15 hidden sources of email subscribers

If you want to grow your email list without buying ads and you don’t have a ton of existing traffic coming to your website you won’t find a faster way than getting another business to feature you to their audience (AKA partnership marketing).

The #1 question I get from my students:

Where can I find companies/influencers who will feature me to their audience?


hether it’s for a lead magnet swap, podcast interview, live workshop, guest post, etc. — people want to know how they can get on the radar for these opportunities.

Below, you’ll find a list of 15 Places to Find Partnership Opportunities (Even If You’re Just Starting Out).

At a high level, they are divided into 2 groups:

Group #1: Existing Connections

People/companies you already know or have even a small connection to (even if that connection is just that you’ve read their book or used their product).

Group #2: Shoulder connections

People/companies who serve the same target audience you do, but in a different way.

To start, let’s talk about that first group—existing connections.

There are 10 types that you are likely to have:

Blogs or email lists you’ve subscribed to (or that have featured/mentioned you):

Look through your email inbox—who do you subscribe to that has a decent chunk of your customers in their audience?

Podcasts you listen to (or that have interviewed you):

Open your podcast app and scroll through the shows you subscribe to. Can you solve any of the problems their audience deals with?

Courses or digital products you’ve bought:

Purchased any online courses/workshops/masterminds? You’ve already got an in with the person who sells it. “I bought your thing and loved it” is an easy way to get your foot in the door with anyone.

Services you use:

What software services do you use in your business? Just like I said in #3, being a customer is a great way to start a conversation with a potential partner.

Books you’ve read:

Authors often have an online platform and ways to connect with their audience.

People you’ve interacted with online:

Think about people you’ve talked to in Facebook groups, Slack channels, social media, or other online communities.  

People you’ve featured:

Have you interviewed/talked/linked to anyone for a podcast, blog post, YouTube video, or other type of content you’ve published?  

Websites that have linked to your site:

You can use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to see a list of every website that’s linking to yours. They’ve already endorsed you in a small way, so starting a conversation with them is super easy.

Friends and family who have businesses:

This could be anyone you know with a small business whose customers/audience might be interested in your niche.  

Your customers:

Don’t forget about the people who like your business so much they’ve given you money for it.

Now, let’s talk about the second group—shoulder connections.

A shoulder connection is a business with the same type of ideal customers you have, but sells a different product or service to them. 

For example, if you teach fitness, a dietitian would be a shoulder connection. If you’re a freelance writer, a freelance designer would be a shoulder connection. If you were an email marketing software company like ConvertKit, an SEO software company like Ahrefs would be a shoulder connection.

To discover your own shoulder connections, ask yourself 5 questions about your core customer:

1: What podcasts do they listen to?

If you sell a course on UX design, for example, we could simply search “design” or “UX” in any podcast app, or search “UX podcasts” on Google.

2. What popular blogs or websites do your customers visit?

If you can’t think of many, just google the name of your industry plus “blog.”

3. What conferences or virtual summits do your customers attend?

When you find conferences or virtual summits related to your industry, check out the speakers listed on their website. Many will be a shoulder connection for your business.

4. What LinkedIn and Facebook Groups do your customers hang out in? 

Again, this is as simple as searching for your industry and shoulder industries in the groups section of Facebook and LinkedIn.

5. What other products or services do your customers use?

To go back to the UX design course example, this could be any kind of design software (like InVision).

If you take the time to think through each of these groups, you can develop a highly valuable list of audiences that already contain your ideal customers.

Growing your business then becomes a matter of simply finding ways to get in front of them. It might be a lead magnet swap, it might be a podcast interview. It might be an online workshop. It might be a guest post.

Whatever partnership type you choose, they’re all effective for the same reason:

They give you an opportunity to attract new customers by doing what you’re already great at—teaching.

Grab my FREE Email Sign Off Ideas

 that will help you make an impression with a unique sign-off and give you one last chance to connect with your prospect.

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