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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #93
How much time should you be spending on your startup?
In general, people can have two kinds of relationships with their jobs. They either view their jobs as sources of income to support to the other things in life they want to be doing; or their jobs are the things they’re passionate about and the things they want to spend most of their time on.
Entrepreneurs tend to fall into the latter category. We love our jobs (even if we’re sometimes frustrated by them), and, as a result, we’d often prefer to be “working” during times when most people would be doing other things. Case in point: I’m prepping this newsletter on a Saturday evening, and I’m OK with that. It’s more enjoyable to me than knocking back beers at my local sports bar (not that the beers/bar thing is bad). However, this passion for working has some consequences entrepreneurs should be aware of, and I explore those in this issue’s featured article.
In Web Masters news, the featured guest in this week’s episode is a fun throwback. It’s Erik Selberg, creator of MetaCrawler. MetaCrawler was a popular metasearch engine I loved back when I was in high school. In case you haven’t heard the term before, a metasearch engine searches other search engines in order to produce better results. Kind of crazy to think about needing something like that today, but it was important before Google came along a “solved” web search.
And, by the way, it wasn’t just that pre-Google search engines weren’t good at searching. A lot of times, they just weren’t working and you’d get a 404 error. Could you imagine what would happen if Google just didn’t work for long stretches of time?
Ah…. the early Web. It was definitely a different experience.
If you don’t want to be fired by your investors, you’d better learn the difference between being an entrepreneur and being a CEO.
The Grad Student Who Searched Other Search Engines
Before Google perfected web search, lots of search engines were trying to help people find what they needed online, and they weren't always good at it. That's why Erik Selberg created MetaCrawler, the search engine that searched other search engines. Hear the story of how -- and why -- he built it on Web Masters.
Listen now on:
…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
FROM THE ARCHIVES…
One Metric You Should Never Track When Fundraising
Entrepreneurs tend to brag about some strange things. In this article, I describe one of the strangest and explain why you shouldn’t be bragging about (or even worrying about it).
Office Hours Q&A
I need to build an email list of potential sales prospects for my company. Do you have any recommendations for the best way to do it?
Would you recommend constructing the list on your own by digging through something like LinkedIn? Or what about buying lists? I see lots of companies offering to sell email lists. Are they legit? Are they even legal to use?
List building is a great – and undervalued – entrepreneurial skill! As for the best way to build a list, you need to answer a couple important questions.
Question #1: How big of a list do you need?
Question #2: Do you have more time or more money?
The thing about building email lists is you can create them yourself. It just takes time and lots of repetitive research. That’s why the questions of size and time versus money matter. If you have the money to acquire lists, you should probably do that. If you don’t, then you’ll need to build your lists yourself.
Before I discuss buying versus building lists in more detail, let me share a quick caveat about list targets. Some lists you can’t buy because the info is too specific to you and your needs. For example, a list of investors. Yes, I’m sure you can buy a list of VC contact info somewhere, but that’s a waste of money. You still need to do the hard work of figuring out which VCs would be good potential investors for your company, and that’s something only you can do. Once you have that list, finding contact info will be relatively quick and easy.
Luckily, when an email list needs to be highly specific and targeted, it’s also likely to be a small list, which means it won’t take an excessive amount of time. For example, if you’re selling nuclear reactors, there just aren’t many people in the world in the market to buy nuclear reactors, so you can – and probably should – build that list yourself.
In contrast, if you need a large list, this is where the question of time versus money really becomes relevant. A quick Google search will show you the world is filled with companies selling email lists. Are those email lists legit? Some are. Some aren’t.
Are they legal to use? Again… some are and some aren’t. It largely depends on where you live, who you’re emailing, how the list was acquired, and how you’re going to use the lists. You’re responsible for knowing all those things and knowing the associated regulations.
Beyond those kidneys of issues, the key with buying lists is to make sure you’re buying from a reputable company. They’re pretty easy to spot in terms of how they communicate with you. For starters, if you can pick up the phone, call them, and get someone talking with you immediately, that’s usually a good sign. Those are legit companies. In contrast, if you can’t find a phone number, or if you struggle reaching someone when calling the phone number the company has posted online, stay away.
The other thing you want to be careful of when purchasing lists is to make sure you’ve got the right filters. Every person selling lists is going to try to sell you as many contacts as possible. After all, they charge by the contact. In contrast, you want the reverse. You want as few contacts as possible who perfectly fit your ideal potential customers. Don’t let someone talk you into buying the wrong types of prospects.
If you do buy a list, don’t buy the entire list the company is trying to sell you. Instead, buy a few thousand contacts and test them to make sure it’s A) a good list; and B) you know how to sell to it. Also, any legit company will give you a sample list with 10-ish contacts just so you can verify legitimacy. Make sure you get that list and examine it carefully.
Alternately, if list buying isn’t for you, you can also take more of a hybrid approach where you build your own list using automation tools and then source contact info. For example, there’s no shortage of plugins/extensions that can help you parse LinkedIn for people with certain job titles, etc. Use one of those to get a bunch of prospects, and then give your list to a service like UpWork where you can pay people to turn names into contact info (emails, phone numbers, etc.). This process takes a bit longer than buying lists, but it’s not as slow as building lists yourself. It’ll also have the advantage of being more targeted and probably a little cheaper than buying a list.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!