The Dream 100 is a magic marketing shortcut. Instead of attracting your potential clients one by one, you make friends with 100 people who already have an audience made up of your potential customers. It’s great for people with a product-based business because we can sell to hundreds of people simultaneously.
The Dream 100 strategy is my favourite pre-launch list-building tool.
The Dream 100 was invented by Chet Holmes in his The Ultimate Sales Machine book as a direct sales technique. Russell Brunson then adapted the Dream 100 idea for online marketing in his book Traffic Secrets, and his pal Dana Derricks made it his own. Dana’s book is now out of print, and it isn’t easy to find a simple, practical description of how to use the Dream 100 strategy.
I’ve been using it with clients and members of my Productise Your Expertise programme for a few years, and I’ve seen first-hand how successful it can be. And I’ve added a few tricks of my own along the way.
Use the Dream 100 for a significant impact
The Dream 100 creates a step-change in your marketing. When you want to bring in thousands of people to your list, make a significant impact on the world and your bank balance. That’s why it’s so helpful to have it in place before you have a product launch when you’re poised, ready to invite in the sales. There’s a clear link between your marketing efforts and how you’ll help more people and make money.
It’s a high Return on Investment and high Return on Effort strategy.
Sounds great, huh?
But. A word of warning here. I have to tell you that, yes, you get a return on your effort and investment, but you do have to put in a lot of effort to get that return. Sorry. No magic wand here.
Where the power of the Dream 100 comes from
In traditional marketing, you’re gradually adding people to your list. If I have a day when 20 people sign up for my emails, that’s a great day for me. It’s usually because I’ve done a talk or run some ads. And over time, that list has gradually built up to a few thousand people. To be honest, it’s taken 14 years to get to that point.
With the Dream 100, you’re reaching out to 100 people who have done similar work to build up their lists of a few thousand or more. And that means that you can be in touch with 100 x (say) 6000 = 600,000 people.
Add in some people within your Dream 100 list who have some super lists of 100k apiece, and you’re easily up to a potential audience of a million.
How the Dream 100 works
Write down the names of 100 people or companies who already have relationships with the people likely to buy one of the products from your product ecosystem. I’ll give you some ideas of who you should be looking for in the next section.
Then you reach out to them and ask them if they would promote your product (or a freebie/lead magnet you’re offering) to the people they know. Your Dream 100 people will gain from what you’re offering because it will help them look good. They want to help their audience and know that you can help them in a way they can’t. Or they’ll help because you’re offering them a cash incentive from every sale. Ideally, you want all three of these.
The Dream 100 technique can add thousands of prospects to your list, bring you far more sales on a product launch than you would have been able to get on your own and get your sales going a hell of a lot faster. Which we like.
Start by getting inside the head of your ideal customer
If you haven’t worked out exactly who your perfect customer is yet, read this article about finding your customer avatar first.
As you get inside their heads, you’re looking for the answer to these kinds of questions. You want to work out where your ideal customers are likely to hang out and where they are likely to go to get information.
Don’t worry too much about whether you’re being too ambitious; at the moment, we’re just getting some ideas for the sources your ideal customers trust. I’ve updated and added some more ideas for finding where they hang out here.
I recommend spending some hours on this. Allow yourself to follow the rabbit warren of the internet, ask other people for their ideas, talk to your existing customers about who they go to for information. And then let that learning percolate for a couple of days, adding to it when your thinking generates more ideas, insights and knowledge. As with any great brainstorm, feel free to include anyone, including folk you’d be terrified to approach and people who are up and coming in your area.
One suggestion from Shane Melaugh is to look for people who’ve created some great content in your area and generated a following but don’t seem to have monetised it yet. I think that this includes a lot of lifestyle bloggers, coaches and about 30% of popular Instagram accounts. These people may well be just waiting for you to reach out and offer them an opportunity to promote your products for a juicy affiliate fee.
Build your list up to the magic 100 … or more
Don’t stop till you reach at least 100 names.
The first dozen are easy – they’re the ones that are already in your head. The next twelve might need a bit of thinking about, scratching your head to remember what that person’s name was. And the next 76 are challenging and require work to track them down.
But you’ll need at least 100 people to make this work. If you get stuck, don’t try for individual names and instead think of categories. I found that once I started to explore groups, such as “everyone I’ve ever met at a networking event at Brighton Chamber of Commerce” or “business coaches in the UK”, my brain got permission to go broader in finding people.
Once you’ve got to 100, divide them into two lists. The first list is for people you already know in some way. Delete anyone where they’re probably unlikely to have anything to do with your ideal clients or if their network is likely to be very small.
Then start to get to know them
You now get to play private detective. Check out what the people on your lists are up to at the moment – use LinkedIn and Facebook. Someone from my address book who I thought would be good for my Dream 100 turned out to have retired two years earlier and now raises money for good causes through ultra-running. And several others have retired or changed jobs. I had to delete them.
With companies, try to identify a human being in each company you could reach out to, human to human. LinkedIn is invaluable for this: often it turns out that you are not that far away from someone who works there, or you can ask your connections if they know someone who works there.
Make notes – I use Notion to do this, but you can use a notebook, post-its on your office walls, or just a spreadsheet.
Start to make (better) friends with your Dream 100
You’re aiming to make friends with your Dream 100. When you make friends, you do them favours first, without looking for anything in return.
Of course, we are looking for a favour at some point. Not that we have to get all Don Corleone about it, it’s up to them if they want to promote your product or not. By doing something nice for people now, you’re invoking the principle of reciprocity, making it more likely that they will do you a favour when you ask.
“Some Day, And That Day May Never Come, I Will Call Upon You To Do A Service For Me.” Don Corleone
How to be nice
As you research people, you’ll probably get ideas for simple ways to say hello. For people you know already, you might email them and say that they popped into your head and you’re thinking of them for some reason. You might comment on a post on LinkedIn or Facebook, maybe tagging one of your Dream 100 in the comment to get their attention. Make sure you write proper comments with some depth. Liking a post doesn’t count.
Once you’re in touch, you might amp this up a little by saying that you’ve got a product launch coming up or pointing out some changes in what you’re doing nowadays. You’re gently priming them for asking a favour in a while.
Introducing yourself to the friends you haven’t met yet
The “friends you haven’t met yet” list is likely to be bigger and contain more people of more use to you. There’s more potential return on investment in this list, but it’s more work to get them warmed up.
Social media can be a great leveller. Over and over again, I’ve found that we “regular folk” can chat with even the most influential celebrities and get noticed. You might not be able to get the Pope to tweet about your product launch, as I doubt that he runs his own Twitter account, but often you can get to talk to the actual person for a moment.
If you can find something in advance to comment or ask a question about, that will get you noticed, even if you don’t get a direct reply. You can stand out by just giving a compliment, saying that something they’ve written or done has made a difference for you. Most people don’t bother to reach out to say thanks or to ask questions, so you can get noticed by doing just this.
Turn up the heat on your Dream 100
When you have a launch or list-building campaign coming up, it’s time to turn up the heat on the Dream 100 you’ve been gradually warming up.
At this point, take a moment to check you’ve got everyone you want on your Dream 100 list. You’ll be better at finding people now, so all kinds of new people will occur to you. Then work out what you want your lovely Dream 100 people to do for you and how you’re going to frame that request.
How to ask for help
I have a psychological block about asking others for help. Especially if I’m asking someone I see as more successful or higher status than me. I know I’m not the only person who feels like this, and it can be challenging to get past this.
Here are some ways to handle different kinds of requests. I’ve used these for myself and with clients and seen them work well. And remember that the worst that can happen is probably that someone will delete your message. Which is when you move on to the next person, making a note to come back to the original individual later.
The person you think has an extensive email list
Ask them to send out an email either about your new product or about a free lead magnet you’ve made. Make sure it’s clear that you are doing this because you think that you have something in common, that your product will be of service to the people on their list and why. Spend some time customising this for everyone on the Dream 100 list. Offer them a percentage of every sale that comes from their email to their list, and paint them a picture of how everyone will live happily ever after.
Someone who has a large Facebook group
Request their permission to write a post talking about your product. Or offer the alternative suggestion of them saying something about it. The second of these is more powerful.
A maven – a friend with a big address book
For someone who knows lots of people, an individual with a great network, outline who you want to buy your product and ask them to think of three people they might tell about it. This tactic works well if the person you’re asking is also your ideal customer – often, they’ll come back and say, “oooh, can I buy that too?”
For someone who runs training or workshops themselves to substantial audiences
You can suggest that you could do a webinar together. Maybe you teach an online workshop to an audience they invite, giving them the chance to provide value to the people they want to nurture. Or it could be a joint workshop or discussion to a combined audience. You get the opportunity to begin a relationship with many people you wouldn’t know otherwise and invite them to join your list. It works well when you have a freebie or low-price product you can offer to the people who come to the workshop to encourage them to start getting your emails.
When you want a company to promote your product to its list
If it’s a smaller business, you can go straight to the top and find the founder or MD and ask her if she’d be up for sending an email about your product to her list. I would also go to the top for sizeable businesses, singling out the MD in the first instance. LinkedIn and other social media can be a great leveller here, but sometimes the head honcho is just not reachable. Find someone in the marketing department and talk to them about a joint offer, organising a workshop for their customers, or something which would benefit both your organisations.
Note that you need to be more subtle here. Your offer of an affiliate fee may not be attractive. They may see it as pocket money that they are not prepared to risk their brand on, so you may need to offer service to their clients something more low key.
Why this technique is called the Dream 100
It’s called the Dream 100 because it only works if you have upwards of 100 people on your list.
From experience, even when you do all the work upfront, with relationship building, making a great offer, an enticing affiliate scheme…most people will ignore your requests for them to promote your product. The 80:20 rule applies here; only 20% of the people you reach out to will even come back to you.
And only 20% of the 20% will produce any significant results for you.
20% of 20% of 100 is four people. When you start with 100 people, you’re maybe working with four people who take it seriously and have enough reach to make a solid impact on your sales. But four big hitters sending a couple of emails introducing your product to their engaged list will massively change the number of people who buy during your launch. It’s not just four more sales; it’s four more people who are selling for you. And those people will probably have far more reach than you do.
If you start with ten people on your list, you end up with 0.4 people who take it seriously. Which means zero results.
Consciously increase your social capital
See the first time you ask for referrals as just the first round. Maybe some of those people who don’t respond will be won over later, especially those who are hard to reach. Or it just wasn’t the right time for them to pitch your product because your launch date didn’t match their schedule. The real power of the Dream 100 technique is that you’re consciously and dramatically increasing your social capital. You’re building an asset for your company, investing in a large group of people who will do you all kinds of favours over the years.
Maybe your first thought is to get sales for your product launch or grow your email list. But later, you might want other help along the way. You might need a co-author for an article, an introduction to someone you want to meet, advice on expanding your market to the US… Having a Dream 100 list of friends you’re in touch with, people who know your name and like what they’ve heard of you might be the most meaningful investment you ever make in your business.
Work your Dream 100 system
The Dream 100 is a system. And you have to work the system. You put in high-quality potential referrers, give them lots of love and kindness and make friends with them. And then offer them the chance to promote your product.
And then you start all over again, with the same Dream 100, working your list and persistently reaching out and being lovely.
Sounds like hard work, Julia. Why did you say the Dream 100 is a shortcut?
The trouble with ethical marketing is that it’s always hard work. You have to be persistent, and you have to show up regularly. And that’s because ethical marketing is all about building trust with people. Always. There’s no shortcut for this.
You can buy ads to get in front of your ideal customers, for sure. And I’m not saying that’s unethical. The traffic you buy is always more challenging to convert because those folk will still need to trust you before buying anything. You still need to take them through the process. When you buy Google or Facebook ads, people are automatically more suspicious when they meet you because you haven’t yet built trust.
Your sales conversion rate will always be higher with people who come to you from a recommendation than click-throughs from an ad. And the Dream 100 doesn’t cost any cash, just your time.
Using the Dream 100 is still hard work because you have to gain the trust of the people you’re asking to recommend you. But it is a shortcut to getting traction, to getting higher sales numbers faster than if you gather your tribe one by one.