Should You Ask Permission Before Pitching Your Product?

My longtime buddy and fellow Entreprogrammers mastermind member Derick Bailey of WatchMeCode.net recently launched a new product.

The video series shows JavaScript developers how they can experiment with all the hot new features coming to their favorite programming language—without screwing up the projects they're working on for the Big Bossman.

To sell this product, he created a free email course.

This is where he ran into a snag:

He's having a hard time getting people to sign up for this fancy new email course of his via a popup form on his blog, or to opt-in from emails that he sends out to subscribers after they join his list.

Pretty tough for a sales funnel to make sales when there's no prospects flowing into the top, yaknowwhattamean Vern?

Now, I've talked previously about the “Plinko Machine” email automation approach I use at Simple Programmer.

The basic idea is:

I have a half dozen or so different email courses that I've set up—each pitching a different product or offer.

And after a subscriber joins the list, I send them a series of emails trying to get them to sign up for another free email course (and thus getting pitched a different product).

If you're familiar with Seth Godin's “permission marketing” idea, this approach will make sense:

Just because a software developer is interested in our “how to learn new skills quickly” email course, doesn't mean they necessarily want to get our “how to start a software development blog” email course.

By getting them to opt in before sending them into another email course, every subscriber only gets emails they're interested in getting…

Which leads to happier subscribers and better conversions, right?

Well…

Yes and no.

I ran an interesting experiment that led me to modify my approach to this.

When you offer your existing subscribers a chance to opt in to a free email course, my experience is that around 10-20% of them will take you up on the offer.

Now in some cases the people who DON'T opt in really aren't interested.

But a lot (a LOT) of the time, they actually *are* interested, but for some reason they still take a pass.

Maybe their inbox was too full and they missed the opt-in emails.

Maybe the opt-in emails went to spam that day.

Doesn't matter, result is the same—

They never sign up for the email course and never see the pitch for your product.

In this experiment, I decided to see what would happen if I just forced the “opt-in.”

In other words, I just signed EVERYONE up for this second email course.

After a month, I compared the sales before and after the change.

Good news:

With this one change I increased our sales from this email funnel by 500%.

In other words:

5X more people through the email course = 5X more sales

Now this is NOT something that I'll be doing across the board with all of our email courses.

The question you want to ask first is:

Is this email course relevant to ALL of my subscribers?

If yes, skip the optin step and just sign 'em up.

If the info is only helpful for a segment of the list, then it's better to get them to sign up voluntarily.

To get back to Derick and his JavaScript course:

EVERY JavaScript developer on his list needs to know what's coming down the pike.

Even if they don't know they're interested right now, they SHOULD be.

So this is a perfect example of when to “force” the sign ups.

That's what I advised him to do.

He'll be doing his audience a massive favor—and making 5X more sales in the process.