Dmitry Dragilev, Founder, JustReachOut
Dmitry Dragilev’s One-Two Punch
Dmitry Dragilev has a typical entrepreneurial story, but maybe a little more extreme. Bored in his dead-end, corporate job, he was fearful of ending up like his older, unsatisfied peers. One day, Dragilev read in a magazine about what was going on in Silicon Valley, and up and quit.
He sold everything he owned, hopped in his car, and made his way to California. Equipped only with a knowledge of coding and a drive to succeed, Dragilev had made a decision that changed the rest of his life.
But rather than just firing up a startup, or taking a job with a tech giant, Dragilev would become a major catalyst for growth at multiple other startups. His creative approach to marketing has skyrocketed page views, domain authorities, and site traffic for a variety of businesses, some of which have been acquired by names as big as Google.
As a coach and the founder of a PR software platform, Dragilev has helped to redefine content marketing and public relations for businesses of all sizes, from freelancers to major companies like HubSpot and Airbnb.
Climbing the Tech Ladder
Dragilev’s first job in California was with CrossLoop, a remote desktop service that allowed users to share their screens and collaborate with others online. Primarily using PR as a growth strategy, he helped build the company from zero to 5 million users. CrossLoop was eventually acquired by AVG.
He then moved on to ZURB, a product design company, as the only marketer. Dragilev again used PR and content marketing to grow their domain authority (a search engine ranking developed my Moz that maxes out at 100) from 30 to 85, which boosted their daily traffic by 10 times.
Dragilev’s career then took him to Polar, an online polling company. Before Polar was acquired by Google (yes, Google), Dragilev grew the company from zero to 40 million page views using—you guessed it—PR outreach and content marketing.
Today, Dragilev owns and operates the PR-focused SaaS called JustReachOut as well as coaching program PRThatConverts. He’s helped over 500 entrepreneurs gain invaluable exposure and has written over 1,400 articles that have been published all over the web.
But, like most entrepreneurs, Dragilev wasn’t always so sure of how to tackle the wide world of web marketing.
How did an introverted computer science major with little to no journalism experience skyrocket three different startups using PR and content marketing? In short, by trial and error. By taking risks and testing out new approaches to PR, Dragilev changed the trajectory of numerous brands and continues to do so for businesses today.
Redefining Content Marketing
Over the years, Dragilev discovered that getting mentioned in the press wasn’t actually that helpful in the long run. Investors would always push for publicity, and companies would pay for expensive PR firms. “It was cool to be in Fast Company. It was nice to be in Inc. Magazine, but we weren’t moving ahead, and our numbers weren’t growing exponentially,” Dragilev says.
He mulled over the idea that there needed to be more to a PR strategy than what he’d been working with. Perhaps there was a way around the inconsistent results of press mentions and article backlinks.
“I was like, ‘How can I keep getting more traffic with those links?’” Dragilev says. “I started thinking about SEO…and because of my development background, I was thinking, ‘How do Google and YouTube really rank content?’”
Dragilev decided to run some experiments around the topics in his content. In his articles, Dragilev didn’t mention his product or brand, nor did he try to sell anything. He simply wrote material, focused on one particular keyword, that his readers would enjoy reading.
Over time, Dragilev noticed that his article started to gain traction on search engines. People were linking to it on Quora, Twitter, their own blogs, and more. Soon, his article was ranking high for its chosen keyword, all because Dragilev produced content that people liked to read and share.
At that point, he ran another test. He later returned to his ranking article and added a call-to-action to encourage readers to sign up or buy, and keep them in his funnel.
The results were fantastic. Dragilev realized he’d hit a conversion gold mine with his article, and it was a valuable process he could replicate with other content. But to ensure it would be just as effective, he’d need to be strategic.
“I didn’t want to just rank for any keyword loosely associated with what I do; I want to rank with an intentional search that will convert into a paying customer,” Dragilev says.
For his own efforts, Dragilev tested out topics like “The Definitive Guide to Pitching Journalists” and “How to Pitch Journalists.” These articles converted well for his PR coaching program and business, so he started applying a similar approach for his clients.
“For other companies, you always want to think, ‘What are the really pressing issues? What is annoying people that they are searching for and that Google is really under-serving in terms of content?’” Dragilev says.
By taking this SEO and content strategy, and marrying it to his strong PR strategy, Dragilev finally found the formula for consistent, sustainable growth. He applied this approach in order to beat the typical PR “spike up, spike down” traffic and steadily grow the companies he worked for—and his own.
Dragilev’s PR Approach
Dragilev’s growth formula seems straightforward, but the PR approach can vary a lot when applied to different companies and clients.
To brands first embarking on PR, Dragilev says to start by defining your goal. “In terms using PR, are [they] looking for short-term gains and installs of their app, are they looking for more email subscribers? Is it traffic, or is it brand recognition?” Dragilev says.
To jumpstart the strategy, he encourages businesses to outline where they want to be in one month, five months, and one year. The approach will depend on your forecast.
Dragilev uses a Kickstarter campaign as an example of short-term engagement as a goal. “You just want to get as many eyes on your Kickstarter page, and that’s all. You want to figure how much traffic you can get to the page,” Dragilev says. “From there, it’s reaching out to people who’ve recently covered a similar campaign and striking up a relationship. Your job would be to close them and get a fun story about your campaign.”
On the other hand, for those looking for a long-term promotional strategy, Dragilev encourages clients to mix content marketing into their PR approaches to bolster pitches.
Through his company JustReachOut—a software platform that aims to make PR more accessible—Dragilev has found that most pitches to journalists contain a short greeting and then a long description of the business or campaign. Few marketers bother to connect with the journalists or offer something in exchange.
“Most of the time our app will ask users, ‘Hey, did you read this out loud? Would you say this out loud to [the journalist] if you met him at a conference?’ And most people click no,” Dragilev says, laughing.
Dragilev says that instead of pitching a simple description to a journalist, read three of their articles and start up a conversation. “See how [the articles] are related to what you’re pitching, and maybe there’s some type of overlap.”
That’s how JustReachOut’s software discovers new journalists for his customers to pitch, by perusing articles and finding relevant topics.
Dragilev himself likes to use Quora to connect with journalists and discuss topics related to their articles. He finds this creates a much more authentic, mutually beneficial relationship with a journalist, one that lasts longer than one article.
To Dragilev, PR is much more about quality than quantity. When connecting with journalists, he encourages businesses to consider not only the value of the article, but also the foundation and future of the business-journalist relationship.
Strategic, explosive growth happens as a result of lots of experiments. Between Quora, social media, guest writing, SEO, and good old relationship-building, there are countless ways to gain traction with PR.
For folks looking for any golden rule of PR outreach, there just isn’t one. The same goes for the storyline your brand can produce.
What’s Your Story?
Each business has a competitive edge, a storyline that’s unique to itself. This is what gets the attention of journalists and publications.
It all depends on the product or service offering and how companies use PR and SEO to gain exposure. Dragilev encourages experimentation to see which approach yields the best boost.
“In the case of CrossLoop…we went from zero to 5 million customers in a matter of three years or so,” Dragilev says. “What I found was that pitching the story of, ‘Hey, here’s what we do,’ it was just too shallow of a story. It wasn’t making waves.”
Instead, Dragilev told stories about screen sharing, which was still a new phenomenon at the time. Stories of how customers used CrossLoop performed better for both publications and Dragilev, so he continued to brainstorm different angles. “It was powerful to use that story to come up with possibilities and offshoots off of screen sharing,” Dragilev says.
Tackling PR for Polar wasn’t as easy. Dragilev struggled to come up with relevant, impactful stories and had a hard time gaining traction with journalists and publications.
Finally, he took a step back and shifted his focus away from what was relevant for Polar and onto what was relevant for everyone else. “I said, ‘Well, what is the news right now? What is the hottest news today?’ I’d go on whatever publication was trending and create polls on these topics and I’d promote them to get some data,” Dragilev says.
Then, Dragilev would reach out to the press and offer the data from his polls to journalists for their articles. He found that a data was a great way to get the attention of journalists and he continued to offer it as a means to land coverage.
Regardless of what he was working on, Dragilev’s strategy was simple: Figure out how his product or service connected to journalists, bloggers, and publications and how it improved their storytelling and day-to-day lives.
CrossLoop, for example, embarked on a fresh territory of digital communication, which gave journalists new and surprising topics to write about. Polar provided valuable data that helped bloggers write with more authority and impact.
You’ll not that this approach is similar to that of content marketing. What are pressing issues, and what is your audience searching? Ask yourself the same questions regarding journalists and publications in your industry, and you’ll define your story in no time.
Understanding Your Limitations
Defining your strengths and weaknesses as a business is an integral part of establishing a marketing strategy. For Dragilev, it was writing. But he didn’t let that stop him from making waves in the content marketing and PR fields.
“So, I was not great at writing when I first started out,” Dragilev admits. “I’ve published over 1,400 articles in 10 years, and I’ve probably employed close to 30 different writers. I’ve published in most major publications at this point.”
Starting out, he spent a lot of time on writing and piecing together his posts. He’d often send it to others for feedback, further drawing out his content creation process.
Today, Dragilev routinely works with six writers. He outlines the topic based on his research, and his team fills in the content.
“When I’ve got to rank #1 for something, I always want the article to be the best article for this key term. I look on Google to see what’s ranking and if the term is being under-served, then I write down the points I think are important that aren’t included in these articles,” Dragilev explains. “That’s really where I start my writing process.”
Dragilev views each piece of content as a product. He finetunes each topic and promotes it as the competitive advantage each article offers its readers.
But his article topics aren’t Dragilev’s only priority. He also focuses on the user experience of his readers. “When does it get boring in the article? When does it get dull? When do people glaze over the article? Where do I lose them?” Dragilev says.
It’s these questions that motivated Dragilev’s most recent site improvement. To keep his readers around, he added a clickable table of contents to the right sidebar of his blog. He’s found that this addition alone has improved his session time by almost two minutes.
Optimizing his blog content and readership is important to Dragilev because it’s his only source of customers. With only 20 articles to convert readers, he has to ensure each one is doing its job.
Dragilev also faces limitations within his SaaS business, JustReachOut. Currently, churn is the biggest issue facing the company. “In PR, I think churn is generally pretty high,” Dragilev explains. “I think people give up. They don’t have the time, or they don’t think they need PR. People leave for all sorts of different reasons. I’m always struggling to provide a service that keeps people on for years and years.”
Dragilev and his team have tripled their revenue since last year. Their focus this year is on decreasing churn, and Dragilev is shooting for a rate of 5 percent.
“Now [JustReachOut] offers a do-it-for-you, white glove service where instead of you using our software to pitch journalists, we do it for you,” Dragilev says. “That seems to keep people on much longer.”
They’ve also starting to intercept users with messages at their most prominent pain points inside the application. “We’re just sending them a note saying, ‘Hey, we see that you’re having an issue,” Dragilev says. “We’re trying to all sorts of notifications so that people are improving their pitches as they’re sending them out.”
Dragilev knows just how discouraging it can be to send pitches and not receive responses right away, so he and his team work to provide feedback and ways to improve.
These updates have turned JustReachOut into both a valuable tool and a training mechanism for users. Through his SaaS product, Dragilev continues to teach and inspire others about the power of PR to build and grow businesses.
- Dragilev’s unique growth marketing approach for building sustainable, consistent traffic
- How to build quality relationships with journalists to increase your brand’s exposure
- How Dragilev helped two companies skyrocket sales with two PR strategies
- The quick website fix that resulted in a two-second improvement in user session time
Full Transcript of Podcast with Dmitry Dragilev
Nathan: The first question I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job?
Dmitry: Current job or this current…what I’m doing now or…?
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. How did you find yourself ending up doing the work you’re doing today?
Dmitry: I just kind of was really bored and unhappy at my current job working for a giant company, and so I just literally quit one day because I was like, “I don’t want to be, like, all these older guys who I work with.” And sold everything I had and drove to California, to Silicon Valley, because I was reading this magazine and in this magazine, there were these companies.
They were young guys fresh out of college, not even going to college, raising money and building companies, and I wanted to do what they were doing but I didn’t know anything besides how to write code. And I was fresh out of college and I didn’t know how to speak to people, how to build relationships.
I was an introvert and yeah, I just wanted to be there. I thought maybe I could, like, figure out how to build businesses but yeah, didn’t know anything about it at all. I just picked up and left and yeah, that was the decision that kind of led me to the job I have now all these years later.
Nathan: So, you know, one of your notable achievements that you mentioned is you worked at crossloop.com. Was that when you moved to California? Sorry, to…yeah.
Dmitry: Yeah, that was actually, yeah, very shortly after I moved to California I started working there.
Nathan: Yeah, and you used PR outreach to grow the startup from zero to five million users and then it was eventually acquired by AVG.
Nathan: And then you went on to move on and you worked at zurb.com as the only marketer, where you once again used PR outreach and content marketing to grow their daily traffic on site by 10x and really boost up their domain authority massively. And then you’ve gone onto another company, POElab, as their only marketer, used PR outreach again to grow the startup from 0 to 40 million page views and you were acquired by Google in 2014, and then you’ve gone on to build your own SaaS product called JustReachOut.io.
So I really want to delve deep with you around PR and how you’ve used it, and content marketing and how you’ve used it strategically to build and grow startups in a very, very big way because those are some pretty impressive feats, man.
Dmitry: Yeah, thanks. I mean I, over the years, found out that getting press mentions here and there and getting some PR firm to do some work for you here and there just wasn’t moving the needle that much at little companies I was working at. We were trying to grow 50% month over month, 20% month over month and our investors were pushing us.
And we’re paying these PR firms, you know, thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars and it was cool to be in Fast Company. It was nice to be in Inc. magazine, but we were not moving ahead. Like, our numbers were not growing exponentially. And I finally found out that, you know, maybe there needed to be more of a strategy behind all these links.
Because all these mentions, all these little articles that came out about us, was kind of shot up, shot down. We got, like, a big spike of traffic up and then right back down, and I was like, “How can I just keep getting more traffic with those links? How can I arrange it that way?”
And I started with kind of thinking about SEO very early on in the career because my development background, I was thinking how does…you know, Google has been changing a lot. How does YouTube and Google really rank content? And so I was running all sorts of different experiments where one thing I would do is I would write a blog post and then only do PR and, kind of, mentions and reaching out around this one blog post.
So I wouldn’t even talk about my product. I wouldn’t talk about anything else around the brand, around the company, or anything else. I would just only focus on that one thought on that one blog post, and I would try to do PR for that blog post. That piece of content that’s not selling anything. It’s not a product, nobody buys anything on it, they just read it and they enjoy it.
Eventually, what I saw happening is that if I guessed right for other publications and I got other journalists and bloggers mentioning this article and I have people on Quora mentioning it and on Twitter and on Facebook and on LinkedIn, this article starts to rank and it starts to rank higher and higher and higher and higher.
And eventually, this article is sitting on my blog and is ranking at number two or number one for the key term that I want to rank for and then I can say, “All right, well if this article is ranking really high, I can put calls to action on it to get people to purchase something or sign up for an email list or do something afterward.”
And so I was thinking, “All right, so if I can do this with one article, maybe I can do it with more articles but I need to be strategic because I don’t want to just rank for random things that I think are loosely associated with what I do. I want to rank with an intent search that will convert to a paying customer on my end.” So, you know, the definitive guide to pitching journalists or something like that.
Or how to pitch journalists would convert great to a paying customer for my coaching program or my software. So I would write something like that for my business now, but for other companies you’d always want to think, “What is the really pressing, like, things that are annoying people and they are searching for them on Google?”
And Google is really underserving in terms of content that’s strung up on the first page. And so I married, like, SEO to this kind of approach, like strategic approach with content, with PR, really, and that’s where I saw growth that was sustainable. So no more spike up, spike down, spike up, spike down.
Your content is moving up the rankings and as it’s moving up the rankings, you’re gaining more and more traffic every single day. And so that change really just, you know, inspired me to experiment more with it and do more with videos and things like that. And I ended up, you know, using this content PR approach kind of thing to grow a lot of the companies I worked at and my own, as well.
Nathan: Like, man, this might sound like kind of a weird question but you must have been, like, getting other people to write content and you must have had, like, a pretty strong powerhouse behind you, too.
Not just you writing, right?
Dmitry: Yeah, yeah. No, totally. So I was not great at writing when I was first starting out. In the last 10 years, I’ve published over 1,400 articles on my site on like you can go there and check it out. I’ve bookmarked all of them, 1,400 articles over 10 years, and I’ve probably employed close to, like, 30 different writers during those 10 years, last 10 years.
I published from all publications, most major publications at this point, but yeah. I had this process of now, I mean, I work with six different writers who I employ now but what I do is I outline the article and they kind of know my style, my writing style, and they fill in the extra article, I give them feedback, and then it goes to publish.
But I think when starting out, I was really spending a lot of time on writing and sending it to people for feedback, and trying to put together just the first blog post, the second one because I always struggle with, you know, when I want to rank number one for something, I always want the topic in the article, as well, to be the best article out there for this key term.
And so I have to look on the first page of Google and really see what is ranking there and is this term really being underserved by the content there? I have to find one that’s being underserved and then I write down what are the points that I think are important that are not included in these articles on first page of Google, and that is really where I start my, kind of, writing from.
I end up thinking, “All right, they’re not talking about building relationships with the press. They’re not talking about this type of SEO strategy about PR. They’re just talking about pitching press and I want to write an article that is the definitive guide to pitching press, and that guide is going to include this SEO strategy that I talk about now. Also, it’s going to include the biggest, you know, set of templates that people can use to pitch a journalist. It’s going to include all these things.”
So I write down my competitive advantage, basically. I look at it as a product, really. My piece of content is going to outrank others and I employ writers and editors to help with the process and making it the best it can be, and as a result, it’s also, like, the user experience of the reader, too.
The user experience of the whole text, really. When does it get boring in the article? When does it get dull? When do people glaze over and scroll over it? Where do I lose them? Where do they start scrolling faster and then they just kind of hit the X button? And that’s where I’m like, “All right, where can I add a video? Where can I add a little, like, diagram? Maybe here I’ll break it down into bullets. Maybe here I’ll put a quote.”
And I want people to continuously be scrolling. Like the dwell time on my site, I want to be as low as possible. I just redesigned my site and I put a clickable table of contents on the right-hand side, so when people are reading my blog post they can jump around by just exposing that table of contents and then just click over to the next section and the section after the next if they don’t want to read it.
It allows them to easily skip over sections and they see the subheadlines really easily, and that has improved my dwell time by an average minute and a half on all of my blog posts. Which, again, helps rankings and stuff but I really think about the user experience of the reader as they read it and all these different, minute details to make the content the best it can be on my blog because that’s how…I mean, I get all my customers this way, through the blog, and I only have 20 articles on my blog that bring most of the content.
So all those 1,400 articles or whatever I’ve written, they’ve all somehow backlinked to my blog or my service, my software. You know?
Nathan: Yeah, that’s really interesting because, man, what you’re sharing, like these tactics or this strategy, five years from now that’s, like, it’s still going to be golden. Like when it comes to producing great content, you always want to make sure you have the best content.
You always want people to…just give people an amazing experience. That’s not going to change. Like that strategy that you were using, you know, 5 years ago or even 10 years ago hasn’t changed. So what I really want to find out for our audience, as well, is when it comes to PR, like you said, like…you know, because you’ve used PR, you know, strategically in all of these companies you’ve grown and including your own, when it comes to PR, like you said, just pitching and getting a spike in traffic doesn’t really do much.
Yes, you get the link but is there more to it than that? Like are you looking for controversial articles or controversial things and like, you know, Ryan Holiday style, making it go viral to…like, you know, what is the strategy, man?
Dmitry: Yeah. So there’s really…the first thing I always say is what is the goal of the customer or the client or the company in terms of using PR? Are they looking for short-term gains and installs of their app? Do they want more email subscribers? Is it traffic? Is it brand recognition? There’s different goals so I would, you know, custom-tailor a strategy to each of the clients but in short, I would say the approach should be to think of where you want to be in a month, where you want to be in five months, where you want to be in a year and then come up with a content/pitching strategy where you…for example, if you have a Kickstarter, that’s going to be short-term platform engagement and you just want to get as many eyes on your page on the Kickstarter and that’s all.
And so there, you know, you figure your conversion might be, like, in the single digits there or something like that. So you want to, like, figure how much traffic you get to the page and from there it’s, you know, actually reaching out to people who have recently covered a similar Kickstarter campaign and striking up a conversation or relationship with them around the topic of your Kickstarter.
And you would end up getting that conversation rolling with these journalists and at the end, your job is to just close them and get, you know, like a fun story about whatever that Kickstarter campaign is. It’s a short-lived, short-term type of PR engagement very similar to app downloads type of deal where, you know, you’re launching some type of app and you need that initial kind of base of customers.
But people who are, like, serious about using PR for a longer-term strategy, I would say marrying content with it ends up improving your pitches. So we have 4,712 customers, paying customers, that use JustReachOut to send out email pitches to journalists every single day.
They log in, they send these pitches out, and our algorithm catches these pitches a lot of times based on the logic we’ve written, basically looking at are you putting in a description of what you do into your pitch? Is it just your description? So 99% of pitches start out this way, “Hey, Bob.
Love your writing. We actually are doing this. We have a great new app that, you know, gets rid of all distractions on your site. Here’s how it looks, here’s how it works, here’s all this, like, three paragraphs of stuff” and then it’s, like, sign off. And so there’s almost nothing about Bob and most of the time, like, our app will people like, “Hey, did you read this out loud to yourself and would you say this out loud to Bob if you met him at a conference?”
And most people click no. Like I can see in the user input base people are like, “I would not say this out loud but I will email it.” Like why would you email it to them? It’s so awkward. Like, Bob doesn’t know you. Why would you…start up a conversation with him, you know? Like a relationship.
So, like, look at what Bob has written in the last three articles and then start up a conversation about these three articles. See how they’re related to what you’re pitching and maybe there’s some type of an overlap. I like to use Quora a lot to start conversations. So I will answer a question that’s very similar to whatever that article that Bob has written, Bob is a journalist, and then I would say to Bob, “Hey, I just answered a question on Quora and I referenced your article. Hey, you know, it looks like I didn’t do it justice.Would you, you know, mind taking a look? Maybe you could do a better job of answering this question.”
And so Bob would feel like, “Oh, wow, he’s bringing me some value. This guy is promoting me.Really, you know, like friendly and he’s giving me something up front.He’s not asking me to kind of cover right away.” So this relationship kind of strategy really…at scale, you know, you could start reaching out, building these relationships.
At the end, I would say the story needs to be more than just a description of what you do but, you know, the impact that you’re leaving and how that impact relates to the last three stories that journalist has written. So you essentially want to continue that journalist’s beat as they’re writing the stories.
You don’t want them to dramatically shift gears and write about something really different. And yet your story needs to be somewhat, you know, unique so that it’s not exactly the same that the last three stories that that journalist has written about. And so I always say, “Always read the last three stories,” and that’s how our engine finds journalists for you.
It reads the stories that people write about, finds the most relevant ones, says, “All right, well, here’s Bob Smith.They’ve written about bitcoin the last three stories. Looks like you’ve got a bitcoin app that you’re launching. Great. You know, you guys should connect around that.” And then that’s where you kind of look at those stories. You’re like, “All right, he’s written about ICO.I’m not doing an ICO but I’m also, you know…I have a bitcoin course.Maybe there’s some kind of commonality and some kind of topic we have an interest in common which we can discuss?”
And that’s where a lot of the, like, relationship…that’s how, like, human to human, like, that’s how people start conversations at parties and conferences. It’s like, “You’ve written about something, I know something.” It overlaps. Very rarely is it like, “Hey, can you cover us right away?” It’s kind of, like, a little bit of a relationship building type of a strategy.
So I always say if you’re not just pitching a Kickstarter and you want to get coverage right away and forget about PR for years and years and years, but actually want to use PR to gain more exposure month over month, start with this type of outreach.
Where you start a conversation-building relationship and you might get, you know, that story in a month or maybe in three weeks or two weeks but, you know, don’t start off with the pitch of the “Hey, here’s a description of what we do. Can you cover us?” And, yeah, go for quality versus quantity. That’s been my approach, at least, when it comes to, like, approaching journalists and press and PR and also just actually thinking about the future of that relationship.
What’s going to happen in the next month or two? How many articles is the journalist going to write about you? How are you going to help them kind of thing.
Nathan: So once you’re starting to build those relationships with journalists and, you know, you’re starting to use, like, a tool like JustReachOut.io or you can do it manually yourself and start reaching out and developing relationships with people, how do you get the insane growth, like, that you seem to replicate when you work at startups?
Like how does that work, man?
Dmitry: Yeah, so I guess it really depends on what that product is and how you’re using PR and SEO to really, you know, get exposure and publicity. I’ve tried out…I usually just experiment with tons and tons of different tactics and see what actually is going to give me the biggest boost.
So, you know, in the case of CrossLoop, CrossLoop was a tech support marketplace where you could find a helper to help you with a problem on your computer and they take over remotely with their software, and they fix a virus or whatever it may be on your computer.
And so we used PR and content and trying to pitch the story of what we’re doing, all these things, and we got enough people, you know, to use it. But we went from zero to five million customers in a matter of, like, three years or so and that was primarily through the screen sharing product. So what I’ve found is that pitching the story of “Hey, this is what we do.
Come find, you know, a helper and this is the stories of our customers,” it was just too shallow of a story. Like it wasn’t making waves. It gave us some customers, it was great, but the story of here’s a free tool to use to screen share with anybody, anywhere in the world and here are all the different use cases for it.
You can learn how to do math with someone or you can, you know, collaborate on writing or designing or engineering or whatever it may be. So that story seemed to catch on more and so what we started doing is we started guest writing for publications but also coming up with different angles around what people do with screen sharing.
And this was still somewhat early on. A lot of these services weren’t around and we had this free service, and that’s where it was just powerful to use that story to just come up with different possibilities and offshoot off of screen sharing and figuring out, you know, can we guest write about it?
Can we build relationships with publications and show them, you know, like when McCain was running? Or, like, we did this big promotion on, like, here is how to use a computer and here is how people will teach John McCain how to use a computer because there was, like all this press that was coming out that he was not, you know, computer savvy.
And that really helped. We just grasped that screen sharing product and just started creating different stories around it because screen sharing was still somewhat of a new practice back then, and I think…so we grew and eventually this thing was acquired.
The case with Polar was completely, you know, by surprise for me. I tried all sorts of different…Polar was a polling company. Like it was an app on an iPhone that you can create polls on and that’s all it was. It was, like, two images. You put two images, you know, Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts and that’s it, and then you shared with your buddies and then they answered and that was it.
And I was really struggling because I could not figure out how to consistently grow it. I mean we did all the usual things like ads, we did the launch, like we did…you know, we got thousands of people coming in but it was not consistently exploding and growing, and that’s where I said, “Well, what is the news right now? What’s the hottest news today?”
And I would go on whichever publication is publishing those. I would actually troll Techmeme. Techmeme.com and it would be the hottest tech news out there, and I would essentially create polls on these topics and I would promote them, and I would try and get some data around it.
So when Xbox was coming out, 360 verses, you know, the PS4, I did a poll on all the games, all the consoles, all the different parts and all these different details of each console, and then I would reach out to press and say, “Hey, I have this new poll on Xbox versus PS4. Would you be interested in using this data?”
And so data is actually what I found out is really, really great in terms of using as a source or as a way to get PR and get responses from journalists, and we just embraced that strategy of “Hey, we’re going to create polls on everything.”
So when the mayor of Toronto was smoking crack, we had, like, this crazy poll in “San Francisco Chronicle” on the homepage that increased their time on the site by a lot but also gave us a lot of page views. When, you know, like the iOS 7 was coming out we did an item by item comparison with iOS 6 and so we would come up with polls on everything that was coming out in the news.
Like right now in the U.S. there’s all this, like, legislation around taxes. If we were still around, we’d probably be doing polls on that. Whatever is hot and having people poll on it. It was the nature of the product. We changed it. We scrapped the app.
We actually created just only a web interface and we just went solely against all the news and news publications with it, but I mean, I always, like, have used whatever I’m working with to try and figure out how does it connect to journalists or bloggers and the publications?
And how does it improve their storytelling or whatever they’re doing day to day? And so I was always…and, you know, like even now, when people are trying to pitch journalists and influencers or bloggers, they’re like, “Dmitry, like, how do I actually, like, get going and start conversations with these people?” I’m like, “Well, just A, like, look at what they’re writing. B, look at their press opportunities.”
Like journalists every day put out thousands of opportunities that they need an expert to talk to. We aggregate them but there’s a free one called Help a Reporter and there’s one of them called SourceBottle which is I think…there’s many, many.
Radio Guest List is another one. We aggregate a lot of them in JustReachOut but it’s very easy for you to just look at the publications that they’re writing for and say, “Well, here’s Megan Smith.She needs an entrepreneur who is in bitcoin and they need it by, you know, Friday. They need to quote somebody in the article.”
So a lot of those publications or actual journalists issue those, you know, queries to try and get people to quote people in their article. So it’s the lowest hanging fruit people can go after when they’re trying to pitch journalists, but in terms of, like, strategic explosive growth, it always, kind of, starts with lots of different experiments.
So I experiment with Quora. Like I start looking at Quora, answering questions, and trying to get them republished as articles because Quora questions get republished as real articles on News Week, on Forbes, on the Huffington Post and I work with people who do that. I work with, like, this guy Josh or these other people who arrange that to be republished.
So I’ll try that and I’m like, “All right.Is that gaining a lot of traction? Which ones are these…” That might not or that might or I might use another tactic and then say, “All right, I’m going to interview journalists or influencers in my space and try to get those influencers to promote that piece of content and is that giving me the most traction?” Or I might start doing guest writing or I might start…I might just try different tactics to try and see what’s going to give me the most out of my PR effort.
Lately, it’s been this SEO approach that I talked about earlier where I am writing one piece of content on my blog and I’m actually doing a lot of guest posting to try and get that piece of content on my blog to rank number one for my key term, and it’s called the Skyscraper Technique. Brian Dean kind of popularized it and Brian Dean is actually here in New York now so we’ve been hanging out a lot with him.
We’re good friends but, yeah, that approach has really worked well for me, marrying PR and SEO, but for some other people that are listening to this, they might…you know, it might be too long or too much effort to really write content and try to do a bunch of guest writing to link it up. They might need to just pitch journalists straight up and that’s where I would use whatever that product is, whatever, like, your expertise are, certainly marrying that with the journalist’s beat and whatever they need and crave.
99% of stories I find really successful are somewhat around the data or the journey of the entrepreneur or something around that versus just the description of what you do but, you know, there’s so many different hacks, like, I can talk about with just using data. You know, like we had a company that uses just a polling service and they come out with a new poll every week and they run the data, and then they’ll pitch it and that poll and their data would get included in different publications.
And other companies, for example, we have another company that just uses Quora. Like we had a company that answered a question on Quora and got a million views, and they then republishing those answers to actual articles and pushing more and more traffic towards it.
Yesware was a client. We talked with them for a long time before they started doing this but their first 1,000 or 2,000 customers all came from one article on Forbes. They just saw one article that was published around them do really, really well and that article, they just pushed more traffic towards it with ads and things.
Another thing that I like to do is if you’re just lazy or you don’t have time or effort, like, you just don’t have time to write, just look up who’s ranking for your key terms and then what you can do is you just reach out to those people and say, “Hey, buddy, like you have a blog.You’re ranking for my term. Why don’t we strike up a deal?Like you 301 redirect that piece of content to my blog, traffic starts tomorrow, I pay you $100 a month, $200 a month and I basically license that content for, say, 3 weeks or maybe 3 months or maybe 5 months and let’s see how it does. You know?”
So basically, yeah, you can just go directly to the source and be like, “Dude, just give me your content for three months” and you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to write anything, you don’t have to backlink it to anything. So you can just, like, do that and that works sometimes for people. I’ve done it pretty well, like it’s gone well for me in the past, but yeah.
So it kind of depends, I guess, on the team you have in place, on the time you have, also kind of what you’re doing in terms of long-term versus short-term, I’d say. Everybody’s got, like, a little bit of a different story but yeah. I can talk about examples all day long.
I have so many of them. It’s like we have over 4,000 people and I try and get involved with a lot of them. Just, you know, their emailing. I get over 100 people email me every day usually. “I’m pitching this and this is what we’re doing” kind of thing. It’s crazy.
Nathan: Yeah, no, man. It’s really interesting. It’s really inspiring for me because, to be honest, we’ve never had much luck personally, with Foundr and PR, man.
Nathan: And that’s a whole ‘nother story but yeah, we’ve never had much luck. But that’s really inspiring to hear, dude. So, look, we have to work towards wrapping up. I’m curious, what’s JustReachOut right now? Because that’s your SaaS product. That’s, like, your biggest focus. What’s your biggest struggle right now to grow it, besides not using PR?
Dmitry: Churn. I think churn is the biggest issue for me. In general, in PR I think churn is really high in this space, in this industry. People give up, they don’t have time, they don’t think they need to do PR, people leave for all sorts of different reasons but I am always struggling to provide a service that, you know, keeps people on for years and years and years.
And so, yeah, we’ve been addressing it pretty actively this year. We, like, tripled our revenue since last year and it’s been a crazy growth, but at the same time, I want it to be a very, you know, like low churn rate. I’m shooting for, like, 5% and so…
Nathan: Month over month?
Dmitry: Yeah, yeah. And so we’re trying to get to that point and it’s tough because…so now we offer PR service as a do it for you white glove service where instead of you just using our software to pitch journalists, we’re doing it for you. So we take over your account and do it for you. That seems to, you know, keep people on longer, much longer, but we’re also intercepting them with, like, intercom messages at biggest pain points, say, inside the app when we detect it.
And we’re just sending them a note saying, “Hey, you know, I see that you’re having an issue with you’re taking too long to write an email pitch” or “I see that, you know, most of your emails have not been opened”or “The scroll ability, it only took 10 seconds on most of the pitches for journalists to look through it. That’s too low. We want it to be 15 or 20. Here are some suggestions on how to improve your pitch.”
We’re trying to do all sorts of different notifications that are similar to this kind of stuff. So, like, people are improving their pitches as they’re sending them out because it’s very discouraging for people to start this process of sending emails to journalists and then not receive responses right away and then not know what to do.
So we’re always on it with “All right, you sent out four emails.” We track everything. We track on whether it was opened, whether it was viewed, how long it was viewed, even the scroll ability on that email. How long were they scrolling over specific parts of that email?”And we report everything back to our customer and we say, “Well, it looks like, you know, you’ve got to improve your subject line because your open rate is too low” or if the open rate is good then, “Hey, you’ve got to improve the actual pitch. Like the read time, you know, is really, really low on it.”
And so we’re always, like, teaching our customers on how…like, we’re giving them live feedback as they’re sending those pitches out. Where they’re, like, what to improve and so they’re learning. So that’s what’s helping, I think, a lot with the churn rate but, yeah, you know, like I’m running this thing on my own.
We have 4,712 people that use it. We have over 100 people that do our PR white glove service now. We just launched it a few months ago so it’s just wild. Like I still can’t believe that, like, I’m running this. It’s all remote, like, nomadic kind of, like, lifestyle and it’s just kind of, like, crazy for me to think that that many people are using the software to send out pitches.
Yeah, so a lot of my days, like, I try to keep focused and it’s just putting out fires most of the time. Like, we got hacked or some person at CNN got 17 pitches from somebody who’s pitching some stupid [inaudible 00:42:54]. I’m just like…we have a monk. A monk in Tibet is pitching his bracelets to, like, press to buy it or something.
I don’t know. Like he’s pitching the story of, like, sewing his stuff, like these bracelets, putting them together, and I’m like, “Dude, what are you doing? You’re a monk.Like, what?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I’m using the proceeds for, like, my monastery or something.” I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t believe you” but, like, a whole bunch of crazy people out there pitching a lot of random stuff.
So you want to, like, keep, like, tabs on everyone. So, yeah, besides churn rate, it’s just, like, quality of those pitches that keeps me up at night because everything’s coming out from my server. So it’s, like, if people start marking our stuff as spam it’s, like, my ass on the line.
Nathan: Yeah, 100%. No, that’s what you have to be careful of but look, man, we have to work towards wrapping up. My last question is where’s the best place people can find out more about yourself and your work?
Dmitry: Yeah, so it’s criminiallyprolific.com, which is my site and that’s my blog, and that’s where you can see links to all the JustReachOut and PR That Converts and all the things I’m involved in, but yeah, criminallyprolific.com. That’s the site to visit.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, look, thank you so much for your time, Dmitry, and the PR master class is awesome, man, and yeah, we’ll catch up soon, dude.
Dmitry: Cool, sounds good. Thanks for having me on.