“George, how do I grow my email list”?
“Well, why do you want it?”
“Because I’ve heard marketing experts say that this is the most important thing to do in marketing...”
I've been around marketing experts for years. The real reason is: “We want to grow an email list because we want an audience we can reliably communicate with.”
It sounds obvious, but it's an important distinction, when we switch the question from “How to build an email list?” to “How to build an engaged audience?”
"Make them read my emails" vs "Meet people where they are."
Email list-building was hot in the 2000’s. As the internet grew in importance, it was still kind of new to get emails from brands you like. Then I started noticing — as did my marketing friends — that audiences began growing tired of being on email lists.
Services like Unroll.me (helping you quickly unsubscribe from many email newsletters) grew popular.
Audiences began to expect brands to meet them where they’re at.
You like surfing Facebook? Great, you’ll see my posts there.
You watch Youtube videos? Yep, you'll see my videos.
You prefer podcasts? No problem, you can subscribe to my podcast.
If you care about your audience — they hope you do! — you will go where they are.
Of course, this needs to be balanced with your limited time. I’ve written about this before: Focus your marketing efforts on just the one (or few) channels you’d like to become really good at. For example, I've decided not to have a podcast at this time, as Facebook and Youtube keep me plenty busy. There are more than enough people in any one channel you choose, e.g. Facebook, Youtube, Podcasts, etc.
In other words, don’t force your audience to give you their email address in order to get your best free content. Post it where they are hanging out.
Holding your desires ransom with "free gift"...
This is why many people dislike about marketing:
They build up our desires with an initial lie of “free”, then hold it for ransom.
The “payment” of our email address is also a deception: It’s not a one-time giving over of your email. It’s a continuous barrage into your inbox of things they want to tell you and sell you. The payment is steeper than originally looked (“Just enter your email address here!”)
Don’t be like those marketers.
“But my email list is the only thing I really control!”… is what marketers tell me.
The rationale is that they cannot communicate reliably to their audience on Facebook or Youtube, etc. because the algorithms can change anytime.
They say that the only reliable way is to email their list.
Not true. So many marketers and clients have lamented to me about low email open rates. In fact, average open rates are less than 25% (!)
In many cases, their email messages are going into their audience’s spam folder… and never really reaching them.
Here’s the reality:
What's the only thing in your control?
Whether your content is authentic, relevant, and consistent… or not.
An engaged audience arises from you being authentic, relevant, and consistent. You are building an audience that cares about you.
When your audience cares about you, they will look for you.
If they surf Facebook, they will be seeking out your posts, in the rhythm that they’ve become accustomed to seeing from you.
If they watch your Youtube videos, they’ll be missing you if they don’t see your videos in the Recommended stream, and will go to your channel to see what’s new.
And yes, if they subscribed to your email newsletter, they’ll look forward to it!
So… should we build our email list?
If your audience wants to receive your content via email, and if you don’t mind sending a regular newsletter, then yes, offer it as a service of convenience!
As I wrote in my blog post “No Lead Magnets”, I do have an email newsletter which I keep as simple as possible, so that it’s personally sustainable for me to keep it up.
But the way I look at my email newsletter is not “the most important asset in my business and the one channel I can control.” No.
I see my email newsletter as a free service of convenience for my audience. It’s for those of you who like to read email newsletters, and want to keep up with my latest content via email rather than having to hunt for my posts on Facebook.
But I have also many people who follow me on Facebook or Youtube or Twitter or Linkedin who aren’t on my email newsletter. I meet them where they’re at.
The Bottom Line? Your Intention.
Release fear & control, dive into caring & generosity. Share your truth, care for your audience, and they won't let “algorithms” get in their way of finding your content.
They will keep looking for you, and delighted when they see your content.
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George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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Here's why :)