How Chief Used Cold Email to Start Their Network

and how you can too

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Read Time: 16.5 Minutes

Happy Sunday Operators ⚙️

People think the world is driven by greed.

I believe the world is driven by the desire to connect with others.

This strong desire to connect with like-minded individuals drives the largest businesses in the world.

That’s why I decided to dive into one of the largest professional networks I could find.

Chief is a billion-dollar professional network focused on helping women executives achieve success. The group has over 15,000 members (!).

But how did they start?

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Setting the Stage

How Chief Used Cold Email to Start Their Network

Becoming a top executive for anyone is a big accomplishment.

But it gets lonely at the top. For women, it gets lonely a lot earlier.

Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan, executives at high-growth startups, understood this struggle. Their personal experiences with:

  • Terrible networking events

  • Poorly planned leadership development courses

  • And unequal spaces for woman

led them to co-found Chief in 2019.

Chief aims to create an exclusive community for women executives to grow as leaders.

(Just like what I'm doing for COO and senior operators at Cornerstone!)

By helping their members level up, Chief help more women achieve true positions of influence and leadership.

Chief’s most popular offering is “Core groups,” which are peer groups of 10 other Chief members and a dedicated executive coach that meet monthly.

The curated groups ensure you're with a group of people who 'get it.'

The company also offers workshops, a digital platform to connect with other members and clubhouses in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Guest speakers – like Michelle Obama and tech journalist Kara Swisher – also give talks for Chief’s community.

Since its initial launch in 2019 with 200 members, Chief has grown to over 15,000 women in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, with over 60,000 on the waitlist.

With membership costing about $8,000, you can estimate that they make around $100M in annual revenue.

(No wonder they have a billion-dollar valuation!)

But how did Chief get their first members?

Childer told the My First Million podcast about their launch strategy:

"It was pretty amazing. We emailed our 10 or 20 closest friends, and they probably told a handful of people. We said, 'Hey, we're launching this in like 60 days. Apply, and we'll let you know if this is a good fit.' But it wasn't just our closest friends; we definitely sent some cold emails out to people that we had never met before....

It was amazing to cold email C-suite executives at Fortune 500 companies, and people were excited to join. I think being able to reference the YPO model, which a lot of people understood, helped to create some of that traction.

Carolyn Childers

By using cold email to attract the highest quality members, Chief was able to jumpstart their business.

Cold email is one of the oldest ways to scale a business. However, getting in front of the right people is another beast altogether.

Cold email can be a great channel to launch a network, but it can also be dicey when done wrong.

The era of "spray and pray" is dead. You're more likely to end up in the Spam folder than get a response.

Ops Tactic: Don’t spray and pray with cold email. Use cold email strategically to kickstart your network.

Why this Matters
Why Should You Even Want to Send Cold Emails?

Cold emails give you the power of targeted outreach. It's like playing darts—you don't throw them and hope for the best. You aim for the bullseye.

With cold emailing, you're in control. You can segment and target the people most likely to be interested in your offering.

Take Chief, for example. They didn't send a mass email to every female executive in business. They targeted senior executive women in VP positions in Fortune 500 companies based in NYC.

That's super specific! By focusing on this group, they ensured that their message hit home.

Now, let's talk about cost. We all know that marketing can be a real budget-buster. But with cold emailing, you can make a big impact without breaking the bank.

The main costs are getting your hands on those email lists and the time you spend crafting those compelling messages.

Cold emailing can make your product or service feel like the hottest ticket in town. People start to sit up and notice when you position your offer as exclusive. They want in on the action.

Chief nailed this by positioning their network as a premium, exclusive community for senior executive women.

And by selectively reaching out via cold email, they made their recipients feel like VIPs. It's like getting a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory – you feel special and valued.

So, let's say you are trying to jumpstart your business with cold email. How should you start?

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