How I made AppSumo a lot of money through emails

Two quick background stories then I’ll show how some clever writing made AppSumo an ass-ton of money:

———QUICK BACKGROUND STORY 1———

This guy, Noah Kagan is one of my close friends.  He was something like employee number 30 at Facebook and employee number 3 at Mint.com, then started a bunch of other companies.

His new thaang is AppSumo.com which is like “Daily Deals for Geeks”.  It’s like Groupon but for nerds like me.

Well recently Noah moved back to Austin, and he gets bored running his $(he-won’t-let-me-release-his-revenue-but-it’s-really-good) company from home, so he scooters on over to my place to work.

We sit around, work, geek out….and for some reason on Fridays we have a weekly tradition of drinking while we work.  It’s nerd heaven.

Whatever.

On to the next piece of this puzzle:

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———QUICK BACKGROUND STORY 2———

Roughly 9 or 12 months ago I started taking a deep interest in copy writing.

Copy writing is the “art” of writing…..copy (aka WORDS).

Basically copy writing is used to “sell stuff better”.

Naturally this interests me since I:

1.) Write a lot (hence this blog).

2.) Own an online rave company that persuades people to buy stuff.

It was weird because I was staying up sometimes till 6am reading about this stuff and taking notes.  It somehow just….gelled with me.  I started reading everything I could about copy writing…and essentially bought every book I could about it.

I took notes.

I re-read things.

I re-read my own notes.

All the concepts all the gurus talked about were the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I was doing in my own business…so this angered and intrigued me.

I quickly remembered a sort-of-relatable quote about why so many people fail at losing weight:

“Reading about sit-ups, is not DOING sit-ups”

So with this guilt trip in my head, I decided to implement some of this copy writing junk…even though it was 100% the opposite thing I’d been doing with HouseOfRave.com.

To my utter-shock-surprise the first time I implemented all the copy writing rules I learned….the email blast I sent out pretty much sold out my inventory in two hours.

You can see the exact email I sent out that did this (warning: it’s password protected, so follow the instructions to get the el passwordo).

Fan-freakin-tastic for me eh?

Now let’s move on……

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———LET’S TIE THOSE TWO STORIES TOGETHER———

So one day Noah’s geeking out at my place, and I get an email from AppSumo for some deal they were running.

It was a Grasshopper.com $100 credit or something like that…and I wanted it.

However I was blatantly disappointed by the email saying simply:

“$100 Credit for GrassHopper.com, the phone system for entrepreneurs!”

AppSumo was still selling a TON of the deals with this format…but after all my intensive copy writing studying, this type of short email seemed like an egregious injustice to AppSumo AND the email reader.

Naturally I yelled at Noah saying, “Dude….I bet a lot of people don’t realize the true value of Grasshopper….why don’t you EXPLAIN what it can DO FOR THE USER, then offer them the $100 off?”

Noah agreed.

I further started showing him the structure of good sales copy, and “How I could TOOOTTALLY do better.”

He put me up to it.

I actually WANTED to do some of the emails in exchange for collecting the performance data.  Where else could I test out several emails a week to 50,000 people?

Anywhozit….I started preparing the emails 2 days before each deal came out, and….

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:

The first deal was something of a crappy deal.  Now I don’t mean it was a BAD deal….but it was going to SELL CRAPPY because it was extremely niche based.  It was a deal for a service that sends you 4 sets of matched fonts per month.

Now NO ONE BUT HARDCORE DESIGN NERDS would buy this….in fact, they all know you can get thousands of fonts online for free.  This was a carefully curated collection of fonts, and only hardcore graphics designers would buy something like that….to make it an even harder sell, it was a lifetime membership costing something like $125.

With the old AppSumo email style, this deal had no chance of stellar sales.

But then Enter Copy-Writing-Minded-Neville:

I quickly realized a VERY specific deal would exclude tens of thousands of people in this case…so I tried applying copy writing techniques to neutralize that.  Basically, being open and honest about it.

It started out like this:

If the names “Lucida Sans Unicode” or “Courier New” don’t mean anything to you, go ahead and close this message.

You see my friend, today we’re reaching out only to the community of people known as font whores.

You know who you are!

If your knees go weak when I whisper, “GARAMOND.”
…you might be one of em.

Right off the bat this doesn’t necessarily sound like a typical marketing message.  In fact, it’s mildly offensive and quite sexually suggestive.

But you know what….PEOPLE READ IT.

People emailed us back saying the email had NOTHING to do with their line of work, but they still enjoyed reading the email.

We also got people saying they HATED the email and that it was misogynistic and (insert more whiny-bitch-complainer examples)…..you get the point.

SO THEN WHAT HAPPENED??

To Noah’s surprise, this particular deal TOOK OFF!  It was like one of those movies where the ugly girl puts on some makeup, let’s her hair down and wears a gown and is suddenly hot.

So what did this mean?

It means I just made AppSumo a bunch of MONAAAY!!:

Hooray right?  I just made SOMEONE ELSE a bunch of money!

So that was pretty damn cool.  We turned the ugly girl into the “belle of the ball” with the power of of the pen.

Naturally the Chief Sumo wanted me to do the next email, then the next, then the next etc….

Some funny things happened in the next few email send-outs:

  • Every email did EXCEEDINGLY well compared to past emails. Only difference: Good copy.
  • The emails did piss off a small subsection of people, and the unsubscribe rates went up 1% on certain emails.  1% is actually BELOW industry standards…so we’re all good.
  • We got people saying they LOVED reading the emails and how cool they were.
  • We got some people saying they LOATHED the emails (these for the most part were whiny-bitch-complainers who never bought anything anyway).
  • One of the emails (that I spent a lot of time on) got the HIGHEST CONVERSION RATE EVER for any AppSumo email…..or ANY email I’ve ever heard of in my life.  A normal “good-converting” email is usually at 1% conversion (meaning 1% of the people it goes to actually BUY something directly from that email).  This particular email had over 10% conversion. If you understand what I’m talking about, that’s INCREDIBLE.

So that’s how I made AppSumo a ton of moolah….and learned something in the process.

I should teach a class on this stuff…..

Blog posted on: April 29, 2011

37 comments on “How I made AppSumo a lot of money through emails

  1. Alexis Neely

    This is a great story of the importance of good copy AND why you want to be both loved and hated. Most entrepreneurs are not willing to deal with the hate and as a result lose the love too.

    Reply
  2. Michael Carabini

    In this post well highlight some considerations when writing effective email copy including tone personality keeping it concise offering value to the reader and testing… We do this in everyday life how you talk to a new client will in most cases be very different from how you address your partner or friends. And just like real life being authentic and conversational is key to creating dialogue regardless of whether youre selling fashion to teens or life insurance to retirees…..With this in mind consider the unique voice of your email communications and keep it consistent.

    Reply
  3. Ashley

    Hey Nev,

    I just finished watching your Ap Sumo interview, and somehow ended up on your blog! I guess I couldn’t get enough of the copy writing juju. I’m an ex-journalist who has recently taken interest in the science of copywriting. Wow, that makes me sound so much older than I am! The truth is, that lasted for about a year after college before I realized I had no interest in writing about city council meetings, or covering the crime beat =) I just finished taking a course with Eben Pagan and found your interview to be very complimentary. Thanks for giving real examples and for listing your copywriting resources!

    P.S. Don’t you just LOVE Austin? Taco Deli mexican mashed potato tacos rule!

    Reply
    1. Neville

      Hey Ashley, glad you enjoyed…but hopefully you LEARNED.

      It’s amazing how simply some of the stuff I taught in the course is. Actually Andrew Warner from Mixergy just emails me saying he saw a 3X increase in conversions when sending out emails in the manner I taught :-)

      Reply
      1. Ashley

        Oh yeah I guess there is a difference between learning and enjoying – actually doing! I’ll try this approach when I write my next email newsletter to the subscribers in my 9-5 job. Thanks again!

        Reply
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  5. Hylan

    It would be nice to share some of those copy writing best practices you learned! :) I’m eager to know!

    Reply
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  7. Bryan

    Hey, did you start writing for Udemy!?

    Or did they take your Kopywriting Kourse too?

    Today’s Course of the Week email reads just like your AppSumo copy!

    Reply
  8. Tom

    Neville,

    I hope you know how to do this, but my email this morning FEATURED the kopywriting kourse, which I already purchased. It shouldn’t. Also, there should be a link to say hey, i already bought this. If you hire me, I’ll help you guys make emails that not only do that, but can show custom features for different customers, and can make custom ‘also looked ats’ at the bottom for the most popular cross-sells.

    -Tom

    Reply
  9. Tom

    Nev,

    I hope you know how to do this, but my email this morning FEATURED the kopywriting kourse, which I already purchased. It shouldn’t. Also, there should be a link to say hey, i already bought this. If you hire me, I’ll help you guys make emails that not only do that, but can show custom features for different customers, and can make custom ‘also looked ats’ at the bottom for the most popular cross-sells.

    -Tom

    Reply
  10. Zach

    NICE JOB DUDE, I AM LOVING THE KKK! Your recommended reading alone might have been worth the price…

    The Boron Letters are genius, and I’ve even been experimenting with Halbert’s advice on “road work” and movement as a cure for anxiety, etc. etc. Onto Sugarman…

    I have ONE QUESTION for you, though: your Digg method of headline writing.

    Have you been over to Digg.com lately? I can’t find the search function anywhere. I fear they got rid of it.

    Do you have any other sites you recommend with search functions that can similarly sort the results by user likes to find good headline ideas?

    Thanks man! I was all pumped to explore some headline ideas and take notes, and then….disappointment.

    Let me know.
    Zach

    Reply
  11. Dawn Jones

    Just watched your AppSumo interview (learned a ton)and ended up signing up for your site (will be a frequent visitor, I can tell)-and well, I hate to break it to you, but you did reach this “42 year old mom with 3 kids” who, with no degree and no training has started copywriting for a blog site and actually having her posts accepted(insert shocked face here)
    …now with your’s and Appsumo’s help, I feel I have a shot at writing some pretty darned good stuff.
    Many Thanks and see ya around…(insert respectful bow here)

    Reply
      1. Carlos

        Thanks! I saw that right after posting, lol

        Of course I had to turn off the mobile theme. Millions of mobile users don’t even get to see your email signup form. A responsive theme would solve the problem :)

        Carlos

        Reply
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