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:


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

His new thaang is 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.


On to the next piece of this puzzle:






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

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……






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 $100 credit or something like that…and I wanted it.

However I was blatantly disappointed by the email saying simply:

“$100 Credit for, 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….


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)… get the point.


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…..