Identifying Your Target Audience: The Story Of Penny

Trying to grow your email list? Then it makes sense

Trying to grow your email list? Then it makes sense you’ll be happy when new people subscribe to your list. But here’s a tale from Corrina Gordon-Barnes of You Inspire Me of why you should also be happy when people unsubscribe…

When I started my email list back in 2006, Penny was one of my very first subscribers. She loved my approach and enjoyed every topic I wrote about – from procrastination, to climate change, to making more of your garden. (Eclectic, I know!)

With every blog post, I was trying to please Penny. I was trying to keep her thinking well of me and I was certainly trying to keep her subscribed. I didn’t want to share anything in my blog and newsletter that wasn’t relevant to her so I wrote about topics that were generally appealing.

Do you write with one subscriber in mind? Are you treading gently and cautiously so as not to lose anyone?

The problem was, my business started to grow up. I began to get focused. I got excited about heart-centred business and authentic marketing and teaching people how to sell, get clients and get paid – and my blogs changed to reflect this. I made it clear that I sold stuff. I made it obvious I was running a business and that there were products and services on offer.

One day, Penny and I were having lunch and she mentioned, “You know, I’m not really finding your blogs all that interesting these days. They’re all about business and I don’t want to run a business.”

I smiled. She’d said it so beautifully. Penny was no longer a subscriber I needed to keep. She wasn’t in my niche; she wasn’t who my business should be focusing on.

She was never going to spend money with me. It was actually a relief to stop making her interest the benchmark of my blog success.

Fans vs Customers

Are you trying to appeal to everyone in your blog posts? How well is that leading to paying clients?

Here’s some blogging philosophy for you:

It’s better to have 100 loyal subscribers than 1,000 who delete your message each time they see your name. You can run a profitable business with a relatively small list. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to list size.

So, I challenge you to celebrate each unsubscriber. If someone doesn’t gain value from your newsletter, they probably would never have bought from you, and so that unsubscribe notification is a sign that you’re releasing dead weight.

When you get notified that someone has left your list, wish them well. Be proud that you were visible and shared a point of view and that you didn?t hide the fact that you were running a business. Don’t apologise for selling, don’t apologise for being you.

Help Them Leave

Once you’ve decided to look forward to unsubscriptions, clear up the practical side by using list management software to manage your email list. Using AWeber makes it easy for people to opt out without having to awkwardly email you and ask you to please stop emailing them.

It’s also far more professional. You’re engaged in permission marketing. When you make it easy for people to unsubscribe, you can assume that your list consists only of those who actively want to hear from you – and will likely want to pay you one day soon.

Over To You

Have you been holding back your authentic voice, for fear of people unsubscribing?

Are you staying vanilla when really you’re chocolate chip or cherry? Are you pretending you’re not selling something? Leave a comment; let me know.

Corrina Gordon-BarnesCorrina Gordon-Barnes is the author of Turn Your Passion To Profit, a step-by-step guide to getting your business off the ground, teaching clear, honest, heart-felt marketing to people who want to be successfully self-employed. Find out more here.


  1. Paul Stallard

    4/11/2013 1:44 pm

    Great article – and refreshing to hear!

    Always better to be true to yourself and your business and your customers will be drawn to you.


  2. Caroline Cholette

    4/11/2013 2:05 pm

    ”Don’t apologize for selling, don’t apologize for being you”
    I love it!
    Thank you

  3. Ella Relford

    4/11/2013 2:15 pm

    Thanks! Great information. I just had someone unsubscribe to me last week. Then he informs me to stop harassing him. First of all, I didn’t twist his arm and make him subscribe to my page. So if you want to unsubscribe, thank you!

  4. Eric Steele

    4/11/2013 2:38 pm

    Excellent article Corrina!!!

  5. Eduardo

    4/11/2013 2:53 pm

    yes! It’s better to have a few high quality people and cheaper!

  6. Patrice Tankersley

    4/11/2013 3:09 pm

    Great article. Thank you! I’m am a bit all over the place so I will take your advice and roll with it!

  7. Padraig King

    4/11/2013 3:38 pm

    I think you are correct to wish them well. Many subscribers sign up based on one article and may never be interested in any other aspect of your business. If they are unsubscfibed and see another relevant article they may even sign up again and you will see more if what makes them tick!

  8. Danielle Keister

    4/11/2013 3:40 pm

    An excellent reminder for everyone to get clear and conscious about their audience and intentions if they’re going to be in business.

    Great job!

  9. marquita herald

    4/11/2013 4:01 pm

    I understand and agree – the one thing that is a burr under my belt is when someone unsubscribes with the “why am I getting this” message. I know it’s silly, but I can’t help but fire back some smart ass missive at the computer screen about how they were no doubt totally aware of “why” when they collected the free gift – which is no doubt the only thing they wanted in the first place. Whew! There, thank you – I’ve needed to say that for a long time.

  10. Rui Santos

    4/11/2013 4:24 pm

    Very good article. For now every time that someone unsubcribe my list i will remember this article and smile.

  11. Rosemary Levesque

    4/11/2013 4:55 pm

    This is a great way to look at unsubscribes. But my question is, how do I get them to unsubscribe if I know they’re not reading my emails. (no one seems to unsubscribe from my lists) Better yet, I’d love to see everyone open and read my emails. Thoughts?

  12. Serena

    4/11/2013 5:16 pm

    Thanks… This is a very important point of view!! Very helpful!! <3

  13. Peter Netz Lassen

    4/11/2013 5:45 pm

    Uhhh this was for me…. In health and diet – I fall into the trap of struggling to keep subscribers stimulated!! … This is good news for me…
    I will “be myself” … Thanks!

    I lost 2 subscribers yesterday… Party time 🙂

    Small focused – Loyal = Better
    Large sucking your blood = Tuff

  14. Bonnie Chomica

    4/11/2013 6:32 pm

    Sage advice Corrina. It’s not about the numbers on your list, Facebook, or Twitter. It’s about the quality of the people that want to hear from and interact with you.

    Don’t be afraid to fire customers, too, that are sucking time out of you. Stick with the people that find value in what you do, and are willing to pay for it.

    Well done!

  15. Sarah

    4/11/2013 8:47 pm

    Thanks! I forwarded this to my hubby who needs to employ this same mentality in his non – web based biz.

  16. Ray Edwards

    4/11/2013 11:43 pm

    Hi Corrina

    Great article, I have always been disappointed when someone leaves my list, it has been drummed into me that the list is everything so losing a subscriber hurts. But you are right, when you look at the stats, only about 5% actually open the emails I send them and take action, which means a lot of people are either hanger ons, or freebie seekers.

    I will now change my point of view and the first thing I will change is to delete the blank lines after my signature (so that the unsubscribe stuff is way down the page so people can’t see without scrolling).

    Thanks again, Ray

  17. Serena

    4/12/2013 8:10 am

    I learned an important lesson the other day when I posted something to my blog that I was paid $15 to post– something relevant, but not of much value. Usually my posts are full of DIY makeovers and crafty stuff, but this was a bit of a stretch, and even though I tried to make it work, it really wasnt a great idea to post. I lost 4 subscribers to that. And it proved to me that I should never pimp out my blog for the sake of a few measly bucks.

  18. Corrina Gordon-Barnes

    4/12/2013 10:40 am

    Really glad to hear this piece is proving useful – thanks for all the comments and shares on Twitter etc. Looks like we’re creating an Unsubscribe Celebration culture 🙂

    Aweber team – am I right in thinking you can create a segment of subscribers who haven’t opened mail and then exclude that segment from future mailings? If so, this would answer Rosemary’s query.

  19. Aradia

    4/12/2013 12:22 pm

    I like to think that I keep my goal in mind each time I write out my newsletter. Being an eclectic and friendly person whenever I write I write from that tone and point of view. I’ve had a few unsubscribes but knowing who the people were they weren’t really interested in keeping up with my business and what was going on. Seeing and accepting that is empowering and while it sometimes makes me feel a twinge that I’m doing something wrong, as with Facebook likes, it’s about harvesting the “right” people.

    I loved reading this article and sharing it with my tribe <3 & thanks!

  20. Crystal Gouldey

    4/12/2013 1:16 pm

    You cannot exclude a segment, but you can find who hasn’t been opening emails and bulk unsubscribe them yourself. When you pull them up on the Search page, just check off the very top “Stop” box on the far left. You’ll have to do that for each page of your results. If you don’t have a reason to store unsubscribes, you can use the “Erase” box on the far right and that will take them off the list completely.

    If you have a lot of subscribers, you can download that segment and copy and paste the email addresses into the Subscribers—>Unsubscribe page. Hope that helps!

  21. Serena

    4/12/2013 1:35 pm

    Yes, you can segment a list of people who haven’t opened your emails. Aweber wrote an article about that. And you make sure you don’t include recent subscribers that haven’t yet had a chance to get email from you, so that they aren’t included in that group. So from today’s date, I could say, I want to know who hasn’t opened an email from me between jan 1 2013 ad march 31 2013. And then you am resend them an email to re-engage or even just deleted them –gasp!

  22. Iain

    4/12/2013 3:53 pm

    Great points.

    Too many people don’t narrow down who they want to talk to. They try to be everyone to everybody.

    You have to know who you want to target, and keep that mind at all times. If that changes, you have to re-adjust.

    Staying focused on your core will help you move forward.

    Nice work

  23. Gerald Weber

    4/13/2013 12:53 pm

    Great point made here. I used to get a feeling off loss when someone would unsubscribe but now I see it differently. We shouldn’t apologize for being in business to make money and to feed our families.

  24. Sorin

    4/14/2013 3:42 pm

    This post was for me and I really liked the ideea to celebrate the unsubribers 😉

  25. Mark L

    4/16/2013 9:18 am

    So poignant…and timely as I am seeking to refine my blog and prepare to offer a more focused approach to my information. Thanks for this perspective.

  26. Shona Easton

    4/23/2013 2:16 pm

    Fabulous post. It is so true – you cannot please everyone, so you need to do what is best for your business and you will attract and keep the important followers.