Ten years ago my colleague Mike Dillon came to me with an opportunity; he created a LinkedIn Group called Sports Marketing and PR Pros but wasn’t sure what could be done with it. Back then, LinkedIn was less forward leaning than today, and even today it is still a relatively passive platform although their push on items tailored to you has grown exponentially.
So my idea was thus; let’s take the emails of those who subscribe to the group, export them and create a newsletter of best practices, jobs, networking events and some other things in a simple outbound weekly email. Having been around the sports recruiting space in my college and SID years, I knew coaches always said Sunday’s were the best time to get people to take notice of something, so we timed the newsletter to go out on Sundays.
We wouldn’t charge, would curate the list, make it as much word of mouth as possible and see where it goes. No selling, no ads, no big plans, no big intentions, just something simple that could serve as a helpful digest to supplement the group. We also never really went out and actively recruited members for the most part, the growth would happen organically. If it worked great, if not, then I’d get a few more hours back from my week.
So here we are 10 years later in a world where 10 minutes or 10 months can seem like an eternity, and all is still going, almost 39,000 members later. The file as I looked this morning has close to 5 million characters in it. You are from, as best we can tell, 30 countries. Some of you started as interested high school students and are now working in the field. You are a good amount of educators and mentors and you are pretty engaged as we can tell from the click thru rate. Most are just professionals from all walks of life who like a good read or two. Yes there is churn for sure; I hate to get those little unsubs every week, and sometimes issues with gmail and yahoo and firewalls kick folks off without us knowing, but we do our best to keep folks involved and engaged.
I can honestly say not a week goes by where I don’t get an email. A call or meet someone who found their way on to the list by a recommendation or by joining the LinkedIn Group (which is one of the largest, if not the largest, and the oldest on the platform). Most times the messages are great; we helped with an event, a job or a read. In 10 years I have only gotten one nasty note and we took care of him, as they say, lol. And I do curate the list one by one; it is easy to track down spammers or those just trying to get into large groups like ours just to push products that don’t fit.
At least a few times a month we get questions about advertising or monetizing, and I always say the same thing: if you can find a way and take the time to show me how it would work without compromising the group or spamming people, then I’m all in. We have yet to find that answer, but I’m open to suggestions!
The newsletter has paid for itself for me in ways you cannot measure with a few dollars. I get an amazing first look at ideas big and small, we help people who may not know where to go find jobs and internships (several search folks have said the quality of return off of what we put out dwarfs anything else because it is a very targeted and passionate and loyal group) and it keeps me thinking and learning each and every week. I also seem to have a feel after all this time for what the group is looking for, and the response from folks is usually pretty responsive. Most people get it on Sunday mornings from the East Coast at around 7 am. By 7:15 or 7:20 I usually have content coming back for the next week, which is pretty gratifying. Ironically one of the other things I like looking at on the weekend return is the “Out of Office” returns as there are so many names of people you tend to lose track of that pop up, many of whom are enjoying a vacation! It all keeps at least my mind fresh and active.
So are we looking for new formats and better ways to make it work? Sure. Are we open to money making ideas? Of course. Do we want to lose the continuity we have? Nope. How long can I keep it going? As long as there is an interest I think. I have it down, and I do do it alone, do a little bit of a late night curated science at this point, and haven’t missed a beat yet. I know there are a typo or two from time to time, and I still haven’t been able to change “NC” to “NJ” on Icontact (sore subject), but for the most part it is a labor of love, and we love helping and learning.
So that’s it. A decade in. Don’t blink, it goes too fast but it’s all good. Thanks for reading, listening, sharing and keeping us humble. Have a great week and send along the ideas!