How I Grew My Startup to $40K per month Using Emails and Good Content | Criminally Prolific

How I Grew My Startup to $40K per month Using Emails and Good Content

Dima s
Dmitry Dragilev Last updated on May 17, 2016

To be honest, when I first received an email from the author of the post you’ll read today I thought I won’t be able to learn anything from him. When Dan Faggella first reached out to me I saw that he was a karate instructor who built a $40K/mo business out of selling instructional videos which was miles away from my online content marketing day to day life.

Little did I know the guy is an email marketing and marketing automation machine!

Click here for a Free Cheatsheet of Dan’s Email Marketing Strategy

Dan currently runs CLVboost, a boutique email marketing consultancy helping startups, brick-and-mortars and eCommerce businesses navigate the crazy world of email marketing.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • white-hat guest posting strategy Dan used to grow his business
  • process and strategy behind building an email list and selling products to the subscribers
  • how to write good emails to get people to help you grow your business
  • Without further ado here is Dan Faggella, enjoy!



    Starting my first online business was more a necessity than anything else. Running a small physical martial arts gym in an 8,000-person town in Rhode Island, our roof partially caved in due to a massive snow-storm. With a flooded building and a new heap of expenses, I realized I should probably have another income stream. Enter online marketing.

    With a national championship under my belt and a few seminars already filmed, I decided to teach my martial arts skills online at Fourteen months of scrapping, boot-strapping, and learning all my lessons the hard way, I had my first $40,000 month online, and never looked back.

    Though the journey wasn’t easy and I tried more marketing strategies than I’d like to admit, there were three core tactics that helped me scale more than anything else – and they’re by no means limited to the martial arts niche.

    In this brief article, I’ll dive into all three and reveal how they might apply to your online marketing efforts.

    1) White-Hat Guest Posting the Right Way

    When I first started, I didn’t have the budget for paid traffic (Facebook advertising, etc…) and I didn’t know what to do with it anyway. I also lacked an email list to work with a joint venture partner for cross promotion.

    So, to gain some traction for my website, I began to guest post on other blogs. However, while that sounds easy, it’s not as simple as just dropping an email to a notable blog and saying “Hi! Here are my credentials and I’d like to guest blog on your site.”

    Instead, I made sure I had something to bring to the table that would make my content desirable for the five or six blog sites I began targeting. In my case, I interviewed some of the top experts and Black Belts in the world of martial arts and used that unique content as the bait in my guest blog pitch. That allowed me to contact influential blogs and get articles on them quickly. Here’s the template I used, which you can model for your own niche and industry quickly.

    Image 1

    If the person you’ve just interviewed is someone who makes their site look more credible (IE: if it’s an expert their audience truly will love), then the editor will often request the article immediately. Every site you write for (especially early on) is an arrow in your quiver, ammunition to use in convincing other sites that your work is worthwhile – notice that my template above references the other sites I’ve written for.

    When your guest post runs, share it through every available media outlet you have to drive readership. That will give you the leverage to go back and offer another guest post interview and, if you wrote a good piece the first time, they’ll be happy to run the second post. I’ve done this dozens of times in the niches I’m working in (fitness, self defense, martial arts), and I’m sure you could rip off my basic template and use it yourself:

    Image 2

    From there, when you’ve gained their confidence… ask for a login (most of these sites were WordPress in my niche) and then continue to post without needing to bother them about it. Once you’ve provided a number of articles in a row that are all quality content, requesting a login “so I don’t have to bother you about every article” is a very reasonable request if you’ve established trust.

    Once I’d established myself on several blogs, I’d subtly link to my own domain names or squeeze pages to help me collect names and build my email list. Examples of my various squeeze pages include,, and We’ll talk about how we monetize email subscribers with educational content in just a bit, but now back to collecting email addresses.

    Here’s an example of a link at the bottom of an interview article that goes directly to an email collection page for anyone interested in more information:

    Image 3

    Here’s an example of a “boilerplate” the the bottom of my articles on one of the martial arts sites I wrote for:

    Image 4

    At the time I was writing for four or five websites, I was able to implement the strategy I was waiting for.

    Now I could offer potential affiliates (people with big Facebook pages or email lists in my niche) a “you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours” proposition. Even though at this time I didn’t have much of an email list (the most effective and direct route for selling information products online, such as martial arts courses), I’d ask to interview them, and then let them know I’d be happy to write about them and link back to them from four or five different blogs if they were able to send a few emails to some of my email capture pages (like those I linked to above).

    What I didn’t do was interview random Joe Shmoe martial arts folk and promise them featured articles in online publications. These online publications want great content from respected teachers, and those are the folks I aimed to speak with and work out my affiliate arrangement with. After our interview, they’d agree to send, say, 20,000 emails to my landing pages, and in turn I’d write five articles about them on various sites in our niche. They got the win with the “SEO juice” from links and the credibility of being featured, and I got a fresh batch of subscribers who might be interested in my products.

    Here’s how the subscriber numbers break down, on average:

    1 – Affiliate sends 20,000 emails

    2 – 10% open rate means 2,000 see the message

    3 – 25% click through rate means 500 people land on the page

    4 – 50% conversion rate on page means 250 people opt in

    5 – 5% fake email addresses means 238 actual leads

    By doing all this, I managed to leverage blog authorship into a tool to encourage “big-name” affiliates to send tons of traffic to my squeeze pages, growing my list immensely. All this was done not in the traditional way of sending reciprocal emails for them, but by leveraging my reach via blogs – which helped to build my own link profile and traffic at the same time.

    This simple strategy was essential in getting my email list from 500 to 10,000 in a matter of months in the martial arts niche. By linking to my own site and relevant blogs while writing about my interviewees, I was also able to get my main blog at to over 10,000 unique visitors per month.

    To sum up, I use blog posts like a “hose” of traffic. I start off with posts that deliver unique and valuable content and point that “hose” of traffic and attention to my own sites:


    And then turn the “hose” to the websites of my affiliate partners by writing up specific articles about their techniques or programs – and in turn, they drive tremendous email traffic to my landing pages and squeeze pages:


    …but all those email subscribers would have been completely worthless had it not been for this next tactic.


    Click here for a Free Cheatsheet of Dan’s Email Marketing Strategy

    2) Persistent Marketing Automation Email Sequences

    So now, having driven traffic to squeeze pages, my goal was to turn subscribers into dollars – by educating them and presenting them with programs that might be of interest to them.

    There are many software programs that allow for “auto-responder” emails, but the program I use primarily is called InfusionSoft. Other programs that can allows you to use the same strategies you’ll read about here include ActiveCampaign, Ontraport, and HubSpot – with ActiveCampaign as the least expensive option.

    So how many emails should I send in this “auto-responder”? In determining how to establish my email sequences, I decided to model 8-figure information marketing businesses. is run by Ryan Deiss and his company Digital Marketer, and is run by Vishen Lakhiani’s company Mindvalley. Both of these companies are grossing well over $10,000,000 per year in sales, and so I read their emails carefully and use their strategies to build my own email sequence.

    To my initial surprise, these highly successful digital marketing experts weren’t just sending six or eight emails, or one or two emails per month. SurvivalLife, SilvaLiveSystem, and essentially all of the other successful email marketing powerhouses were sending daily emails (sometimes more than one email per day) for a month or longer.

    Vishen’s emails at SilvaLifeSystem started off with three to four educational emails, linking to informative and helpful blog posts that have occasional mentions of the complete, $127.00 Silva Life System program, but didn’t necessarily “push” for it. Then, emails five and six were more about the course itself, with links that weren’t encouraging me to read or watch a video, but to purchase the program itself. These were followed by more educational emails (three or four of them), and then additional overt promotions.

    I started calling this the “roller coaster” of education-to-promotional email sequences, and began using the same strategies for offering my martial arts products.

    The key for me here was to base the presentation of my education and offers to the topics that truly mattered to my customers. I contacted my email subscribers (some by phone, others through polls / direct messages) and asked them to tell me the number one benefit they were looking for from my courses, and the number one objection they might have to purchasing right away.

    Want to get serious about writing good email copy (or copy in general)? Call a dozen buyers and talk to them about what they liked about your product / sales process, what they didn’t like, and what they’d like to see from you in the future. That’s something I learned from Lean Startup, and it’s homework that paid off tenfold in the ROI of my email copywriting.

    Once I had consensus on these two factors (the number one benefit, and the number one objection), I constructed my email sequences around heightening the most important benefits first, and overcoming the most important objections.

    I’d warn anyone reading this article to “take a stab” at an email sequence without truly knowing your customers and what their cares are – take the time to poll them and call them. I’ve written about this topic in depth, and it’s important to start off on right foot, after all, these are emails that nearly all of your prospects will read… and unlike your landing page, this email sequence will be difficult to constantly split-test. So do your best to nail it on the first go without playing guessing games about what prospects care about.

    I eventually extended out my “roller coaster” of educational and promotional content to be over a month of daily email messages (just like the 8-figure businesses were doing), and began consistently converting 2-5% of my online subscribers to monthly membership programs for martial arts training.

    Below is an image of what a “normal” email follow-up sequence might look like:


    And here is an image more closely representing the strategy I modeled from the world’s best information marketers:


    Though this strategy generates a considerable sum of my own monthly revenues, most subscribers do not buy during that first month – but I didn’t want to give up on them. This took me to my last tactic:

    3) Diligent Database Marketing (What Everyone Forgets… Everyone)

    If there’s any one tactic that I might call my “internet marketing bootstrapping secret weapon,” it’s database marketing, and it all started with lessons from studying big retail companies.

    Smart companies like Macy’s and L.L.Bean aren’t sending everyone the same catalog, but because email is “free” and doesn’t carry the up-front cost of mailing physical catalogs, segmentation is usually neglected.

    All of my online subscribers would be prompted to fill out an online survey (it wasn’t forced, just suggested) that let me know more about their goals, their interests, and even their weight class.

    This allows me to calibrate my emails to send slightly different messages to different groups based on things like lead source, past purchases, or simply information gleaned from previous downloads / click inside my emails. I use Infusionsoft for all this, but again, there’s plenty of options out there.

    Most people assume I have to write 4-5 emails instead of one. Not true. 90% of my “segmented” messaging is basically the same message with alterations to the subject line and the calls-to-action (text that encourages readers to click).

    To illustrate how I do this, I target my subject line based on whether the recipient group is lightweight or heavyweight, to the users who have previously downloaded escape videos, those who downloaded takedown courses or simply past customers. For each group, or even sub group, I change the subject line to reflect that recipient’s interest or offer a discount to previous customers but, with a few subtle differences between the clusters, the content of the email is essentially the same.

    As an example, let’s say I’m selling a takedown video. I might send an email to my escape video group with a subject line such as, “Turn Your Escapes Into Takedowns” For lightweights, I might say, “Lightweights! Here’s Some Takedowns You Can Use”

    Again, the message contained in the above example email is essentially the same to each group, as I’m simply selling a takedown video. The difference for each email group is the subject line and how I subtly change the message in each to frame the product and why its relevant to each group.

    By putting the data I have on my email list to work and segmenting my messaging, I might make my open rate go from 15 percent to 30 percent and double my click-throughs from 5 percent to 10 percent. And with that, I’m able to get four times the sales I would if I were sending a straight blanket email blast. And I do that every single day with all the martial arts folks that have gone through automation. This database marketing factor alone is often 40%-60% of my monthly revenue… more than enough to pay for even the most expensive email marketing software.

    Here’s an example of my real survey below:


    Here’s the basic regimen that I follow weekly to stay in touch with my subscribers. Bear in mind, your regimen may involve far less communication depending upon industry or expectations of your readers.

    –  Monday and Wednesday: Send one “Overall” broadcast message with an educational theme and mild call-to-action at the bottom of the education page (10am EST)

    –  Monday and Wednesday: Send one relevant “interest”-targeted offer to one of my sub-segments such as: fitness, self-defense, etc… (3pm EST)

    –  Thursday and Friday: Send a special series of educational content and a higher ticket ($60-600) offers to my existing buyer list (10am EST)

    Again, your regimen might be significantly different from my own – but this gives you a feel for how I rotate eCommerce offers and relevant education to my various email subscribers.

    Once a prospect has received all the automation emails (3-5 weeks), I send them at least one broadcast every day, most of which are segmented in some way or another (weight class, lead source, purchase history, etc…). This ensures that no lead is left behind, and that I have an opportunity to sell anyone on my list – new or old – in any given week.


    Not to mention, by rotating through various “interest” segments (and occasionally “weight” segments and others), I’m able to send out videos and articles specifically tailored to what my individual readers care about – which helps make their experience with my company not just a “blast” of generic messaging. These relationships with real martial artists around the world is ultimately what makes our business function – and email builds relationship first, sales second.

    There’s really no magic formula for success in internet marketing, but the fundamentals that helped me bootstrap are likely to be tactics that you and your team could use as well. I’m interested to see how you apply these ideas, and feel free to reach out with any questions.

    All the best, and happy marketing!

    Click here to download Dan’s marketing strategy PDF.