SOS! I Need to Grow my Mailing List

SOS! Posts: Quick tips for getting through creative crisis.

In the era of social media, artists are forgetting a very important tool: the mailing list. The current golden egg for creatives building a career is the direct-to-fan relationship. Whether you’re a writer, podcaster, painter, or stand-up comedian, your mailing list is your most direct line to people who want to see your work. Dreaded algorithms haven’t (yet) come to the land of gmail, and it’s the last (only?) place you know if you post it, they see it. Social media empires may fall, but email has stood the test of time.

Plus, the people on your list had to work for it. They had to do more than click “follow” (how many fake-bots do you have on your instagram?). They had to type in their email, and then check their email, and then click confirm, … this goes well beyond the “three click rule” for the web. They’re interested, for sure.

Given that, this is a relationship you want to build with intention, authenticity, and respect.

By focusing on quality, not frequency, both of your content and of the people subscribing, you will cultivate a strong bond with your community. Kevin Kelly’s brilliant “1000 True Fans” essay breaks this idea down — if you have true fans who on average buy $100 a year from you, “then you need only 1,000 of them to earn $100,000 per year.”

Kevin’s takeaway covers a lot of this for me.

1,000 true fans is an alternative path to success other than stardom. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status, you can aim for direct connection with a thousand true fans. On your way, no matter how many fans you actually succeed in gaining, you’ll be surrounded not by faddish infatuation, but by genuine and true appreciation. It’s a much saner destiny to hope for. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

Here’s my 3 Rules for cultivating your authentic email list:

  1. Great content cultivates relationships. We do this in as many ways as we can. We celebrate the wins of our members, we share stuff we know, we teach what we’ve learned, and we do our very best to listen and involve our members. It’s why we do so much of our work live, it’s why we know so many of the people here in our community.
  2. Don’t trick people. Don’t offer free iPads, unless you sell iPads too.
    Offer stuff that’s relevant to your subscribers, even when … especially when you give it away for free.
  3. Write to  an actual person. This is a writing trick to which my friend Olga tipped me off.
    When we write to our list, we’re actually writing to you. You personally.
    When we write, we often have a specific person we have in mind. It helps us sound more like us and less like a sales-bot if we’re writing to one person and not a mass of people.
    So today I might be writing to Bruce, or tomorrow to Amelia, or Stephanie, or Scott, so it might not be you personally, but it it is to you and it is personal.

But wait, what if you’re getting started or having trouble growing your list.

3 Rules to start or build a quality email list

  1. Find your quality subscribers
    If you’re running ads, use smaller targets with specific tastes that matches your work, rather than “people in the world with a pulse.”
    Invite people personally.
    If someone is asking about your work, ask them! “I’d love to add you to my mailing list, would that be all right with you?” Or send a link.Find the people who are looking for you already.
    This comes back to community-finding and building, which is something you’ll do online or IRL with your own brand of authenticity.
  2. Grow Authentically and Organically.
    Share great content, don’t email just because it’s Tuesday.
    Yes, you can stick to a schedule, but try to have something of quality to say on your email day.
    Don’t miss twice (stolen from James Clear)Reply to people!
    If someone takes the time to reply to you, reply back! If this becomes too much, you may need to hire a community manager. Better that than radio silence!
    Run a Giveaway
    We grew our list by about 400 people in one week
    (see below to join our live Q+A for how we did it in a way that felt authentic to us).
    But also remember that it’s ok to build slow.
    Remember that episode of Facts of Life where Jo tries to grow her pizza empire too quickly and everything tasted like freezer burn?
    It’s hard to maintain quality and retain quality people when you’re just focused on numbers.
    Relationships aren’t numbers and the slow build works over time.
    Again, my man James Clear’s 1% rule
  3. Optimize and Remove the dead weight
    Removing inactive subscribers does a few great things for your list. It skyrockets your open/click rates, it reduces or eliminates complaints, and it reduces your monthly fee for subscriber counts.

Building a mailing list can take time, months and years, not days, if you want a list you can count on. Don’t sweat the big numbers, build deep connections.

And if you’re free on July 10, 2018, we are hosting a free “Reporting Back” Q+A on how we ran our last giveaway, why it went so well, what we will do differently next time, and how anyone can easily run one to grow their mailing list. Join us LIVE for free.



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