It’s day 91 of the Transparent Marketing Project. What does that mean? I’ve officially completed the first 90 days of this project.

As a reminder, in Month 1, Day 0, I set a few goals for the first 90 days of the TMP:

  • Good goal: 100 subscribers (1.11 subscribers per day)
  • Better goal: 300 subscribers (3.33 subscribers per day)
  • Best goal: 500 subscribers per day (5.55 subscribers per day)

Here are the projects that I was going to use to reach that goal:

  1. Build a website where I can publish content that will convert traffic into email subscribers.
  2. Create regular marketing emails to nurture these new subscribers and build loyalty.
  3. Publish and promote content that attracts new subscribers.
  4. Run giveaways to attract new subscribers.

So what’s the final verdict on the first 90 days?

Subscriber goals

First, I hit my better goal. By the skin of my teeth.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

Heck ya!

In fact, I actually acquired 348 subscribers total, but due to the nature of a giveaway, lost a few along the way.

Here’s the breakdown of where all my subscribers came from over the past 90 days:

  • Airbnb Giveaway: 250 subscribers (303 entered total, but some were already on the email list)
  • Social Begging: 82 subscribers (this process is described in Month 1, Day 23)
  • Sumo Welcome Mat: 16 subscribers

Total unsubscribed? 42 subscribers.

6 subscribers also ended up having undeliverable email addresses.

(And almost all of these were from the giveaway, which is, to be expected, as I mentioned in Month 2, Day 40).

The takeaways here?

  • When you have no audience and are starting from scratch, social begging goes a LONG way.
  • When you want to amplify the effect of that social begging, a giveaway can be a great way to kickstart your subscriber growth. But do expect to receive unsubscribes along the way.

Project progress

Did I complete everything I set out to do? Let’s see:

  1. Build a website where I can publish content that will convert traffic into email subscribers → Done.
  2. Create regular marketing emails to nurture these new subscribers and build loyalty → Done.
  3. Publish and promote content that attracts new subscribers → Done. First piece of content published here.
  4. Run giveaways to attract new subscribers → Done. First giveaway implemented.


Pretty much how I’m feeling right now after these first 90 days. ☺

Now let’s talk about (1) some of the lessons learned and (2) what’s happened since my last TMP Report: Month 3, Day 62.

Creating the first piece of content

If you’ve been following along on this journey, you might remember that I’ve said that content creation is where the real work begins when it comes to building an audience and converting them into lifelong fans.

Without incredible content, people have no reason to want to follow you and let you in their email inbox.

So, great content is what, in my opinion, will either make or break the long-term viability of the TMP project.

Obviously, there was no pressure when creating the first piece of content, right? : )

Here’s a little bit about the thought process I went through:

First, I brainstormed a bunch of content ideas. How?

    1. By listening to what my email subscribers were saying when replying to my automated welcomes series.
    2. Then, I reviewed some of the most popular travel content on the web.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

Look at all those shares!

I noticed a pattern. People don’t really know how to find the “off the beaten path” spots, and therefore tend to stick to the tried and true top 10 lists, guidebooks and review sites like TripAdvisor.

So I decided I wanted to create a really awesome piece of content sharing tips from individuals who travel extensively, on how they venture off the beaten path.

Why did I want to crowdsource these ideas rather than come up with them myself?

Well, first of all, if I want this site to become bigger than myself, then I have to involve other people. What better way than to get others to help in the content creation?

Second, I only have one small opinion. If I really want to build some authority on a subject matter, the more travelers I can involve, the better.

Third, I wanted to leverage other individuals with travel audiences, in hopes that some of their followers may eventually become subscribers. However, this is more of a long-term strategy and not something I expected right off the bat. Therefore, I saw this first piece of content as a way to start to build relationships with other travelers.

Now, I’m not going to lie, creating a piece of crowdsourced content is not an easy task. Especially when you are unknown in the targeted industry.

What did this mean concretely? A LOT of cold outreaching.

Aka, more social begging!

I started by identifying lists of top travel sites + bloggers. Using a neat little tool called SellHack, I would grab the site owner’s email address.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

Then I would send a cold email similar to the following:

Subject line: Contribute to an upcoming article?

Hi {{first name}},

I’m working on an article where I’m interviewing a bunch of travel lovers and travel professionals to get their take on being a traveler, not a tourist. And, with your {{special site focus}} focus, I think you’d be a GREAT addition to the piece.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

1) What’s your #1 tip for other travelers who want to venture off the beaten path? How do you go beyond the typical touristy spots and see something a little different and/or more authentic?

2) If you had to describe yourself and what you do, what would it be? Ie: Mom and business owner, Entrepreneur + travel addict, Professional travel blogger. (I’m interviewing a wide variety of sources and want to show my audience you don’t have to travel for a career to know how to travel differently.)

3) Do you have a website or social media profile you want me to link to? Include it here.

4) Please send a picture of yourself traveling that I can include alongside your quote.

5) Last but not least, if you had to pick a top destination on your travel bucket list, what would it be?

Let me know if you’re in. I’m looking for final words by {{date}} (quick turnaround I know).

Thanks a ton!


Using this approach, I was able to get a hold of (and obtain positive responses) from 4 big names in the industry.

I, of course, got plenty of rejection in the process. However, 4 big names are better than 0 big names!

I then leveraged my personal and professional network and obtained 9 contributors whom I already had a relationship with.

At that point in time, I wanted more than 13 contributors.

So I decided to pursue what I thought was an absolutely brilliant idea, only to fall flat on my face.

True story.

There’s an awesome site called Help A Reporter Out, also known as HARO.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

You can create an account, submit details about what kind of contributions you are looking for, and people around the world apply to be a part of your article.

Pretty cool right?

And here I thought I was going to solve all my crowdsourcing challenges by using HARO.

Until I got this email…

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media


I obviously had forgotten about their Alexa ranking rule. Because I was a new site, I was nowhere near a 1,000,000 Alexa ranking. I was closer to the 8,000,000 mark.

Drat. So it was time to go back to the drawing board.

And sometimes, when a few extra challenges are thrown your way, you’re forced to be more creative.

I racked my brain and then it came to me…Facebook groups!

I’m a part of all these great Facebook groups where I have a decent relationship with at least SOME of the members. I could post my contributor request there and see what kind of feedback I got.

(If you’re looking to find relevant Facebook groups for your audience, use this easy video tutorial here to do so.)

By leveraging Facebook groups I was already a part of, I was able to secure 8 additional contributors.

Perfect! I was now up to 21 contributors, which I decided was sufficient for the first publication of this article.

(Note: I plan on updating it in a few months with more contributors, as I want this to be a piece of evergreen content I can continue promoting over and over again.)

So I published the article, titled “21 Travel Experts + Enthusiasts Share Their Best Tips For Venturing Off The Beaten Path”.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

And for the initial promotion, I sent an email to all 297 subscribers on my list at the time.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

Some awesome text feedback on the article from an email subscriber

You can see the performance of these marketing emails below.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

You may that there were quite a few unsubscribes. However, keep in mind that this was one of the first emails I sent to all giveaway entrants after the contest had ended.

Use our free, printable, monthly content calendars to help you better plan your marketing content (blog, email + social). Click here to grab them now.

Promoting the first piece of content

Now, here is where a lot of people make a big error with their content.

They use what some marketers call the “publish and pray” approach.


Just because you publish a piece of content, shoot out one email, and post a couple times on social media, does not mean your audience will come running in droves.

You MUST promote the heck out of your piece of content.

There are a number of ways you can do this, but I’ll share with you my approach for this particular article.

(Because in my opinion, the approach will likely vary based on the nature of the content.)

(1) First, I created 4 custom images for each contributor to use on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest). I added a colored overlay and an excerpt of their quote. Why? So that if they wanted to share the article on their channels (yes, please!), they had a custom image that showcased their contribution.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

An example of a custom image for Pinterest

(2) Then, I scheduled out promotional social posts on my personal channels for the next 6 months. Yes, you heard that right. The promotion of your content should not stop the day or two after publication…especially if the content is evergreen.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

I use CoSchedule to schedule out social posts

(3) Next, I started to source audiences that were larger than my own. For example, I did more cold outreach to large travel-themed groups on Pinterest and Facebook. I’ve secured acceptance to 3 group boards now on Pinterest and 2 groups on Facebook. I’m currently starting to promote this article on these groups. This is a work in progress.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

(4) I’m starting to engage in conversations with strangers who are interested in travel via social media. This is a manual and time-consuming process. Yet it’s key to forging relationships with individuals who are likely to share future content I create. I expect this to be a long-term effort…not overnight results.

/Users/laurenpawell/Desktop/TMP Day 91 - Twitter Convos.png

As you can see, while it’s important to create amazing content that people want to share…you have to spend a significant amount of time and effort promoting that content if you want to gain more visibility and subscribers.

This is a largely manual (and time-consuming) process when you have a very small audience. Because you can’t rely on thousands of people to immediately share everything you create. So you have to work extra hard to gain that much-needed momentum.

Use our free, printable, monthly content calendars to help you better plan your marketing content (blog, email + social). Click here to grab them now.

A tool I LOVE for content promotion

You may or may not know that I’m super into automation and freeing up my time wherever I can.

So, if there’s a way to make my life easier when it comes to both content creation and promotion, you can bet I’m going to employ it.

Likewise, I wanted to share with you one of my FAVORITE tools for this purpose: CoSchedule.

What is this software and why is it so awesome?

(1) It helps you plan ALL of your marketing content (webinars, posts, emails, web pages, blog posts, podcasts, etc). Having all of your marketing materials in one place makes life SO much easier.

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

(2) Create social campaigns tied to articles that can be scheduled out months in advance.

(3) Recycle evergreen posts, getting maximum visibility on your content (this is even better than MeetEdgar, because you can add specific dates + times to recycle).

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

(4) Add team members and assign tasks. This is brilliant if you outsource any of your writing or other aspects of your marketing.

It’s seriously SUCH a time saver and makes social promotion so much simpler.

I literally have social campaigns scheduled out all the way into March promoting this piece of content.

How does this help me?

Well, first of all, I don’t have to manually remember to publish future posts.

Second, I can now focus 100% of my promotional efforts on cold outreach to groups and individuals who are likely to be interested in the content I create.

This is a major, major win.

Now, if you want to learn a little bit more about CoSchedule watch the video below.

You can also give it a test run for your business by signing up for a 2-week free trial here.

If you engage heavily in content marketing, I think you’ll adore this tool just as much as I do.

An important note about a “mistake” I made

Now, there’s one thing I need to share with you…and it’s a “mistake” I made with this first piece of content.

I use quotations around the word “mistake” because it’s something I actually did on purpose.

Say what?

Yes, because I wanted to illustrate a point.

Do you remember how I mentioned 16 of my subscribers came from the Sumo Welcome Mat on my site?

Here’s a picture in case you don’t remember what that is (a full-screen opt-in).

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

What do you notice about this opt-in?

It’s very generic, right? It asks for website visitors to sign up to get notified every time a new article is published.

Not very compelling, eh?

Newsflash: no one wants to sign up to get more newsletters in their inbox. While this may have worked well in the past, it is no longer a great way to collect email subscribers.

What you need (and in this case, I need) is a lead magnet.

What is a lead magnet you ask?

It’s free incentive you give a prospect in exchange for receiving their email address.

Lead magnets come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Discounts for new subscribers
  • Ebooks
  • Videos
  • Automated email courses (dripped out over time)
  • Cheatsheets
  • Toolkits or resource lists
  • Free trials

Now, my current Welcome Mat is converting at 1.54%. (That means that 1.54% of all my website visitors convert into email subscribers.)

The Transparent Marketing Project: Month 3, Day 91 • Bixa Media

So, if I want to grow my email list, there are two ways I can do it.

  1. The harder way = get tons more traffic.
  2. The easier way = convert more of my existing traffic into website subscribers.

As conversion expert Peep Laja says:

“More than 95% of your visitors won’t buy anything on their first visit. They’re either just browsing, still in the research phase or not entirely sure your offer is what they need. It takes time to build trust, instill confidence and build a relationship.

So if we know that the overwhelming majority won’t buy anything on their first visit, why push it? You’re just going to turn them away faster.

Instead, you should try to capture their email address and begin forming a relationship. Money is in the list, as they say… and they’re right!

Having an attractive lead magnet will accelerate your email list building like it’s on steroids.

If you’re currently getting 5 subscribers a day and you’re able to increase it to just 8 a day, the difference in 30 days would be almost 100 new subscribers (150 vs. 240). If even small improvements like that can make a difference, imagine what a killer lead magnet can do for your list.”

By adding a compelling lead magnet to my site, I should accomplish #2.

Hopefully, I can also start to work on #1 as well.

So, you can see that by keeping my generic opt-in, I missed out on an opportunity to convert more of my website visitors for this article into subscribers.

But then I wouldn’t have had the chance to teach you exactly why a lead magnet is important.

Sometimes we make sacrifices. ☺

The next 90 days for the TMP

This leads in nicely to my goals and projects for the next 90 days.

Ready for them?

  • Good goal: 500 total subscribers (2.22 subscribers per day)
  • Better goal: 700 total subscribers (3.33 subscribers per day)
  • Best goal: 1,000 total subscribers per day (7.77 subscribers per day)

So, how am I going grow my subscribers?

Again, through a few, well-defined projects:

  1. Create a compelling lead magnet to convert more website traffic into email subscribers.
  2. Publish and promote content that attracts new subscribers.
  3. Create regular marketing emails to nurture these new subscribers and build loyalty.
  4. Run a second giveaway to attract new subscribers.

Do you see some similarities here compared to the last 90 days?

This formulaic approach is on purpose. Consistency is key to seeing success from your results.

I can’t wait to share with you how the next 90 days go!

I’m off to the races!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the content creation and promotion process or anything else explained in this post, please comment below, and I’ll reply to you in a timely manner.

In the spirit of total transparency, some of the links included in this article are affiliate links. What does this mean? If you click on an affiliate link and ultimately decide to use the product or service I recommended, I may receive a small commission on the purchase you make. However, I do not include affiliate links for any product or service I do not use and love personally. So, you can rest assured that I only recommend tools that I feel deliver great value to you. Please note that I have not been given any free products, services or anything else by the companies I recommend. The only compensation I receive is in the form of affiliate commissions. If you have any questions about this, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via our contact page.