I’ve had an email list for 2-3 years. For most of that time, I ignored it.
I didn’t have anything to sell. I just created one because that’s what people in the online marketing world are supposed to do. If you don’t have one you get list-shamed. So I created one just to say I had it.
But I felt bad ignoring people who gave me their email address to learn from me.
And even though I had nothing to sell now, I may sell stuff later. So I figured may as well build a relationship so when I have things I believe in that I want to share with them, they don’t respond with something like:
“New email, who dis?”
So I started emailing them every day.
Now, I work in online marketing. But writing a daily email about marketing sounded fucking lame to me. I wanted to share silly stories. I wanted to talk about things that matter more than “weird ways to increase clicks 4%”.
I ended up sharing stories from my travels, improv classes, the work I’ve done with my coach/therapist and a bunch of other stuff I felt was interesting. (Plus we’d talk marketing and case studies about once a week because that is my specialty after all.)
Anyway, I ended up emailing my list almost 30 days in a row (I missed day 28 but whatever.)
Here are the 3 biggest lessons I learned from emailing my list for 30 days straight:
1) “You don’t get inspired to write. You write to get inspired.”
That’s something Laura Belgray said in her Copy Chief Live talk. I experienced the same thing. 80% of the time I write these emails I have no clue or only a vague thought as to what I’ll write. Then I start typing. Next thing you know I’ve got an email and I’m thinking “That’s actually pretty darn good.”
We often think we’ve got to have things planned out in order to do them well. But “start doing it and figure it out as you go” is a wildly effective strategy as well — especially for creative work.
2) Writing to your list is fun.
I used to have more of that “Aww I hope everyone likes this email…” feeling before hitting send. But a cool thing happened: A bunch of people unsubscribed. Now, all that’s left are people who saw what I like to talk about and decided to stick around.
It’s like having a dinner party. You want everyone to have a good time but a bunch of people keep glancing at their phone and seem checked out. Well, those people all left. So now it’s just me and a handful of cool people who are down to chat marketing, mindest, relationships, travel, what’s good on Netflix…
3) I got something to say (so do you)
When I started this challenge I had a lot of that, “Aahh I’ve got nothing useful to share today” thing. But I kept sharing anyway. And people replied saying they enjoyed the stories and marketing lessons.
Some emails I didn’t think would hit at all and ended up being the most popular ones. (I thought the stuff I learned from my coach/therapist would make me look like a maniac. But it got the best response. Funny how often the things we think aren’t worth sharing end up having a huge impact…)
There were also times I sent out emails and thought “I don’t care if everyone hates that one and unsubscribes. That is a damn good email and what I said matters”. That is an enjoyable state to be in no matter what you’re doing.
Taking time to reflect and share stories and things I’ve learned has helped me see I’ve got something to say.
(Can’t tell you how often that lyric has popped into my head the past month.)
You don’t need a multi-million dollar business with a 700,000 person email list to say something helpful or entertaining. (In fact, a lot of people with big lists don’t do a great job of that. They share whatever they think will get you to click and buy so they can hit sales goals for the month. They’re not as into building an actual relationship — which is what my focus was and is much more rewarding.)
After 30 days of doing this, I feel compelled to write to my list now. (I felt withdraw on the plane yesterday because I wanted to email them but couldn’t.)
There’s less pressure to make every email a masterpiece. And I feel I hit a groove where I know what I like to share and I have more confidence that stuff will resonate.
And that was exactly what I was hoping to get out of this challenge.
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Here’s what readers say about my emails: