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My business is crumbling. I need help

PJ Pahygiannis

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Oct 6, 2014
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Hey everyone! I haven't posted in a while, but that is because my business has exploded over the last 7 months.

But now it is crumbling

I am a 23 years old senior in college. I have built a large, well known personal brand among digital marketing agency owners on Facebook as the go to person for all things cold email. Long story short, four years ago I was fired from my first job because I could not sell using cold email (I was doing B2B sales). Ever since I have been obsessed with cold email and have come close to mastering it. In October 2017 I started branding myself as "PJ The Email Guy". I deleted almost my entire friends list and added 5,000 digital marketers. I started putting out content about cold email (mainly my observations and experiments) in agency owner groups and on my profile and very quickly made a name for myself.

For the first year all I did was scrape and sell lists of business owner email addresses to agency owners and would basically write the copy for them. I made good money for a college student (around $40k a year). But, last October a friend who I ran a cold email campaign for and got amazing results for encouraged me/pushed me to offer what I did for him as a complete done for you service, which was running cold email campaigns from start to finish to schedule calls with small business owners interested in his service. He does one on one Facebook Ads training. In 14 days I had 150 business owners wanting to be called about his service from cold email.

The first version of the service for $1,500 we ran the cold email campaign, got business owners interested, and put their info into a spreadsheet and passed it off to the client.

So, I did. I had built a following on Facebook by this point and the service very quickly caught on. By November I was doing $15,000 a month.

In October I hired my first time employee, a virtual assistant named Veronica. She became my project manager. Thanksgiving 2018 I hired my second employee named Rodolfo to handle the spreadsheets.

In December that same friend told me we should take it a step forward and have Virtual Assistants actually call the business owners that replied interested, qualify them for the client, and schedule them on the clients calendar for $1,000 more. So, we did.

This service soon attracted even more clients. In January we brought on 10 clients and grossed $25,000. In March we added a 5 deal guarantee where we would work until they closed 5 new clients from the calls we scheduled.

I was not prepared for what came next. We relied on Google/Gmail and sending softwares like Mailshake and Woodpecker. All of the sudden Google started throttling/restricting these sending softwares. It happened gradually, but started affecting us immediately. We needed to send 500 emails a day, everyday per client. At first Google started occasionally blocking emails. But, by April we couldn't send more than 100 a day. By June we could only send 30 to 40 emails a day. It went from a gradual tightening to a full blown choking. Google has essentially choked these software company's off their API.

I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for a good month trying to find a solution. I tried to pay to have my own software built. I tried just about everything. Clients got sick of waiting for is to find a solution and started requesting refunds.

My next move was to hire 10 VAs to send emails one by one manually. They used their phones and Instagram. Most businesses have their email addresses on their profile. A VA would go to Instagram, type in #draincleaning, and email every plumber using that hashtag by copying and pasting the email copy we gave them. We would create a new domain/email for each client and give the VA the log in to add the email account to their phone. This got very expensive very fast. We were paying $140 per 3,000 emails sent. But Google started blocking us here as well. Domains/email accounts were getting sent to spam in as little as 24 hours.

Fast forward to today, we did $33,000 in May and $31,000 in June. We had to refund $60,000 back to 25 clients. There were weeks we brought on as many clients as we refunded

Thankfully, as of two weeks ago the sending issues are fixed. We ended up having to get off Google servers entirely and get our own SMTP server. We are now sending almost 20,000 emails a day flawlessly.

Unfortunately, I blew through every cent I had saved and invested just to cover all of the refunds, operations, and payroll. Things got so bad I had to take out a $20,000 line of credit through Kabbage at 16% interest to make payroll yesterday (it was $7,000) and refund clients. I have $5,000 left in the credit line and a three weeks until the first payment is due.

We have 15 clients remaining who signed up at the $2,500 price point and 30 clients who signed up for a promotion we ran where they paid $500 upfront for the first deal/client.

In June my payroll was $5,500 and in May it was $7,100. I let go two team members yesterday and cut my project managers pay by $300 to $1,700 a month. Her assistant was one of the ones I let go. Now my payroll is down to $2,900 a month

I have $100 left in my bank account.

But, now word has spread about everything we went through. The clients I refunded are talking trash about me to their friends in the industry. We had to refund two big influencers in the industry and they have told all of their friends. Our sales are down 70% to $7,500 a month (roughly three clients). We have not brought on a new client in almost three weeks.

I feel toxic. No one will touch me or my company with a ten foot pole. I'm losing friends on Facebook daily. My pipeline has dried up completely.

I was supposed to host a cold email master class in a Facebook group of 36,000 marketers, but when a client we refunded who owns a multi million dollar agency told his friend, the owner of the group, about his poor experience with us the owner cancelled and found another person.

My business is and was dependent on my personal brand/my reputation. I'm not sure how to recover it. I've posted publicly on my profile what we went through and how we have fixed it, but it hasn't helped.

I feel hopeless. I can't find a way out of this hole I am in and I don't know how to stop digging. I can't afford to refund $53,000 to the clients we have left and can't afford to keep paying my team to work on their campaigns.
 

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broswoodwork

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This is way super deep over my pay grade, but can you offer a free or super discounted emergency "We want your business back" 1 month service to all of the clients that cancelled? It may fix the black eye, but it probably won't solve the cash flow issue.

Hope someone smarter than me comes along to help, bro.

Bump.
 

Jon L

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It sounds like your main business is kaput ... but all is never lost. You have a very valuable skill - the ability to organize an email campaign that works. All you're missing is the technical side.

I ran across someone that runs a business that provides seasoned ip addresses for email campaigns like yours. Ive never done business with them, but it might be worth a call to see what kind of deal or relationship you can set up. (or if you want to set anything up with them at all. again, I don't really know them past a few conversations). PM me for details.

With your current clients that you need to refund. I'd call each one of them and explain your financial situation. The good thing is that its not worth it for them to sue you over $2500. What you can offer is that you'll find another service that will handle the technical side, but that you will continue to run the email campaign itself. That portion of it is your secret sauce. The technical side is just a nice add-on service. Tell your clients that you will work out a discount for them with the new service provider, but that you can't afford to pay that fee yourself. Tell them that 'I want to make this right and provide as much value to you as I can.'

At the end of the day, your clients want paying customers. Tell them your plan to help them get paying customers.

Your customers will likely think to themselves, 'Well this guy f*cked up, and I've lost my money. But, he's trying to make it right, and he does have a point that he manages a kick-a$$ email campaign. I will give him another chance because its not going to cost me a lot of extra money and I might as well get something out of this.'
 

guy93777

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My business is and was dependent on my personal brand/my reputation. I'm not sure how to recover it.
you should read Jay Abraham stuff for ideas about that. Jay is a legendary marketer. the pope of marketing .


Jay gives away free valuable stuff on his website.




please use these ressources

i am fed up to help people who do not care what i say

this is insane. are you serious ot not ? why are you here ?



.




.
 

Primeperiwinkle

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Dude. Stop freaking out.

You’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

How did you get all those marketers to begin with?!? How did you find the groups you’re in right now?

Those aren’t the only digital marketers on the planet!! They’re just the first batch! Go find more. Now.

Start writing content about why your business CANNOT BE HURT by Google! That’s HUGE. You’ve overcome the biggest problem digital marketers face every day. Google can’t choke you!!

Say Hallelujah and be proud of yourself! There are other businesses that would love to pay you. You just have to find them!
 

Andy Black

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Breathe PJ !

Are your systems working now? Are you now able to generate meetings for your current clients via cold email? Are you able to generate positive ROI for them? Cool... keep generating revenue for them and they’ll keep paying you and will eventually bring their friends.

People don’t do repeat business with you because of your personal brand, but because you’re providing value.


You’ve managed to build a personal brand in a few online places. Go do that in other places now, with your additional knowledge of how to not be dependent on Google.

Oh, and consider ways of generating more business for yourself that do NOT rely on your personal brand.



If it’s possible then pay back the people you need to, or at least contact them and explain how/when you’ll do it? Or can you offer to generate the meetings they paid for now that your systems are firing again?

I’m a firm believer that if you keep doing the right things then the results will follow.


You are NOT toxic. I’ve screwed up accounts and relationships. I do what I can to right it and move on. It happens. Just try to do the right thing by people and keep moving.



I’m curious...

Can you use your cold email skills to generate more business for yourself?

Who else also wants more business that you could potentially get via cold email? Surely it’s not just Facebook Ads agency owners? All the businesses those agency owners want as clients want more sales themselves. Can you help the end businesses directly?

There’s still probably lots of business who you can help. Not just Facebook Agency owners either. PR agencies? Google Ads agency owners? Software houses? Engineering companies? Check out the Quickmail.io Facebook group and see who’s trying to learn how to do cold emails? It being Facebook then probably lots of budding Facebook Ads agency owners. (We have Tai to thank for this...)




Can cold emailing skills be an add-on service that some businesses could sell into their current clients?

Do you have your own Facebook group? Is it worth creating one?
 
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P

PJ Pahygiannis

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Hey everyone! Just a quick update. We got rid of the old $2,600 program and introduced a new pay per lead/reply cold email service. In a week and a half we signed up 80 new clients. They only pay $35 for each reply we forward them from business owners interested in their offer. They are billed every Friday.

The first 60 campaigns launched yesterday.

Here's the bad news. I'm now almost $35,000 in debt. Here is a breakdown
  1. $14,000 in refunds to 11 angry clients who I am trying to hold off and have to keep making excuses to why I can't refund them today. (I also have a negative $3,000 PayPal balance)
  2. The $20,000 maxed out Kabbage credit line at 16% interest (first payment of $3,500 due on 9/5/19)

I have a full tank of gas and $50 in my pocket. That's it. Plus I have to pay my college tuition next week somehow

Any suggestions? I'm getting hammered by these clients I owe refunds to. Being in this deep financial hole is absolutely terrifying.

@Primeperiwinkle, @Andy Black @MJ DeMarco
 
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Andy Black

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Have you spoke to the 11 angry clients? Can you arrange a way to pay them back or send them leads over time?
 

Bekit

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Hey everyone! I haven't posted in a while, but that is because my business has exploded over the last 7 months.

But now it is crumbling

I am a 23 years old senior in college. I have built a large, well known personal brand among digital marketing agency owners on Facebook as the go to person for all things cold email. Long story short, four years ago I was fired from my first job because I could not sell using cold email (I was doing B2B sales). Ever since I have been obsessed with cold email and have come close to mastering it. In October 2017 I started branding myself as "PJ The Email Guy". I deleted almost my entire friends list and added 5,000 digital marketers. I started putting out content about cold email (mainly my observations and experiments) in agency owner groups and on my profile and very quickly made a name for myself.

For the first year all I did was scrape and sell lists of business owner email addresses to agency owners and would basically write the copy for them. I made good money for a college student (around $40k a year). But, last October a friend who I ran a cold email campaign for and got amazing results for encouraged me/pushed me to offer what I did for him as a complete done for you service, which was running cold email campaigns from start to finish to schedule calls with small business owners interested in his service. He does one on one Facebook Ads training. In 14 days I had 150 business owners wanting to be called about his service from cold email.

The first version of the service for $1,500 we ran the cold email campaign, got business owners interested, and put their info into a spreadsheet and passed it off to the client.

So, I did. I had built a following on Facebook by this point and the service very quickly caught on. By November I was doing $15,000 a month.

In October I hired my first time employee, a virtual assistant named Veronica. She became my project manager. Thanksgiving 2018 I hired my second employee named Rodolfo to handle the spreadsheets.

In December that same friend told me we should take it a step forward and have Virtual Assistants actually call the business owners that replied interested, qualify them for the client, and schedule them on the clients calendar for $1,000 more. So, we did.

This service soon attracted even more clients. In January we brought on 10 clients and grossed $25,000. In March we added a 5 deal guarantee where we would work until they closed 5 new clients from the calls we scheduled.

I was not prepared for what came next. We relied on Google/Gmail and sending softwares like Mailshake and Woodpecker. All of the sudden Google started throttling/restricting these sending softwares. It happened gradually, but started affecting us immediately. We needed to send 500 emails a day, everyday per client. At first Google started occasionally blocking emails. But, by April we couldn't send more than 100 a day. By June we could only send 30 to 40 emails a day. It went from a gradual tightening to a full blown choking. Google has essentially choked these software company's off their API.

I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for a good month trying to find a solution. I tried to pay to have my own software built. I tried just about everything. Clients got sick of waiting for is to find a solution and started requesting refunds.

My next move was to hire 10 VAs to send emails one by one manually. They used their phones and Instagram. Most businesses have their email addresses on their profile. A VA would go to Instagram, type in #draincleaning, and email every plumber using that hashtag by copying and pasting the email copy we gave them. We would create a new domain/email for each client and give the VA the log in to add the email account to their phone. This got very expensive very fast. We were paying $140 per 3,000 emails sent. But Google started blocking us here as well. Domains/email accounts were getting sent to spam in as little as 24 hours.

Fast forward to today, we did $33,000 in May and $31,000 in June. We had to refund $60,000 back to 25 clients. There were weeks we brought on as many clients as we refunded

Thankfully, as of two weeks ago the sending issues are fixed. We ended up having to get off Google servers entirely and get our own SMTP server. We are now sending almost 20,000 emails a day flawlessly.

Unfortunately, I blew through every cent I had saved and invested just to cover all of the refunds, operations, and payroll. Things got so bad I had to take out a $20,000 line of credit through Kabbage at 16% interest to make payroll yesterday (it was $7,000) and refund clients. I have $5,000 left in the credit line and a three weeks until the first payment is due.

We have 15 clients remaining who signed up at the $2,500 price point and 30 clients who signed up for a promotion we ran where they paid $500 upfront for the first deal/client.

In June my payroll was $5,500 and in May it was $7,100. I let go two team members yesterday and cut my project managers pay by $300 to $1,700 a month. Her assistant was one of the ones I let go. Now my payroll is down to $2,900 a month

I have $100 left in my bank account.

But, now word has spread about everything we went through. The clients I refunded are talking trash about me to their friends in the industry. We had to refund two big influencers in the industry and they have told all of their friends. Our sales are down 70% to $7,500 a month (roughly three clients). We have not brought on a new client in almost three weeks.

I feel toxic. No one will touch me or my company with a ten foot pole. I'm losing friends on Facebook daily. My pipeline has dried up completely.

I was supposed to host a cold email master class in a Facebook group of 36,000 marketers, but when a client we refunded who owns a multi million dollar agency told his friend, the owner of the group, about his poor experience with us the owner cancelled and found another person.

My business is and was dependent on my personal brand/my reputation. I'm not sure how to recover it. I've posted publicly on my profile what we went through and how we have fixed it, but it hasn't helped.

I feel hopeless. I can't find a way out of this hole I am in and I don't know how to stop digging. I can't afford to refund $53,000 to the clients we have left and can't afford to keep paying my team to work on their campaigns.
Hey PJ,

Sorry to hear about all this. That's rough! It must feel terrifying to be in that predicament. Survival kicks in and you must be under a ton of stress.

You have had an amazing rise to success, and I think you can continue that success.

Here are the facts I see:
  • Your skill at cold email is intact. You still know how to send emails that get results.
  • The need for cold email will never go away. This is a perpetual businesses pain. No one likes to do it. Almost no one does it well. But YOU do.
  • Your reputation hinges on the skill of sending cold emails that actually bring in results.
  • Your reputation does NOT hinge on the email server issues that tripped you up for a few months there. That has nothing to do with you as a business owner.
  • Because your skill is still there and the email sending problem is now solved, I believe you will quickly get back everything you lost.
  • The people who are smearing your name all over the internet are NOT acting fairly. This is not a situation where "the service ain't what it's cracked up to be." This is a situation where you ran into an enormous hurdle. One of the pillars you had been depending on suddenly caved out from under you. And you did whatever it took to solve it.
Also, a couple of points of advice:

1) Your Reputation
To keep your reputation intact, I would write up a pretty transparent post-mortem of the situation, kind of like the one you posted here, and post it publicly on the company blog. Maybe you don't give dollar numbers, but you talk about the growth in terms of numbers of clients coming on board.

Explain how you relied on Google and they fell through for you.

Explain what you did to fix it.

Point out that your skill at getting results through cold email is still very much alive.

Point out how big of a commitment you have to making sure that your company continues to deliver those results. I mean, I don't know a lot of business owners who would have the resilience and fortitude to go down to their last $50 and tank of gas in order to keep the business alive. You did that.

*EDIT* Oh wait. I just reread the end of your post. You did that.

OK, so there's something weird here. Why did that not work? Why did people not understand it? Why did they not see that the service is back up and running after a hiccup? Can you dig into that a little deeper and find out why people (especially the influencers) stopped believing you?

2) Email deliverability
You've probably already taken a deep dive into how to send emails that get delivered. I'm actually shocked that you were able to keep up your service using Gmail for as long as you did. For years, this has been a good way to get banned & blacklisted. But if you don't already know this, I would look into it so that you have a plan when your current solution that's sending 20,000 emails a day goes *poof*.

Here's my understanding of what happens (this is from working for Constant Contact for two years and learning about the challenges of sending mass emails).

It only takes a very few people to mark your email as spam before the server sending those emails will get blacklisted.

Once a server is blacklisted, any other emails getting sent from that server will not reach the recipient's inbox.

Getting this corrected requires getting a new server.

Getting a new server is complicated and expensive for most people to do.

For you, new servers on a regular basis may be something you just plug into the cost of doing business.

There's more to it than this, as the server reputation is just one factor among many. Here's a good overview of the topic.

Also, make sure you have a good handle on the CAN-SPAM act so that you don't run afoul of any laws.

I feel toxic. No one will touch me or my company with a ten foot pole. I'm losing friends on Facebook daily. My pipeline has dried up completely.
...
I feel hopeless. I can't find a way out of this hole I am in and I don't know how to stop digging. I can't afford to refund $53,000 to the clients we have left and can't afford to keep paying my team to work on their campaigns.
PJ, you are not toxic. Please don't feel hopeless. You have a massive skill that is going to be needed in business forever.

Don't let angry customers define your worth.

If you've figured out a way to get the service back up and running, SEND SOME OF YOUR OWN COLD EMAILS until your pipeline is back up and running.
 

Dan_Cardone

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What you need is CASH FLOW.

Call up those to whom you owe money, be open and honest with them. Don't promise them any date for which you can pay. Let them know you want to make it right. Offer them a crazy good deal for being understanding.

Next, keep prospecting for new clients because you need money! Are you getting paid upfront? You need to get at least some money up front.

Be SUPER TIGHT FISTED about every single penny right now. If you have to be late paying something (tuition) then so be it. It sucks but you must have positive cash flow! Let the wolves stand scratching at the door. Pay them when you can. Renegotiate a longer term of repayment!

Send out more emails! Get money upfront!

The positive is this: You now have a new story for your brand. You were on top of the world only to be knocked down by some big evil corporation. You went through a trial by fire, learned many valuable lessons, and have risen back to the top and became a better person and entrepreneur because of it.

If all else fails just restart the business under a new brand name and do it over again with the lessons you learned from this ordeal. Anyone who can make serious money using cold email will always be a huge in demand asset.
 

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ZCP

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cashflow ..... then profit .... then growth

in -- > that -- > order

cashflow ... negotiate and put off and stop expenditures, get money upfront and money in, then prioritize by who you need to pay to be able to stay in business long term and pay per your schedule (like if you need a phone, phone bill pays first), let people know where they are on the schedule. do not lie or tell them what they want to hear.

profit ... fix it. (first off, can you??). get your gross margin up. then get your net profit up.

growth ..... handle this after the first two are good
 

biophase

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You can explain to those angry clients that you don't have their money and if you go out of business then they are out $14k. So they can wait and get all their money back in a few months, or they can keep bugging you and get $0. I'm assuming this is all run from an LLC?
 

Actionary

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I've never been in the shit like this, but I have an idea.

You're the cold email guy, and you are currently selling $35 on successful lead gens essentially.

If you're this good, change up your targeting?

Start going after:

Real Estate Investors (Wholesaling)
Car/House Insurance
Local Lawyers

And anyone that can pay you far more money for a warm lead.
If you can start charging $200+ per warm lead, you can do this.

---------------------------------

Remember: Money is just other people's time.

As long as you have access to people willing to work with you / for you, you can get money.
 

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If your new strategy is to only charge for warm leads, you shouldn't have any problems finding new clients. I don't know very many business owners that would pass up that kind of deal.
 

Tiago

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Speak to each client you owe money to, and find a way to create a deal where both of you are happy. Don't lie to them. Be honest and upfront.

In the meantime, focus on cash flow, that's what you need right now.

Maybe you're toxic to some people right now, but what's way more important, is who you are BEING in the process of being in the shit. If you can maintain your integrity and do your absolute best, I'm willing to bet that those same people you owe will be raving fans later, because of how you dealt with the situation.
 

IntelligentQ

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In this situation the last hope is to save $53,000. Whatever is gone is gone. You have started your business from scratch. You can again do that. But, to secure this $53,000 you approach to your clients by saying that you will provide digital marketing services or other related or value added services. Don’t take any money from them. But, try to extend the time period.

Within the period, do things with right planning. This can be done by getting into partnership with other digital service providers and offer services on behalf of them. As you are in the losing end, take only a share of the business by providing them client contacts and other support services. It will help you to continue your business. In the meantime, you must try to get good projects which will help you to rebuild your credibility in the market. Since, it is a online business, try to reach out to clients in other countries. Do not get bogged down by negativity. I guess you are seeing only one side of the coin.

I hope this will help.
 
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PJ Pahygiannis

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Now I’m being threatened with a lawsuit by a client who wanted refunded who is also a member of this form. Business has been extremely slow and I just don’t have the money to refund him. I told him I would when I have the money, which should be this week (I really am waiting on an invoice to be paid). He’s now threatening to sue me He paid with PayPal but cannot charge back or dispute since its been too long. He’s also an inactive lawyer.
@Dan_Cardone, @Bekit, @Primeperiwinkle, @Andy Black
 
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broswoodwork

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Now I’m being threatened with a lawsuit by a client who wanted refunded who is also a member of this form. Business has been extremely slow and I just don’t have the money to refund him. I told him I would when I have the money, which should be this week (I really am waiting on an invoice to be paid). He’s now threatening to sue me He paid with PayPal but cannot charge back or dispute since its been too long. He’s also an inactive lawyer.

His exact words were “I can't dispute it. I'll just go ahead and sue you and your partner instead. You know full well I can't dispute it since 180 days have passed. Nice try. You're a total fraud. Stoneyhurst St

Olney, MD, 20832, US is still your address where you can be reached this week? I'll be sending out a process server. If they are unable to locate you, I'll report you to the FBI. Do we have an understanding?”

@Dan_Cardone, @Bekit, @Primeperiwinkle, @Andy Black
I'm not a lawyer, but a lawyer would probably advise to stop posting publicly at this point.

I'm sorry all of this is happening to you.
 

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