I have had a bee in my bonnet lately and it is about the whole concept of “List Engagement”. Many of the top business experts I have been following have consistently been saying that you need to manage your list in a certain way, and I’ve been witnessing, watching and experimenting myself with a skeptical and sharp eye. Many of my colleagues have coined me a “devil’s advocate” when it comes to standard business practices because much of what I do in my own business and what I recommend to my clients has been in defiance of some typical business practices, and “List Engagement” is one of those practices.
As an independent spirit, one might think that I am defiant because I want to be different. And although I do think that being different does have you stand out, there are many standard practices that I do in my business that are very successful, and I know, in part, it is because I whole heartedly believe they are the right thing to do for my clients, my audience, and my business success. Where I am defiant, is because my heart is telling me that just because something may work for others, it just doesn’t feel right to me. Above all else, I have learned to trust my intuition and only do things in my business that feel “light and right” and feel like they are of service – to my clients, my audience and to me.
I’ve heard consistently, for example, that you should be sending emails to your list several times a week and that this helps your list “get used to” you promoting to them. I’ve also heard statistics thrown around like “You need a list of at least 10,000 people to fill a group program.” Yet, I see clients of mine and some colleagues that have successful launches without having to send tons of emails or having really large lists. And I’ve been taking note on what seems to work and what doesn’t, and I believe it all has to do with how engaged your audience is with you.
Industry standards for emails, as an example, is that only 16.6% of emails sent in my industry are opened. I’ve had mentors use this statistic to say that is why you need to send 3-5 emails for each of your promotions so that you reach your audience and people that will buy your services or product. One mentor of mine says that she continues to send promotional solo emails about a launch as long as people are buying each time. That never sat right with me and when I tried to do this, I didn’t get the results I wanted in terms of enrollment, and I got uncharacteristic unsubscribes to my list with each passing promotion. And it makes sense because to me, sending 3-5 emails about the same promotion to my list felt like I would be compromising my relationship with my audience and actually teaching them NOT to read all my emails and so I stopped doing this. Instead, I decided that I would only send emails to my audience that they would find some value in (even if I were doing a promotion), whether they decided to enroll with me or not. I started to write content rich articles for my clients, and even when I was doing a promotion for my promotional partners, I decided not to take the standard swipe copy provided, but to create a content rich article that also mentioned their promotion. Does it take more time and energy to do so? Absolutely! Do I feel great about the articles, emails and ezines I send to my clients? A resounding “Yes”. Have I gotten feedback to support this shift? Undoubtedly. Therefore, I’ve made a commitment to my audience to engage them in meaningful dialogues with me, and although I’m not always successful at engaging my audience in the way I want, my average open rate is 3-4x industry standard and I believe it is because I’ve taken a stand for my audience. My stand is that I have to earn their loyalty and engagement, and when I’ve earned that, many of them choose to buy my services and programs.
Here is what I have learned:
1) Whenever you engage with your audience, give them value. I hold this stance in every part of my business (whether it is preview calls to my programs, discovery sessions, or emails I send). Even if they choose not to buy anything from me at this time, I know that they will stay engaged with me if I give them value every time I interact with them. If I send a promotion to them that doesn’t have valuable content, too, I am giving them reason to stop opening my emails. When people stop having compelling reasons to open your emails, they can miss the value that you could provide to them and start tuning you out.
2) Watch and manage your statistics. Know your open rates and click through rates. Notice what gets the highest open rates and what doesn’t and analyze your results. Ask continually for feedback from people you know and trust that get your emails. Make shifts in your approach to engage your audience in a more meaningful way. If you are just starting out, this is easier. If you’ve already been engaging your list for some time with lackluster results, it may take a long time to show them that your emails are worth opening. You will have to train your audience when you’ve moved to a more content rich approach. If your audience is used to getting 3-5 promotional emails before they will buy, you may see a slump in sales initially until they start to really “get it.” It will take a big commitment on your part to be willing to do this, but if you make the commitment, over time, your audience will rebound.
3) Start sending ezines instead of solo email promotions. You can have promotions in the sidebar and after your content rich article. This insures they get content from you and will walk away with value if they open and read your email. In my experience, I get just as many sales from my ezines as I do my solo email promotions.
4) Only promote partners that you know intimately and can talk about the results you have seen personally. I have made the mistake of partnering with people that I thought could help me in my business by promoting me to their audience and I got seduced by their big list and what that could mean to my visibility. It is so important that you have experienced their work and have seen the results their contribution has made, in order to know whether your audience will get value. When you partner with people you fully believe in and know have an amazing contribution for your audience, it can be unbelievably rewarding. I have countless examples of my clients engaging in work with my partners that compliment my work with them, and having them get better results with me, as result. This is a win-win-win.
5) Negotiate terms with your partners to make sure that the playing field is equal. It is standard practice with promotional partners to ask that they send a solo email on their behalf and you send one on their behalf. However, if you show that your open rates on ezines are 3-4x industry standard and that your click through rates for promotions in your ezines are as high as solo emails, your promotional partners should be happy to be included in your ezine instead of sending a solo email on their behalf. And if their statistics are much lower than yours, I have found that they are often willing to send a solo email to their list on your behalf even if you are only including them in your ezine. Negotiate on results, as what is fair and right can be different depending on their and your open rates.
6) Never cut and paste the “swipe” copy that promotional partners provide. It is standard to provide swipe copy to make it easy for others to promote you. However, if you cut/paste swipe copy provided to you, you run the risk of your clients getting the exact same email from as many as 10 other people, depending on your partners’ business practices. You never want your clients to get the exact same email from you as anyone else out there. You can use their provided swipe copy to write an email that includes your personal experience of this partner, why you choose to partner with them, and what results your clients or you have gotten through their work. You can take their carefully crafted marketing language and weave it in – just make sure that it sounds like YOU.
7) Personalize the swipe copy you provide to your partners. You want to make life easy for your partners and not everyone will take as much care as you do to personalize promotional emails. Tell the story of your relationship with this partner and why you have both chosen to partner together. Make sure that the language sounds like them, to the degree you can. And give them full permission to change the copy so that they feel good about what they are sharing with their audience.
I am looking forward to hearing from you and what you learned from this article and what you will do differently as a result of what you learned. And, as always, I’m interested in hearing your devil’s advocate if you don’t agree with me! I always say, the most important thing is to do business in a way that feels “right and light” to you. There are never any hard and fast rules about what you should and shouldn’t do in your business. The only right answer is what feels right to you and to do what you’ve learned really works for your personal business approach.