You Don’t Need 10,000 Subscribers – Here’s Why
“More subscribers, more sales.”
This is the typical New Year’s resolution for an email marketer. Every other marketing blog and guru wants to teach you how get your next 10,000 subscribers or offer “the secret technique” to quadrupling your list growth overnight. You can attend webinars, buy info products and take online courses to help you build an impressively long list of email addresses in a database.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, but before you start plugging away daily growth goals in a spreadsheet and investing in high-converting plugins and widgets, take a few moments to solidify a holistic strategy focused on why you are marketing in the first place. You may not need a quarter-million subscribers to hit your goals.
Don’t get me wrong. Growing your list is important, exciting and rewarding. Even we used to offer a popular guide for new customers, entitled Your First 5000, and we still host a highly-effective course, Your First 500. Quantity is important, but it’s quality that converts.
So rather than defaulting to the mindset of “more, more, more…”, consider these alternative resolutions for 2017.
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Resolution One: This year I will fine-tune my marketing funnel.
Let’s imagine you’re hosting a party. As the host, you want to know your guests are satisfied and that the experience is meeting their expectations. If 10 people show up, odds are you can meet their needs. If 100 people show up, it’ll be a stretch, but I bet you can work the room and provide everyone with a good experience. If 10,000 people show up… good luck.
Managing your email list is no different. Even if you get 10,000 subscribers overnight, you still need to keep them engaged, “well-fed”, purchasing your products and services, telling all of their friends how awesome you are and coming back again.
A fine-tuned automated marketing funnel will make you feel like you have a staff of 50 and will prime your email strategy to scale up. That cramped restaurant that could only seat a handful of couples now has room to serve hundreds.
So what exactly is a marketing funnel?
A marketing funnel is a simple way to visualize where your prospects, customers and advocates are in their journey. A person is unlikely to purchase your product or service without first engaging with you or your brand. This engagement can occur through various channels, like your website, social media channels, in-person or email marketing.
Providing individuals with the right calls-to-action and opportunities to convert will help boost the likelihood that people will move through the funnel and invest in your business.
There are five main stages in the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty and advocacy.
If you can increase the rate at which people move through each stage, you can effectively increase your revenue with the same, or even less total subscribers added to your list. Focusing solely on list growth without a strong path to purchase is a missed opportunity.
Learn more: Check out this visual infographic on the marketing funnel to dive deeper into crafting conversion using email marketing.
Take action: Everyone’s funnel is different. Map out your prospect/customer buyer journey and look for areas to automate and optimize. Start with a strong and engaging automated welcome campaign.
Set a goal: Not sure what your conversion rates are throughout the funnel? Start creating benchmarks that you can use in 2017 to improve throughout the year.
Resolution Two: This year I will focus on providing value through contextual content.
A popular adage in digital marketing is “the money is in the list.” This short statement might be why so many focus on list-building above all else. The money is not necessarily in the list, but more so how you engage with it.
If you have 10,000 subscribers, but only provide value to a slim fraction of them, it’s unlikely that you’ll retain those subscribers or convert them into paying customers. Sending useless content will quickly lead to unsubscribes, spam complaints and decreased engagement.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a marketing practitioner with plenty of snackable pieces of advice. One of the most practical bits that I’ve learned from Gary is to go deep, not wide. Gary writes, “A small, meaningful, intentional act will mean MUCH more than a HUGE one that lacks substance.”
Sending a lousy email to 10,000 people will likely yield less results than sending a valuable email to 100 people.
This is where segmentation, contextual content and personalization will help you succeed.
Email segmentation allows you to create a subset of subscribers based on an action, inaction, attribute or some other piece of data. For example, sending a follow up webinar invitation to subscribers who did not open the first email can be more valuable than sending to the entire list, including those who already opted in or intently declined. Likewise, sending product promotions to customers who already purchased can clutter their inbox.
Segmentation shows your subscribers that you know them. You are aware of their behaviors and interests and you are delivering content relevant to them. This content, tailored to meet a subscriber’s needs and interests, or based on their attributes or location, is called contextual content.
This reference might date me a bit, but there was (a long time ago, in a galaxy far away), a popular TV show about a bar called Cheers. The sitcom’s iconic theme song declared the bar as the place “Where everybody knows your name”. That’s what made the bar so special.
In most cases, you are capturing your subscribers name at the point of sign-up. This a valuable piece of data to help you personalize content. You can experiment with “First Name” in the subject line, or greeting of your email messages, but I recommend casually including this field in the actual body copy of your message.
Here’s an example:
This implementation is a subtle way to make a connection with an individual subscriber without having it feel forced, automated or mail-merged. Your emails should feel like the Cheers theme song.
Take action: Develop a segmentation plan. Jot down what you know about your current subscribers, what you want to know and how that data might be used to send better content. Take a look at your broadcast stats, such as open and click rates on specific emails, which might reveal more than you think.
Set a goal: Benchmark your average open and click-through rates for emails sent to your entire list. Can you improve these by sending more contextual and valuable messages? Set a goal and track your progress.
Resolution Three: This year I will develop a new product or service.
This resolution might be the most challenging, but it also might be the most rewarding. (And I’m talking about revenue in your business account rewarding, not just pat-yourself-on-the-back rewarding.)
If your goal in 2017 is simply to “get more sales,” challenge yourself to consider what you are selling, what you could be selling, how you are selling it and what you ultimately want to earn.
Neville Medhora of KopywritingKourse.com has a valuable product profit calculator that illuminates your options. For example, if you want to earn $30,000 dollars this year through a product sale, you can:
- Sell a $6 product to 5,000 people,
- Sell a $30 product to 1,000 people,
- Or sell a $100 product to 300 people.
You could even consider selling a subscription service/product, which gives you even more options, like:
- Offer a $.50/mo service to 5,000 people for 12 months,
- Offer a $2.50/mo service to 1,000 people for 12 months,
- Or offer a ~$8.33/mo service to 300 people for 12 months.
It might seem like common sense, but the pricing of your product or service will impact how many subscribers you’ll need to meet your overall goals. If you increase the value you provide in your product and also increase the price, having a small list of highly engaged subscribers who are ready to invest is more valuable than having a huge list of subscribers who simply aren’t as interested.
Pay attention to the other businesses in your niche. What products and services are they offering? How much are they charging? What can you do better? Has anyone introduced a solid subscription-based service yet?
You may find that your offerings are underpriced or there’s an opportunity to go to market with a new product.
A small engaged email list can help you determine what they product could look like. Your subscribers could even serve as beta testers, or advocates to help you boost sales.
Learn more: There are many ways to monetize your email list and create a product. AWeber user Rachael Pontillo successfully launched her own online course. Learn about how she did it to see if launching a course could be right for you.
Take action: Set a revenue goal and determine what your product or service price point should be, and how many subscribers you’ll need to purchase. Knowing this, decide what product or service can you realistically create in 2017. Leverage your knowledge of competitors, the market you occupy, feedback from your subscribers, and your strengths to develop the perfect plan.
Set a goal: Break down your product creation and launch into milestones and set measurable deadlines throughout the year. The sooner you can release, the sooner you can begin generating revenue and gathering feedback to improve.
What will you do?
Whether you read this article and adopt a “less is more” attitude, or keep pushing towards massive list growth, the important thing is that you do something. The new year is a great time to develop plans and resolutions, but true success will come from taking action, not simply deciding to take action.
Finding your tribe is challenging, but as many can attest, it’s emotionally, creatively and financially rewarding. To help you along the way, we’ve developed a spreadsheet to track your progress. Simply opt-in here and you’ll get immediate access. We’ll also send you a weekly round-up of our best content to keep you motivated and educated throughout the year.
No subscribers yet? Sign up for a live workshop on Tuesday, 1/17 at 12:00pm ET. We’ll be walking through simple starter tactics to grow your list from 0-60 in no time. This is a workshop for beginners and it’s not recommended for email marketers with over 100 subscribers.