Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I do interviews with proven entrepreneurs for an audience of real entrepreneurs who are building actual businesses, not just these wannabes who want to get lost in the world of how I could be if I was an entrepreneur and they want to live vicariously through my guests. No, that’s not who my audience is. My audience is real entrepreneurs.
Today’s guest is someone that you might have heard me interviewed before and truthfully, Dmitry Dragilev must have done so well with the last interview. In fact, I know you did, Dmitry, right? The last interview, you were on here, we talked about your company JustReachOut, which helps entrepreneurs pitch journalists, get featured in the press, do it all on their own, and become these celebrities which frankly you noticed that a lot of your clients really want to be. They say they want business and you will get the business, but what they really want is press to make them famous. And so I guess a lot of people in my audience wanted business and secretly also, like me, want to be famous, so they signed up.
And Dmitry is such a freaking good marketer and such a good freaking networker. I was getting pitched by him in so many different ways of how to come back on here. And Dmitry, the problem with you is you’re so loving and supportive that I can’t say no to you. Because anyone else who says I want to be on, I have a standard answer. But what do you say to somebody who says, “Andrew, I can help you.” “Andrew, you’ve got this guy, Tam, on your team. I’m going to spend some time with him.” “Andrew, I know you’re looking to do this. I have a way to help.” You can’t say no.
So instead what I said was, “Let’s find a way to make this work.” Let’s see if there’s something that makes sense, because I’m not about to like lose the quality of Mixergy just because someone is nice. I like nice, but I really don’t. Actually, I’m a little like upset at nice because nice people make me do things that I feel uncomfortable with. And so as we were talking you’ve got this business, PRThatConverts, it offers unconventional PR hacks and you said, “Andrew, this is kind of it’s not as big as my other business, it’s not my biggest revenue source, but it’s actually producing good revenue. And you know what, Andrew? It’s something that’s a little more approachable for your audience.”
And usually, I don’t do the approachable for my audience. I don’t want something that approaches my audiences. I want something that forces my audience to elevate themselves and reach up to it instead of something that’s so easy that they can approach it. But I think from time to time it is helpful to say, “Here’s something that you can do. Here’s something that you could identify with. Here’s something that even when you’re feeling like the world is too hard you can see this and say, ‘It’s challenging. It’s not easy, but it’s inspiring because it’s doable.'”
And so I invited Dmitry on here and, Dmitry, true to who he is not only worked with our producer to help us get notes in preparation for this, he went in and he freakin’ annotated our producer’s notes, included links and highlights and stuff to make sure that I got the complete story because he’s a content person. Dmitry, how much time do you spend with your wife? Do you get time with your family?
Dmitry: I do, I do. That’s a huge focus for me, actually, so I like really, really big work-life balance guy.
Andrew: All right, impressive that you’re able to do all these work because you’re obsessive about work too. All right. So we’re going to find out how he built up this business, how big it got and how PRThatConverts fits in within the Dmitry Empire. All thanks to two phenomenal companies, the first will host your website right and really as a content person Dmitry is perfect for me to ask some questions about this too. The company is called HostGator and I will ask him how he would use a HostGator account well. And second sponsor is a company that I’ve used to hire phenomenal developers. It’s called Toptal. I’ll tell you more about them later.
Dmitry, good to see you here.
Dmitry: Hey, good to be here. Good to be here.
Andrew: How much business did you get from the last interview that you did with me? Give me a ballpark.
Dmitry: Probably got 30 new customers and what do we charge, JustReachOut the lowest plan is 700 bucks, so . . .
Dmitry: So it’s pretty good.
Andrew: Seven hundred one time or 700 a month?
Dmitry: A month.
Andrew: A month, oh, so you really did well with this.
Dmitry: Yeah. So I want to do more.
Andrew: I like it. I mean I like that I’m doing well for my guests. That’s not my number one goal. My number one goal by far is to do well for my audience. I intentionally don’t want to even get it in my head that I’ve got to promote for my guest, then I start to adjust my questions and I’m more promotional and that’s why I also refuse to take any affiliate commissions from my guests, which I know a lot of other podcasters do. That’s not me.
So let me start asking you a question that you may not feel super comfortable with, PRThatConverts, how much revenue you’re doing with that?
Dmitry: So this is third year, 150,000 this year, probably, almost. The year is almost over, so probably it’d be around there this year.
Andrew: And overall what percentage of your business is it?
Dmitry: It’s maybe like 20% of everything that I do and work on, so it’s pretty good.
Andrew: So I want to just be a little concrete about what that means before we talk about how you built this up. I’m on your website, it says, “Steal unconventional PR hacks from the guy who grew a startup from 0 to 40 million views per month,” and then there’s a button that says “Enroll Now.” What is it?
Dmitry: It’s a course and a way for people to do a few follow-ups calls one-on-one with me after they go through all the videos. That’s all it is.
Andrew: All right, great. And why don’t we go back? I like to go back and get a sense of who people are by going back in time to their childhood and I’m kind of glad that our producer talked to you about this because Bazooka was your first business transaction. Where were you living that you could get into the Bazooka business?
Dmitry: Soviet Union, right before I was like broke up in the ’90s, late ’80s, ’90s, and Bazooka gum was the name of the game back then.
Andrew: Because everyone likes Bazooka, it was inexpensive. You can go to the store and buy a little thing of it. And so how would you make money from Bazooka as a kid?
Dmitry: It had these little inserts. I don’t know if anybody remembers but there’s little inserts inside there, so I would . . . these were big, big currency back in the day with my friends. And so a friend of mine basically didn’t like to eat his mom’s cooking, so I created that little deal with him. I’d say, “All right, I’m going to eat whatever your mom cooks and she doesn’t have to know that I eat your portion but you have to give me your inserts.” And then I would take his inserts and there was this other guy who used to buy them off people and I would sell . . .
Andrew: And so the inserts would have like I’m looking at some, you linked me to them to make sure that I’m understood them. But I know what this is, it’s little like a four-panel comics and Donald Duck I think was in some and there was Bazooka Joe and others. And so he would give you the inserts in exchange for eating his mom’s cooking and what would you do with them?
Dmitry: I would take the little inserts and would go and sell it to [Coiste 00:07:12], Coiste was kind of the older kid and he [had 00:07:17] like a little bit of money, and he smoked and I don’t know, he was a cool guy. And so I would sell them to him and take the money and buy a Snickers bar. And Snickers bars were kind of like very hard to come by. They were sold in like special places, beneath like a window display, and so you had to save up. So that was my old business.
Andrew: I sometimes get really frustrated with work and get really tense about it and what I try to do is remember how fun the old candy business was, that this is actually a fun thing that I chose to be in and the more fun it is, the more creative I am about it. Do you ever tap back into selling Bazooka inserts for that reason?
Dmitry: Yeah. I think things were much simpler back then and even my earlier ventures. You know, I always think about how people are not happy in the current moment most of the time. They’re always looking to the future or they’re rehashing the past. And so lately I’ve been really focused on that and thinking through because a lot of us always think we don’t want what we have now. We always want more, whatever else that’s ahead of us and so I come back to that a lot and say, “All right, why don’t you just not over index, but stay here, you know? This is good right now,” you know, trying to soak that up more.
Andrew: And then you got to the U.S. and I’m looking at my notes and it says, “Came to the U.S. with mom and sister.” What happened to your dad?
Dmitry: Stayed in Russia, didn’t want to go.
Dmitry: Yeah. He said that America, bourgeois, aristocrats, no good for him. He’s a big patriot still, big Russian pro-Putin patriot there. I speak to him four times a year but, yeah . . .
Andrew: What do you think of a father who would leave his kids or not come with his kids?
Dmitry: I mean I could see how he wanted to stay because most of his life he’s already, he knows the language, the culture, and everything else but the number one thing in your life is your kids so you go where your kids go, but he thought differently. I think he was really focused on himself more than us I guess. He tried to keep me there for a while and that didn’t work out and they eventually agree that we would go to the U.S. with my mom but . . .
Andrew: How can a kid who’s that entrepreneurial, he’s selling inserts, be stuck in a country that doesn’t respect entrepreneurs? You come to the U.S. You don’t have a lot of friends. Is it because of the accent?
Dmitry: It’s just because I didn’t know any language or culture, like I was wearing, you know, khakis with suspenders and like, you know, full-out button-up shirt, and this has been in junior high school and I didn’t know any, the language, the culture, nothing. So it took a while, and then I’m raising my sister because my dad isn’t around so I’m helping my mom.
Andrew: You’re 11 years old raising your sister, your 2-year-old sister. What that does mean that you’re raising her?
Dmitry: So I got to like cook dinner and do homework and put her to bed because my mom has to work, you know? She has to go work at night and then she goes to school and so it’s like you got to go to school, you got to get a new education, you got to work. And so I just kind of take care of the house. So I didn’t have friends until the college, really, like college was my first time when I hung out with friends and I could like take some time for myself. So high school was pretty rough.
Andrew: Do you end up feeling now even people don’t really like me because you didn’t grow up with the sense that people liked you and so it feels still foreign to you?
Dmitry: I used to. I used to be uneasy because I didn’t know any cultural references here in the U.S., like I never watched “Star Wars.” I didn’t know E.T. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know sports. I didn’t know like, in college I was a resident adviser, I had to have an activity with my guys and I had to learn how to play football because I have to organize football, American football games, and I was just very shy and just kind of uneasy. Even though I’m really good at like math and these different topics like learning the culture and popular culture it was still . . . and even now like there’s still moments where I’m like, “Wait, what? I don’t know.”
Andrew: I get it. I still can’t freakin’ follow a football game unless my friend, Henry [Billen 00:11:53] is sitting next to me explaining every step of the way. I can’t follow it enough. And when people make references to it I don’t get it. You just made reference to being a resident something or other at college. I went to college but I stayed at my mom’s house, my dad’s house. So I was in my bedroom the one that I grew up in. I have no reference for what it’s like to be in a dorm and that was always something that I was hung up on until I traveled through Europe and I stayed at hostels and then I kind of got the dorm experience except better because I was old enough to feel confident and be myself and then I felt a little comfortable. But I do feel like we’re shaped by our childhood to some degree.
Andrew: And then you said, “I’m into computers.” People weren’t your friends. Your computers were your friends.
Andrew: That’s a little bit too much. That’s a little too on the nose. It wasn’t that computers were your friends but you sought solace in it, comfort in it. You started getting into your Compaq Presario computer. Am I right?
Dmitry: Compaq Presario CDS 500, yeah, Windows 3.1.
Andrew: And that got you into computer science. You got an undergrad degree. You were an engineer at where?
Dmitry: Well, in college I worked at PTC, Parametric Technology Corporation, GI company, a CAD Company. I worked with SolidWorks Corporation. And then right after college, BAE Systems, huge Department of Defense contractor. I had to get a secret clearance and it was crazy. I had a government witness assigned to me, checked my work every day.
Andrew: Really, wow.
Andrew: That’s really hardcore computer development. And now you don’t code at all. How do you feel about being a marketer, a writer, not even a writer, it’s a content marketing writer compared to being a developer. In some senses it feels like the developer had more substance. I sometimes feel when I’m a marketer that I lack substance. What do you think?
Dmitry: I feel way more freedom and the lifestyle that I have and most of my businesses is all lifestyle. I feel very blessed that I have this like setup where I don’t have to go to work all the time. I don’t have to do what someone tells me to do and I can generate with really well.
Andrew: This does feel more natural to who you are. What were you doing at BAE Systems if you . . .
Dmitry: Flight planning software for the Department of Defense.
Andrew: I’m sorry, what I mean is why were you there? Why is a guy who’s so good at marketing, who sold Bazooka inserts as a kid end up there?
Dmitry: Well, computer science degree, the next thing we’ve got to get a software engineering job and right out of school they hired me and it was amazing pay and I was like my eyes went, “Wow, this is insane. The salary is crazy. I got to take this.”
Andrew: This was a long time ago, so I think we can talk about it. How much of a salary we’re talking about?
Dmitry: I think back then I’d say, like for me is 120K or something.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. Right out of school?
Dmitry: It was crazy, like the very first package was 80K but then the next year I got a promotion and that was like 95K and then towards the end because there was another Department of Defense contractor, I got hired by them, that was close to like 100K even more with the benefits and that was crazy for me. I know, right out of school and undergrad. This was like the early 2000s. I was single. I paid off all my loans. I saved up for grad school. This was crazy for me.
Andrew: Wow. All right. No crazy spending for you, huh?
Dmitry: No. I just saved and saved and saved. I saved for grad school because what else to plan, either grad school or do something, so I didn’t spend anything really.
Andrew: Okay. And then you did something that, not everyone, a lot of people who have jobs, a lot of people who are listening to me have jobs and maybe feel like frauds for listening to Mixergy, wish they would do, I’m going to get to it in a moment.
First, I’ve got to do a quick ad for Toptal and I mean super fast. If you’re looking to hire a developer, just go to Toptal, toptal.com, top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, toptal.com/mixergy. When you do, press that big button on the site you’re going to be hooked up to a conversation with somebody at Toptal and you tell them what you’re looking for, really, blow their minds with your wish, your dream.
Imagine they are a genie and you can ask for anything you want, I’m talking to you too, Dmitry. Anything you want, you say, “Here’s what I’m looking for, someone who could do this.” And they’ll tell, you know, and frankly, I know they’ll tell you no because a lot of people complain to me. I put an email out there and the big complaint I get with Toptal is they get people get rejected. Dude, you feel comfortable they rejected you. You were offering them money, they said no, they have the honor to say no, so what’s the worst thing they can happen? And they say, “No, you can’t do it.”
Here’s the best thing that’s going to happen, here’s what’s going to happen to most of you. They’re going to hook you up with two, maybe three people who could do the work that you’re looking for. You’re going to get on calls with them and your next big problem is picking from these two excellent candidates. And don’t worry, you pick one just as good as the other because Toptal only has the best people in their network. They’re kind of, I’m not going to say the words, snobs, because they pay me, but let’s come up with a word that’s a synonym for that that doesn’t sound so harsh because they are so proud to being the best of the best, elite.
There are some people who hate the word elite. These guys love that they’re elite. They love that most people who want to work for Toptal are going to get turned away. So they’ll hook you up with one of these elite developers, you hire them. If you like them, great. Let me tell you something, they got an offer for you where they’re going to give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. So if you love them, boom, you get 80-hour of Toptal developer of credit after you pay for them. If you don’t love them they’re going to risk for a guarantee. I’m not going to read them, I’m going to tell you go to this URL where you’re going to see a very beautiful model and the software clearly laid out and you’re going to see Andrew is not just afraid to read the fine print, he’s proud for you to read it for yourself.
Here’s the URL, that’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, toptal.com/mixergy, and I’m going to say this to you guys, you’ve heard me do this a million times, I’ve hired a writer specifically to come up with better ads for them because I want to jazz it up for you. If you heard me do it a million times and you didn’t sign up and you’re still hiring, I want to know why. Email me and my team, contact @mixergy.com, and be honest with me. If you say, “Andrew, you’re kind of a jerk. I don’t want to support you.” I completely understand it.
If you say, “Andrew, I don’t fully understand it.” I love you because you’re going to help me make this better. Contact @mixergy.com, I want to know why you’re not signing up for Toptal yet. And don’t tell me because I’m not ready to hire. Obviously, people who are ready to hire tell me why you’re not signing up for them, because I can’t find a better company out there.
All right, Dmitry, you quit. You went in, do you remember the day you quit your job?
Dmitry: Yeah. I was dating my wife at that time. She was my girlfriend and she was filing to go to grad school in Californian and for the second time in a row I had to report to an audit meeting with my government witness and a pilot or some commander or somebody. And we’re going through my code and the commander was just ripping me apart. And he doesn’t even know how to write code. He was just, he didn’t like whatever I wrote. And I was sitting there and thinking, looked around, and I looked at everybody who’s been there for a long time and I thought, “My god, I’m so young, I’m making such good money, but if I keep doing this I’m just going to age and become like these guys here, right around me, right? I’m going to just slowly get into this crazy routine and die as a person like my soul is just going to crumble.” So I can’t do this to myself anymore.
And so the next day I came in I was like, “All right, this is it. I’m going to just this would be my last day. I’m leaving, and that I’m going to switch my careers.” And at that time I was reading Web 2.0 Magazine, and in this Web 2.0 Magazine, they were talking about Silicon Valley, people raising money. I was like I got to go do that and since my girlfriend was filing to go to grad school out there, so like I’ve come along, maybe I’ll get an MBA, I saved up a bunch of money and figure it out.
Andrew: How much money did you have saved up?
Dmitry: I had like 60 or 70 grand or something.
Andrew: Significant, and we’re talking about 12 years ago, 14 years ago. It wasn’t super, it was expensive more than most of the country, but it was enough that you could live on enough for a while.
Andrew: What part of the Valley did you go to?
Dmitry: So the school was in Monterey, California and that was my first two years. And then from Monterey, we’d move up to San Jose and then we lived in San Jose and Campbell as well. So we did spend part of the time in Monterey. I found a startup pretty much right away within the first two weeks of being there to work.
Andrew: And your idea was to work for a startup because you still wanted a job but one that was more enriching or were you looking to understand how to build a startup in Silicon Valley so you can create your own? It was the second one?
Dmitry: Yeah, the second one. Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. And you said, “This is it.” Why don’t we kind of fast-forward a little bit, CrossLoop was a company that did what?
Dmitry: They did customer tech support basically, tech support marketplace, you find somebody to help you with your technical issue. They take over your computer via a screen share and they fix it for you. That was the company.
Andrew: And that was the first company that you worked with?
Dmitry: Yup, the very first company. The founder didn’t want to hire me. He was number 20 from LinkedIn and he started that company right before the financial crisis and he’s like, “Listen, you have no experience. You’re some amateur. I don’t really want to hire you but I was in your shoes a long time ago.” And I was like just “Give me a test. Just tell me something to do.” And he came in with his crazy test, he’s like put up a Wikipedia page for us.” And I was like, “Oh, that would be very easy.” And as soon as I put that up, the editor just attacked it, they’re just like start killing me off. They’re like, “This is self-promotion. This company is like brand new. Who is this?” And I was able to keep it up. I kept it up and it’s still up there, and I got hired for a free internship and that was the beginning really.
Andrew: What did you do to get the editors to allow you to keep it up?
Dmitry: I researched the founder and found that he worked at LinkedIn and put that as a reference thinking that the founder was number 20 at LinkedIn and that somehow ended up being, you know, legitimate I believe a little bit for there to say, “All right, we’ll keep it in there like a draft mode for now.” I’m like, “Just don’t erase it. Please, don’t erase it.” And then I found one more article with his name on it and then I put that in there and I’m like, “We’re going to be raising a lot of money, you know.” And I made up names of VC firms that we were talking to . . .
Andrew: Really, and you put it in there?
Dmitry: Well, I put it in the comment and the discussion and then the editor was like, “Show us proof.” And I asked Mrinal, his name is Mrinal like, “Hey, can you like tell me, is there any legitimacy here? Like are we raising money? What’s going on?”
Andrew: You know what, that’s one of the things that fascinates me about you. You clearly got turned away, you didn’t say, “I got no business doing this. I kind of screwed up. What am I doing?” You just go in there with the same smile you have on your face right now and you say, “I’ll find a way, I’m going to do it and edit it.” Why? Why don’t you feel at all hurt? I’m looking at this. I guess your name on Wikipedia was [G. Mayank 00:23:40]? Is that you?
Dmitry: Yeah. Well, that was Mayank Gupta, because I was associated with the company, you can’t really put it up here on Wikipedia pages so I had a buddy of mine do it and I did through him, but he didn’t know what was going on.
Andrew: So you took on his account and you did it?
Andrew: Why didn’t you feel like, “This is not really working, this sucks.” What is it about your personality that says, “I’m going to try this”?
Dmitry: You know, people tell me not to compare myself to like other people a lot and I do this anyway. They’re like psychologically it’s not good to like compare yourself to like your grandmother because she was in a completely different situation or like your relatives but I’m like I think back to my relatives what they have to go through like World War II where you know like . . .
Andrew: You actively do this?
Dmitry: I think back to it like at least once a day, like my trouble day-to-day versus my grandmother’s trouble . . .
Andrew: Honestly, day-to-day, this is the type of thing you do maybe when you talk to your kids or give a presentation. You say this is nothing compared to what my family went through years ago but most people don’t really . . . You do this?
Dmitry: You can ask my wife. Ask my wife and she will tell you like she gets annoyed with it and she actually comments on it and she said, “Listen, like don’t compare yourself to this, this is not healthy. I don’t want to hear about it like you’re in a different situation.” But I’m like if they went through all of that and they came out fine with a smile, I’m like I can do this. And if I can see it working out down the road, if I can like picture myself helping this person or working with this person, I can see that outcome. I’m like why not try, you know? If they didn’t try, they couldn’t have done it. They had much worse chances of . . . ”
Andrew: Be heavy with me, what’s the worst thing that happened to your family that when you really look back you said, “This is horrifying. I can almost not even tell my kids.”
Dmitry: My grandmother’s father disappeared in war. Her mom was evacuated with her and her little sister and they didn’t have anything to eat but a big bag of peas. They were in the Ural Mountains. And then when the Germans were very close to Moscow, my grandmother escaped the Ural Mountains and went into Moscow by herself with like friends of the family and lived in their abandoned apartment for like a year so they can like not let anybody loot the apartment. And this was a very dangerous time when like Germans were very close to Moscow. And I know like she just told me these crazy stories . . .
Andrew: And you’re just putting yourself in that story?
Dmitry: I’m like, yeah, like . . .
Andrew: Because imagine if I have this life, ah, got it. All right, so I see what you’re putting yourself through. Like even these guys, I get sucked into this freaking Wikipedia entries sometimes. I see it back and forth, back and forth about this like little minor thing. I get it. I get why you would persist. It’s impressive that you got to stay in the Valley. Let’s fast-forward to using “I need to start building up this business.” I didn’t understand this. When you want to get started you knew that email was going to be big because that’s how you get a sticky relationship with people, which would allow you to sell to them. You hired Bryan Harris as a coach?
Dmitry: Yeah. You know, I traveled the world with my wife for six months, quit my job, again, in the startup space and then when I come back I needed a way to figure out how to build an audience, who can I ask a question about what they wanted. And my expertise was all about relationship building, content marketing, right? And I knew I wanted to build something but I didn’t know how to do it. All I knew is how to write great content. And so I needed Bryan’s help to figure out how to build a blog so I can get an emails list so that I can ask the email list what do you want as a product, what do you want as an offering so I can . . .
Andrew: Do you want people who liked you and respected you enough to tell you, “Here’s what I would give you money for,” to tell you how they could give you money.
Andrew: And this even after ZURB?
Dmitry: After ZURB, yeah.
Andrew: The digital agency you worked for, that’s how I connected with you. I guess while you’re working at ZURB you helped Noah Kagan. I don’t know what you did for Noah Kagan, but that guy was telling me, I’ve said this before, he told me about you a lot. That’s how we connected. ZURB, you were doing a lot of great content for and even at that point you said, “I know how to build content on other people’s platform, I don’t know how to build it for myself.” Bryan Harris is fantastic. What’s one thing that he taught you to do that you couldn’t figure out by yourself?
Dmitry: It’s how to optimize upgrades to capture emails. So I knew that you can ask for email in your articles but I didn’t know how to do it nicely or genuinely. I did it kind of very spammy, right?
Andrew: What did you do?
Dmitry: I would write stuff and I would say, “Give me your email, I’ll send you the best material on this topic insight.” Now, I’d do these like crazy stupid things in there and it just sounded often weird and I didn’t know how to make that work and I also didn’t know how to kind of get to people like through the whole loop like get them signed up and confirmed and keep them engaged on my email list, I just didn’t know how to promote my blog in the beginning. I wasn’t like that savvy when I started working with him.
Andrew: What do you mean? I feel like you’re super savvy. What’s the stupid mistake that even I would hear and say, “Ah, all right, you really needed help?”
Dmitry: Well, a lot of times I would essentially write a blog post and I would literally email dozens and dozens of people to ask for guest article publication and I’d say, “Hey, listen, I publish this great article about PR outreach, can I write about PR outreach for your blog?” And that’s like most people think no, or you’re spamming me, you know, like I would give them no value almost to . . . and so Bryan told . . .
Andrew: Why? Why is that a problem? I looked you up on Google, I saw a bunch of articles that to be honest were kind of related to each other so it’s not like you’re just writing brand new things for every single person that’s in the whole of the topic. They’re kind of related. It seems like that model is what you’ve done. What’s different from what I see online from what you were attempting to do that did not work?
Dmitry: Well, what I typically do now is when I write an article I actually include links to other people’s post. And so then when I reach out I say, “Hey, listen, I already promoted you on my blog.” The second thing I do is I answer a Quora thread and I include their link in the Quora thread and my blog as well, so I promote them the second time. And when I do that outreach and I say, “Hey, listen, I promoted you twice already. I’d love to keep doing so and I love to keep the conversation going and maybe potentially now contribute later on. But I start the conversation with value upfront, right? And that’s what I think a lot of that Bryan kind of taught me, in the beginning, is, “You know, you don’t want to be pitching yourself too much. You come off spammy and weird.” That value upfront helping people, he partially kind of coached me through that and I was a little green. I got to say at that time around this concept of value upfront and I’ve become much better since then.
Andrew: And then he showed you how to get email subscribers. You mentioned a tactic that he uses a lot. It’s called content upgrade, right, where somebody is getting a little bit of material, and then talk about how you do, what a content upgrade is in relation to what you did.
Dmitry: So it’s very, very topical within whatever you’re writing. So you’re writing about something very specific and then if you want an example or a specific breakdown of whatever you’re writing in your blog post that doesn’t fit inside the blog post, you tell them, “Hey, if you want like all the email templates, all the scripts for this, just click this button and I’ll send you the script for it, right, or whatever it is. Kind of like what we do with interviews but it’s very like specific around that piece of content and that section of the content maybe then even and . . .
Andrew: Let me see if I can find something on your site right now. If I go to PRThatConverts, I’m going to hit the case studies, no, that takes me to . . .
Dmitry: No, you can go to the criminallyprolific.com, that’s my blog, criminallyprolific.com/blog.
Andrew: Okay, /blog and now let me see how you do content upgrades today now that you got this stuff figured out.
Dmitry: So you hit blog . . .
Andrew: Your blog design is so well done, you know that I feel . . .
Dmitry: Thanks. Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. So on the bottom it does says “subscribe to my newsletter” why? Why does it say subscribe to my newsletter? I was told nobody wants to subscribe to a newsletter. If you say, “get this thing free if you subscribe to the newsletter.”
Dmitry: So I’m actually testing that out and it’s doing very well for me. I saw that at Orbit Media. Orbit Media guys are a design firm. And they have been testing this out and this concept is a test for me. It’s an A/B test. The actual content upgrades that you’d see is “Dmitry’s Take” now. So if you click on like the latest article “Media Relation Strategy” you scroll down, you’ll see within the article there’s the Dmitry’s Take and the Dmitry’s Take is a big kind of focus around it.
And so in there I changed the call to action. Right now, it’s actually a call to action to use the software tool, JustReachOut. But I play around with this and what I do is I give them a little bit more value about what I’m talking about and then I say, “Hey, here’s a content upgrade, you know, either download whatever the templates are or try this tactic out with my software.” It’s very specific around whatever that point was just before it.
And because it’s like a different design and it looks very different it just pops, you know, and it’s like it breaks up the monotony of reading and scrolling and reading and scrolling and people are like, “Oh, okay, here’s like another tip or another insight.” Yeah, [Brian Deen 00:33:47] do invests in this a lot too.
Andrew: It helps. Let me see. I’m going to, I saw the one that you just mentioned, oh, yeah, I see what you’re talking about. Yeah, it looks like the Dmitry’s Take boxes with text now are promoting what we’re talking about now which is JustReachOut. So you finally started to build up an email list, you got to a thousand people. You said “I want to sell you something.” What do they ask for?
Dmitry: So they said, “I need to know how to do PR well on my own without a PR firm because that’s a common problem most of the people who are reading my blog were facing. They wanted to figure out how to get featured in press and . . .
Andrew: Why? What was your blog about that this would be a common issue for people there?
Dmitry: I was just writing about how to hack PR on my own. This is the stuff I did at CrossLoop, at ZURB, how to . . .
Andrew: And they needed even more help there?
Andrew: Okay. So how did you know that what they wanted you to do was teach them how to do it versus create software that would do it versus create an agency that would do it and all these other options?
Dmitry: So testing, so what I did is I said, “Okay, I’m going to create a [dumb 00:35:04] PDF file with instructions on it and send it over to them. And so after I sent that over a lot of people said, “Well, this is great, but I need help on the implementation of this step or that step.” And I was like, “Oh, maybe I should record a few videos.” So I tried recording few videos and sent it to people and few people said, “Well, this is kind of interesting. Thanks for sending this. This really broke it down much better.” So then I was like, all right, if people like my PDF or if they saw the videos and few people really liked it, I’ll create five videos, how about that? And I’ll send it to everybody. I’ll put it up on Udemy and we’ll see what happens.
Andrew: And sell it to them on Udemy?
Dmitry: Yeah. I did it for like $9 or $10 or something just to prove the point. I never like to develop anything without the money part because people say they’ll buy it, but they won’t actually buy it.
Andrew: So version number one was you creating a handful of videos. What did you say, five videos?
Dmitry: Five videos.
Andrew: Teaching people how to do it and then they would go to Udemy. Let me take a moment and talk about my second sponsor and then we’ll get right back into it. I’m going to tell you guys about HostGator. Before the interview, I asked Dmitry if he had any issues with HostGator, of me talking about HostGator. He said, “Yeah, I used them once.” And then here’s the thing that he said that I’m not going to edit out. He said I upgraded to . . . what plan did you have with them?
Dmitry: Like the premiere or pro something like that.
Andrew: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know what the fuck plan I have either. I shouldn’t curse. I don’t know what plan I have either but here’s the deal, you sign up for the cheapo plan because it’s super inexpensive. It does the job. But once you get really professional, you get a lot of traffic, at that point, I highly recommend you upgrade to something that’s more of a dedicated experience with them. That’s what I did. And yeah, when you’re getting started no one is coming to your website, go for the cheapo plan, quit trying to pay for stuff that you don’t need. I’m looking at their site right now. The Baby Plan, let them call it the Baby Plan all day long, that’s what I would sign up for.
And yeah, maybe I feel a little bit more self-respect if I sign up for the business plan, but you know what, I saved two bucks a month by going for the Baby Plan and it’s just enough when you’re getting started. And I’ll tell you something else, with that you get unlimited domains, unlimited bandwidth, bah-bah-bah, all the things that you need free, SSL certificate. Guys, there’s a whole laundry list of stuff that you get, but here’s what you really get, you get the ability to freaking create something online, experiment with it, then if you love it, great, keep it going. If you don’t, don’t feel bad about killing it, it’s not a baby, it’s not an animal, just kill it and move on.
All right, and then once the thing does well, do what I did. Do what Dmitry does, upgrade to a really solid best plan and if you want to, I challenge you, go compare them to competitors. Will you find another competitor who maybe charges less? I doubt that you’re going to find a credible competitor that charges less. Will you find that there are other people who maybe have a shade here or shade there that you like better? Totally fine. At that point, you want to move on to someone else because you see it, great.
I did my comparison, then I found that number one, they were still cheaper at the best top level and number two, they held up. So go to hostgator.com/mixergy they’re going to give you a discount on their already low price. They’re going to tag you as a Mixergy customer which means they will going to be taking good care of you.
But we just had somebody the other day. I got to tell you this. This is where I get distracted. I say to people, if you have any issue tell me and tell my team. We’re going to send it over to HostGator. Here’s a crazy issue that this guy had. The customer service people accidentally responded to him as if he was with Bluehost. He goes, “What the hell are you talking about? I’m asking you about HostGator. What is this? I’m going to go to Andrew’s team.” And Andrew’s team, of course, they took care of it and the guys over at HostGator said, “What the hell is going on here. Let’s figure this out.” And they solved it.
And the answer, I’m going, to be honest with you guys, Bluehost, HostGator, they’re owned by the same company. This company owns a bunch of other competitors. Some people email me and they go, “I don’t like HostGator because I like this one.” Guess what? The other company is the exact same thing. These guys basically conquered hosting, if you need self-hosting, go to hostgator.com/mixergy, hostgator.com/mixergy. They’ll take really good care of you and if they send you a weirdo email like that, email me, because number one, I get frustrated . . . I was going to say, because number one I’m going to laugh. I can’t laugh.
You smile all the time, look at my videos, there’s never a fucking smile on my face. I’m a happy person. I enjoy life a lot. I got to learn how to smile more. Look, there it is, there is my smile.
Dmitry: There you go.
Andrew: There, for a second, that’s my smile.
Dmitry: All right.
Andrew: All right. You create it, you sell it, this is not making big money but how do you know that this is actually the thing that you want to spend more time on?
Dmitry: I don’t want to consult anymore and I know that I need to keep consulting because I’m about to have a baby and another baby later on maybe. And so I see that speaking up on you that maybe people are buying it from me through Udemy and I don’t like that it’s on another platform because they take high fees. I don’t like that it’s only nine bucks because I’m, you know, I got to sell it for more, and I don’t like that it doesn’t look professional because Bryan Harris got this cool course and it’s all done up right on WordPress and he’s got even funnels, ClickFunnels.
And so I was like, all right, I got to sit down, you know, like I got to make a better version of this thing, charge more money for it. And so little by little, you know, I did another version of, I had like 10 videos in it and then after that I did, you know, the one I have now is 25 videos but the biggest thing that I added for it was the calls, the one-on-one calls. So all these courses out there they don’t have one-on-one calls with the guide and the person creates the actual content and I feel like people don’t implement the stuff. I make sure we at least have three calls with each student, make sure that they implement the stuff that we go through and they have it like coping [inaudible 00:40:49] strategy to go through.
Andrew: And your promise to them was you are going to show them how to actually get PR, get what type of PR?
Dmitry: Build relationships with journalists, bloggers, and influencers in their space, so whatever is needed for them. So it could be somebody who’s in healthcare IT or it could be somebody who’s in SaaS, in tech companies, or it could be somebody who is completely different like pitch decks for entrepreneurs, you know, coaching. So it could be very different folks but I will help them figure out how to target people, how to build relationships with them, how to start conversations, and how to transition to getting press.
Andrew: Give me a hack, a quickie tip that’s almost a little too simple that worked back then.
Dmitry: Yup. It still works now. I did this all the time. I make a list of people who write about a specific topic and I go out to Quora, I’d find people that have asked questions about it. And I find Quora questions that are ranking really high on Google. I go and answer those questions and I reference the person’s article in the Quora thread.
Andrew: Ah, okay.
Dmitry: And so then I email that person and I say, “Hey, I actually promoted you on Quora thread but I don’t think I did it justice. I don’t think I did. I don’t know, I’m not as good as you. I just believe I should reference you, I really like you. But what would you add here, to this discussion, you know? By the way, I’m going to do some Facebook ads on this thing because I really think this is a great, you know, Quora thread.
Andrew: You tell them you’re going to buy Facebook ads for the answer that refers back to their article, okay.
Dmitry: Yeah, because it’ll give me some traffic too because I am the person answering it too. So why not, you know, I’m going to . . .
Andrew: Wait, what do you mean it’s going to give you traffic because you also link to yourself somewhere at the top?
Dmitry: Yeah, because my profile has my link to my blog and also sometimes I link in the same answer, I link to myself as well.
Andrew: Okay. And so what do they do? They respond back and they say, thank you, and here’s a couple of suggestions for what you could do to improve?
Dmitry: Yeah. They will say, “Hey, here’s a few things you can add to it.” They might even comment on the thread itself and this is all I want. I don’t want to be featured by them. I want them to ask me what I do and why am I doing this. And so my point is keep giving them more value. Maybe the next time I go and I say, “Well, I see that in [Harrow 00:43:18] newsletter there’s somebody looking for healthcare IT profession.” I just did this today. I sent this to somebody in Customer Service Groove. I saw on Harrow, somebody is looking for a customer service company to comment on the best customer service tips. I’m not a customer service guy, I know who is but I send it in my name, you know, check this out, you should be answering this journalist. They’re looking for this information.
Dmitry: And that’s the value upfront. So I’m trying to . . .
Andrew: And now what are you going to get from them? Let’s pretend that there’s an upside here with them, with the Groove HQ guys? What do you do? Do you go back to them and say, “Hey, you might want to write an article about me?” No, that’s a little spammy. How do you do it?
Dmitry: No. Then later on maybe I’ll say, you know, are you guys . . . what’s your editorial calendar looking like for your blog? You have a really big blog, I really love it, I’ve commented on a number of discussions there and I’ve promoted a number of them in Quora, you know, I’ve pushed some traffic your way and there’s a two topics I was thinking of brainstorming or writing for you guys and I was also writing, I’m going to plan to write for another publication to promote it.” And so I might do something like that you know but I very gradually transitioned to like my ask and I want to feel it out. As if we’re talking right now, you and me, and we’re like bonding this relationship. I want to feel this out and be like very comfortable saying this in Facebook there’s no emails, no calls, just if I’m standing next to you and be 100% sure like, “Yeah, there’s enough value for both of us to do something, you know?”
Andrew: One of the things that I learned from Andy Drish was he said, “What’s the eye-popping moment?” Something like that, and I go, “Well, here it is.” And I scroll through my slides for a presentation I was going to give and I showed them that it was on slide number 20. He goes, “Yeah, move that up to like slide number 2.” And he was absolutely right. Do you have any tips like that that if you’re teaching to someone who just paid you and today you’re not charging $9, it’s more expensive than that? Do you have a tip for how to teach and earn more than $9, earn and have people feel good about paying that much?
Dmitry: Yeah. I think it all starts with that value up front but not giving everything away basically. So you want to show somebody how to do something but just because you show it to them doesn’t mean they’re going to actually do it. And so you want to make them do it but in order for them to do it, they need more of your help. You want that situation which whatever you’re industry or whatever you’re doing and that’s what I’m constantly, you know, trying to perfect is it’s how do I give them enough value so that they’re like, “Oh, this is great like this is great. Keep going.” And I’m like, “All right, well, let’s do this or that,” you know, in terms of the actual sell there. So you want to give some, a lot of it away. You don’t want to give everything away. And, you know, I’m trying to keep it agnostic, industry agnostic so people can relate.
Andrew: You mean, well, and, of course, you don’t want to give everything away or in the first part of the course you don’t want to give everything away?
Dmitry: Oh, no. I’m just talking about anybody who’s starting up a course or somebody was thinking about using blog or something like that to sell to other people. I’m just saying that in terms of content you don’t want to give all your content, everything you’ve got away. So if you have all the know-hows, right, all the actionable, whatever content you have it’s just too much to put it all out there and have people consume it all. It’s one small value bits of time and it’s kind of just you keep going with it, right? So a little bit of value today, a little bit value tomorrow, a little bit value later on. And then you kind of ask them to convert to something or whatever you’re selling, you know?
Andrew: The first group of people came from that email list that you put together to a thousand or so subscribers. How much revenue did you earn from that thousand subscriber base, roughly?
Dmitry: First year, 50-grand, second year, 100-grand, third year, 150-grand. That’s what . . .
Andrew: But the email list grew as that revenue grew, right?
Dmitry: Yeah. So the first, I mean a thousand, those first thousand are probably like 10-grand of something like that, about 15-grand like that was the most . . . and I felt it was pretty good for me like I . . .
Andrew: Ten dollars per email address is good.
Dmitry: It was pretty crazy like I . . . and then I tried to single out people that were converting and do all these like funky email campaigns. I got lost and all that.
Dmitry: And I just, I’m doing the Brian Deen way, you know, I usually was just blast, I do my sequence, I have a very funny sequence of like my days in Russia and being the crazy little kid in Russia. And I tell stories in my emails and I have my two-week sequence that I do that works. I don’t do any crazy funneling and all that stuff anymore.
Andrew: And you learned about that the crazy Russian stories were hitting home because of the calls you’re doing with customers, am I right?
Dmitry: Yeah. So I was doing more and more calls and they would build the relationships with me better or it was a better tactic to build relationships with my customers when I was doing these calls. I was like, “Oh, they really react when I tell them about this crazy story that happened with me in Russia when I couldn’t tell apart like my dog from my best friend.” I was like, “Oh, that was a funny story” and I’m like “I got to work that into this more,” like taking communal showers with my family or like how my grandma had a tick. My grandma had a tick and we have to go fetch it out of her crotch.
Dmitry: So you have to do it.
Andrew: So you have [inaudible 00:49:17] about stuff like that? You know, when you see that kind of reaction where do you go write it down? Are you the type of organized writer who then has a Google Doc full of these things that you go back and write or is it just something that viscerally feels right and you know that it’s going to come out of you at the right time?
Dmitry: No, I write it down. I think every email should have like one personal hook and then that these could relate back to like PR and the [inaudible 00:49:44]
Andrew: So where do you put all these personal hooks that you see people react to the way that I just did to the tick?
Dmitry: Yeah, Evernote and Google Doc.
Andrew: Okay. So just one place, you put it in. As you’re having conversations of people you do it and my guess is that’s how you started to see too that what people wanted was to get in Forbes. They were saying they need PR to get traffic but you got to sense that what they really emotionally were longing for was to be famous.
Dmitry: Right. They wanted the exposure and I needed to bring them down to like why do you want that exposure and who cares. This is going to be your business, these customers, why do you want it. And it could be fine like if you want to see your name in the spotlight, that’s fine. That’s an okay, you know, goal that you’re going to have but just for me it’s a little superficial but whatever it may be but people needed to think of it and crystallize that goal and then we can build a strategy on how to get there.
Andrew: Okay. Give me one, let’s close it out with this, one last thing that you did that grew your audience and allowed you [somewhere 00:50:42].
Dmitry: Well, I think the name of the game in the blogging world is just hitting the number one, number two spots on Google. So SEO has been a huge, huge driver for me ever since like, you know, that time. And so skyscraper techniques have been the way I do this, right? I pick a keyword which I think most of my audience loves, you know, PR outreach or on a media relations strategy, communications strategy, and so marketing communications strategy, and so I would rank number one for it by writing the best piece of content and then doing much of guest articles that link back to it and optimizing and optimizing and optimizing it.
Andrew: Going back to that article over and over that one that you just talked about media relation strategy. I see you are number one when I type in that keyword. This article is insanely long. I’m not going to go all the way to the bottom because it goes that long. It says that it was last updated September 14, 2018. You wrote it before, you just keep updating it.
All right, for anyone who wants to go check you out, the website is pr.converts.com and that’s where they can learn PR strategies from you. And the other site that you talked about last time where you got so many customers from me that you wanted to come back on again, justreachout.io. Am I right?
Andrew: All right, and both of them are about getting people PR, getting them in front of journalists so that they could grow their audience but secretly between you and me, so they could grow their personal, I don’t know, ego, yeah.
Dmitry: Personal brand.
Andrew: Personal brand let’s say because I think people don’t like when say ego, “I got an ego, I’m happy with my ego.” Dmitry, thank you so much for doing this. I’m wondering if you’re going to get a big, big group of people who sign up, what you’re going to pitch me on next, and I love you have you back on here. I really enjoy talking to you.
And I want to thank my two sponsors who made this happen. The first is a company that will host your website right and really start off with a cheapo plan but then moves on the really powerful plan when your business deserves it, when your business really needs it. You’re going to be happy with both, frankly, hostgator.com/mixergy. When you’re starting start with a cheaper, you’re going to be happy with them and when you’re good and you got a lot of traffic, upgrade with them, hostgator.com/mixergy. And finally, I want to thank my sponsor, Toptal, toptal.com/mixergy. Thanks. Bye, everyone.