Hack Your Email List Growth With The 10 Person Rule

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Spoiler alert: in middle school I was NOT one of the “cool kids”. I know you find this shocking since I now work for the coolest of tech startup companies (insert Silicon Valley jokes here) but it’s true. So when notes were passed around home room in 5th grade, they generally weren’t aimed at me.

Maybe you were a cool kid and remember how the whole passing notes game worked. You’d write a note to someone you liked (“Do you like me? Check Yes or No” style) and then you’d fold it up really small and pass it all the way up the line of desks to the intended recipient. Sometimes those passers along the way would quickly open the note, read it, and giggle before passing. Finally your beloved would read it, respond, giggle more, and pass it back to you.


I didn’t get these notes, remember, but I did see a lot of them pass my desk. I knew who wanted the attention and who was willing to give it back. And it was at that middle school desk when I should have been paying more attention to the lecture on the solar system that I learned everything I needed to know about communication.

Fast forward to today and I have the extreme pleasure of working with thousands of small business owning, email communication sending people. It’s 2016 grown up note passing and I still get to be in the middle observing it all. Fortunately now I can opt in to getting notes from people I like and they come straight to my inbox.


Email is rad, my friend.

But what does a note email sending someone do if they have no intended recipients yet? Or what if they want to grow their list of potential recipients? How do you get permission to send your email love notes in the first place?

Well, you could build an opt in and put the form on your website.

Or you could go straight to the source with what our founder, Nathan Barry, like to call the 10 Person Rule. I’ll let Nathan share it with you here in his own words:

Early on when you’re growing your list it can be hard to know who to target and where to find them online. You usually start by writing blog posts to no one. And it sucks. It’s really weird to write posts for an audience of zero. I think you should start by writing to an audience of ten.

The 10 person rule is where you start by identifying 10 people you know personally who can benefit from your writing. When I started out I was teaching about designing iPhone apps. So I would think through my friends and co-workers and list out 10 names of people who want to learn to design better apps. Let’s see, 3 developer co-workers who build apps on the side, a designer friend who is great at web design, but doesn’t know anything about apps… And so on.

Don’t stop until you have ten actual names listed out.

If you can’t get to ten people you know personally who would benefit from what you may want to teach, you may want to re-evaluate your audience choice. Or make some new friends.

Next you email each of them personally and ask them three questions:

  1. What’s your biggest frustration when learning about [topic]?
  2. What websites, blogs, or forums do you visit now to learn about [topic]?
  3. I’m starting a new site to teach [topic]. I’d love for you to be one of my beta readers. Interested?

You may have even better results if you split this into two separate emails. Questions 1 and 2 would go out in the first email to start a conversation, then if they’re interested you ask question 3.

If you do this right you’ll finish the exercise with 10 new email subscribers, a list of exactly where your target audience hangs out online, and material for your next 5 to 10 blog posts.


The beauty of the 10 Person Rule is that it can be repeated over and over again as your business grows. You meet new people, you interact in new circles, time for another round of the 10 Person Rule!

For extra accountability, post your results of your own 10 Person Rule in the comments below. It’s time to reach out and pass the love around!

Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.

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