This is a guest post by Emilie Wapnick.
When I launched my first ebook, I had 500 subscribers on my email list.
I remember that day vividly. My heart pounded as I hit “Send.” The gurus voices echoed in my head. I remember hearing that 1,000 was the magic number, that you shouldn’t even think about launching a paid offering until you have at least 1,000 subscribers. What the hell was I doing?!
Okay, if I make just one sale, I’ll be happy… Just one. I
told lied to myself.
It turns out there was nothing to worry about. I made over $4,000 that month.
For a first launch, I was pretty happy…
Conventional Wisdom can Shove it
Thank god I didn’t listen to the blogging gurus. Had I waited to hit the 1,000 mark, I would have left a lot of cash on the table! Not to mention the nice confidence boost I got knowing that I had a viable business on my hands (something every early-stage blogger pains to hear).
Plus, nobody tells you this, but launches do wonderful things for your growth. My subscriber base more than doubled in the weeks following my launch. (I’m way over 1,000 now, bitches!)
Where the Gurus Go Wrong
Here’s the thing: the pros aren’t totally wrong. It’s just that when they say you need a big list to make sales, they’re assuming you to be “average.”
The presumption is that you do what every other blogger does, send out the same boring emails, and that you have about the same levels of community engagement as most bloggers your size.
This Advice is Discouraging, and Kind of… Offensive
Should teachers really be presuming their students to be simply “average”? People live up — or lower themselves — to the expectations that are set for them.
As someone privileged enough to be in the position to teach, you should believe in your students. You should see them as intelligent, creative, and hard working. Hold your readers to a higher standard than “average.”
Here on Remarkablogger, Michael doesn’t put up with comments that don’t contribute to the discussion, even if they’re generally pleasant. He holds his community to a high standard, out of respect for you guys. (Coincidentally, he also encourages bloggers of any size to launch an ebook– Go Michael.)
This Advice to Wait Fuels Our Fears
When blogging pros make blanket statements like “you need 1,000 subscribers to launch a product,” beginner bloggers can easily become discouraged. Hearing this advice, they might wait and wait and wait, terrified of “doing it wrong.”
We’re all perfectionists, and we all like reasons not to do something that scares us, especially when those reasons are backed up by “authority.” In other words, the advice to wait, is fueling all of your fears.
The Reason a Small List is Irrelevant: Quality Trumps Quantity
The reason that I made so many sales during my launch, isn’t just that I had a killer offer that my community wanted (this is a given. You need a solid offer, regardless of the size your list), it’s that my puttypeep feel a close, personal connection with me. They trust me, because I’ve shown them over the months, just how much I trust them.
What “Quality” Means in Terms of Numbers (and Sales)
Before we get to my specific strategy, lets talk about what a strong relationship with your community means in terms of numbers.
I have an open rate of 60-70% on my emails. (They say that the average is somewhere around 20-30%.)
You can bet that when it comes to launching a product, an open rate of 60-70% helps BIG TIME.
In fact, people can’t buy your ebook, if they don’t even open your emails. So you’d better get them opening those emails from the very moment they sign up to your list.
How to Massively Boost Your Email Open Rates
I take a very unconventional approach with my weekly emails. I don’t do what most bloggers do and paraphrase my blog content or send out an RSS blast of my latest blog post, formatted in some generic HTML template.
Nope, my approach to email is very different, and it’s what I accredit most of my launch success to.
The Secret Sauce: Emails that are Unpolished, and Sometimes Embarrassingly Personal
Here’s my strategy for writing emails:
1. Write like you’re speaking to a close friend, and be organic
I write every email as though I’m writing to a close friend. No HTML template, no SEO-esque subject line.
With the exception of the rare emails that are part of a launch sequence, I don’t plan out what I’m going to say. I simply sit down, and write about whatever happens to be on my mind that morning. Sometimes it’s relevant to my theme of multipotentiality, other times it’s just the unpolished thoughts of a multipotentialite.
In the past, I’ve written about love, fights, and personal revelations– the kind of things you’d discuss with a friend.
This approach to emails,means that I regularly get comments like, “I’m on a bunch of lists, and your emails are the only ones I read,” and “I literally cannot wait till Tuesday mornings!”
2. Don’t repeat blog content
I rarely republish or paraphrase my blog content. In fact, I don’t usually push the blog much at all, unless I have further thoughts on that same topic.
I do include a few text links at the bottom of the email to the latest articles, but that’s usually the extent of it.
3. Encourage people to respond
I almost always a question at the end of my emails and encourage people to respond.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with having them reply on G+ instead of through email. This means more engagement, more social proof, and fewer emails in my inbox.
The “It Just Feels Right” Approach
I’m sharing my “marketing secrets” here, but this strategy was in no way premeditated. It was never some Machiavellian attempt to tug at the heartstrings of my community (if you use it in that way, you suck. And also, your phoniness will come through, and it won’t work).
I genuinely love connecting with my people and sharing my ideas. I’m also incredibly interested in hearing my readers’ thoughts, since I know just how smart and compassionate most multipotentialites are.
I began writing emails this way, not because it was “good marketing strategy,” (actually, it breaks most of The Rules,) but because it was what felt most comfortable. It just turns out, that being open in your emails also happens to be an awesome marketing strategy.
“Yeah, but I’m Lazy”
You might be thinking that this sounds like an awful lot of work, and that you don’t want to write what amounts to yet another blog post each week.
First of all, these are unpolished emails. I started writing in a personal tone specifically because I was lazy and didn’t want to even think about structure, grammar, or any of that junk. I do enough of that when I write my blog posts, and so this approach to email actually feels like a huge relief.
Second, putting in the time and not just re-purposing blog content, is smart from a long term perspective. As I’ve already explained, it will increase your open rates and help you immensely when it comes time to launch a product.
Finally, this approach to email will allow you to work through new ideas that are percolating in your mind, but aren’t fully formed yet. Many of my emails end up being precursors to blog posts or products later down the road.
With this approach, you can gauge the interest of your community and get a feel for how they respond to a particular topic. In other words, it’s market research.
Focus on Growing Your Numbers, but Don’t Neglect the Quality of Your Relationships either
I’m not saying not to focus on growing your list. What I’m saying is that you should never neglect the quality of your relationships.
Put your imperfect self out there every week, speak as though you’re writing to a close friend, ask your peep what they think, and soon your community will be itching for your emails.
Your open rates will soar, and when the time comes to offer up something juicy, they will actually read your offer, and snatch it up.
How personal do you get in your emails, and what affect has it had on your revenue?
Emilie Wapnick helps you figure out what to do with your life and make a living when your interests are diverse and not specialized. She calls these folks “multipotentialites” and her awesome site is called Puttylike.