one interviewee on my show who was interested in meeting Noah and Neville so I let them know about it.
Somehow, this series of emails led to an exchange of gifts which included underwear, random outfits, and other weird stuff. Don't ask...
In any case, over the years Noah has introduced me to a ton of people including Jordan Harbinger from Art of Charm, Eric Siu of Single Grain, Nemo Chu, and countless other entrepreneurs.
Now after reading this post, you might be thinking to yourself….
Here’s the thing: You have to take baby steps.
If you’re trying to go after Tony Robbins or Noah Kagan from day one, you aren’t going to get very far.
Instead, you need to gradually build your network. Everyone knows someone who is a tiny bit more successful than they are.
Start off by interviewing people in your immediate network and then gradually expand by asking your guests to provide you with new referrals.
Over time, your reach will grow to the point where there will only be a couple degrees of separation between you and any influencer you would like to meet.
Good insight and examples. If I were trying to reach Noah I would go with tacos. I mean they were introduced in 1905 to the US, plus in Latin America the use of freshly made, soft, flat corn tortillas is widely used or he can try patacones rellenos like these https://youtu.be/GOBfELAbvq8 not always is about technology sometimes is about good food. Loved this post, even using tacos as bullet points 🙂 Thanks for sharing Steve and Noah.
Super Steve strikes again! Love love love this.
Clap, clap, clap real hard.
Steve, I love your style man 🙂
It is very rear to read marketing stuff and to smile and giggle like a schoolgirl at the same time.
I am glad I found your blog.
Unfortunately, I will hunt you down...
for more insights about my upcoming influencer marketing course. (This was supposed to be a plot twist 😀 )
Noah, I am glad you put so much time and energy in OkDork again 🙂
It is a truly sad state of human evolution that these lengths are gone to, to do what exactly? Search for personal belonging? Search for external WTF!
Steve's photoshop skills/creativity/humor never cease to amaze me! The only reason I'm even nice to him anymore is I'm scared of all the possible blackmailing he could do with those super powers 😉
Goodness gracious, Steve! You are an incredible writer and have such a great sense of humor!!! My friend Prerna forwarded this article to me and I loved every word of it!
I started a FB live interview show last year interviewing successful mom entrepreneurs and Erin was one of my very first guests!! Even after interviewing her and building a friendship - I had no idea she had this secret businessy background! I thought she was just an amazingly successful food blogger!
Anyway, I've gotten some AMAZING take aways and one of them is that I know a lot of the people you've mentioned in the article but have never reached out with value and or connection request. You've got my gears spinning! Thank you so much!
This an awesome post with lots of great insight and proven working tips. Thank you for writing this Steve and for inviting him Noah.
Nevertheless, I'm sorry to say but it has only scared me away even more from trying to get in touch with influencers.
For two reasons: a) I don't have any referrals that could possibly introduce me to any influencer; b) I don't have those mind-blowing stats (yet) to impress influencers, especially because (compared to them) I'm just starting and more so because my podcast hasn't been launched.
What's the workaround in this situation?
Whoops, I've just re-read the final section and it answered my question. 🙂
I'll take baby steps to climb this steep ladder.
When Steve wanted to connect with me, he flew to Washington State, rented a car, drove to my house, and slept on my front porch for almost a week.
The cops had to finally remove him. It got a little weird.
But when my little girl was born, I named her Rosie Chou.
So Steve knows what he's talking about.
(Nice post, sirs!)
Steve, this article popped up on Facebook today and precisely the time in my life that I need to know this information. OMG it's like you read my mind. Maybe bordering on creepy.
Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to take this information and get some of those big name peeps on my show.
Of course, having an awesome show to ask them to be a guest on is super helpful...
He is just THAT GOOD with FB ads. 😉
I feel the same way!!! This gave me such a huge boost to go for the a-listers for my show!!! Good luck, dear!
Steve, THIS was SO cool and SO fun... I'm a big fan of using "warm" emails for a lot of pitching over the last 6 years or so... but you gave me SO much food for thought >> Thinking out of the box, building and nurturing your relationships, going above and beyond and most importantly, having the courage to make an ask...
Love it. All of it.
P.S. Noah is right. Your writing is ridiculously good. Paraphrasing since cannot ahem, swear 😉
Prerna!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this article with me!! I found it so so helpful!
Also, when you said that Steven is a good writer - I agree - but LOOK WHOS TALKING!! You're an INCREDIBLE writer yourself!!!! Wish I could be at least half as good!!!!
You're MOST welcome Vicky!! I thought of you as soon as I read it... Steve has some great insights!! Also... Thank YOU for your kind words, sweet friend!!
The internet has enabled us to "reach" more people than ever but how you connect has remained the same - it's about being real, taking a vested interest in other people, and investing the time to get really good at Photoshop. 🙂
Seriously though, if more people took the time to build relationships rather than systems to send massive numbers of emails out, they'd get far better results. These are great suggestions, thanks Steve.
"Oh my gawd...it's Jim Wang!" You know you've hit the big time when one of the grandfathers of PF blogging comments on your post. Thanks Jim!
Every technological advancement costs a little bit of humanity.
Humans are very good at recognizing humanity, in a world of automation - it's only getting stronger. That's why starting an email subject line with a lower case letter always gets someone's attention.
Steve, I think a lot of people know they need to be more human. The problem is the risk.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about 'the line' and how you know how close you can get without crossing it. Your writing is absolutely ridiculous (in the best way) but you seem to know exactly how close to get without going to far.
Steve! OMG I had no idea you were so ridiculously funny. Some great ideas in here. Loved this bro!
Love those graphic design and humorous writing skills. You got it down to a science. Who could resist. Congrats on all your growth over the past few years.
Thanks Todd! You were one of the first guys I met at Fincon and I really value our friendship!
Love these steps Steve, great timing as I'm planning to start my own podcast this year. You've come a long way from when I had to drag you out to your first FinCon to meet people in person! 😉
Actually Tom. It was because of you that I attended my first conference. Good luck with the podcast!
I've seen you around the internet sphere for a while now. Great stuff and initiative. I've read quite a few posts on this topic, but this one is pretty good actually. Congrats on everything; I don't know how you're able to juggle it all.
For me, I've recently caught myself and asked a higher-level question: why do you want to talk or interview these people in the first place? By hacking the problem in this way, I realized that there's enough interview shows asking most of the questions I'd ask these people. I'm truly only interested in forming great relationships with them and learning from them.
Therefore, I'm NOT going to interview them. I may use your tips for other purposes.
Thanks Will! Forming great relationships and learning from other entrepreneurs is the exact reason why you should be interviewing:) Most of the juicy stuff happens after the interview and there's no better way to get someone on Skype 1 on 1 for an hour.
I wholeheartedly agree! Starting a show has been the best and most selfish thing I've done 😉 how else can you get amazing mom entrepreneurs to share their wisdom and knowledge without paying an arm and a leg 😉
Thanks for the info! But Why can't we see all of the email thread between you two? I'd actually love to see a full start to finish thread/history so we can validate that his cold email skills are actually the reason he's closing here 🙂
Noah and I have exchanged a ton of emails over the years, some of which are NSFW:) But to actually get Noah on the podcast was pretty simple once I knew what he wanted. And in fact, the email thread posted above is the exact thread I used to get him on the show the first time.
However what's more interesting are the email followups. As I mentioned in the post, an interview is just an interview and the follow up emails are what cement the relationship and the friendship. I've posted some of those emails above with Noah and other entrepreneurs but I have other examples if you'd like to see them.
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