The most important part of any successful platform is a healthy email list. But you may be surprised to know that the size of your list and your platform’s success don’t always go hand in hand.
If your list doesn’t buy your products, it doesn’t matter how many people are reading.
How do you ensure that your hard-earned subscribers become reliable purchasers?
Big Loyalty Comes in Small Packages
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” a group of characters faces an improbable task. A dark lord has amassed an army large enough to effectively overrun the world. The only way to stop him is to carry the eponymous ring, which is the source of the dark lord’s power, deep into enemy territory and destroy it inside a volcano.
As the various leaders haughtily debate the size of their armies, a creature called a hobbit—no larger than a child—speaks up and says he will carry the ring to Mordor. It’s a preposterous suggestion, but Frodo’s humble offer stops everyone in their tracks. The pride fades as the group realizes that their best hope is to sneak—not fight—the ring to its destination. A small group volunteers to escort him, and the 9-member Fellowship of the Ring is born.
Even if this kind of story isn’t your thing, you probably recognize the human nature that plays out in it. When faced with a big problem, we assume we need a big solution (and sometimes that’s true). But oftentimes, it is the simpler, humbler option hiding in plain sight that is the most effective. The same is true with the loyalty of our audiences.
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Investment, Trust, and Expectation
When Michael Hyatt launched 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever™, he noticed something peculiar. Specifically, some launch affiliates who had the biggest lists had poor results. In contrast, several affiliates with smaller lists produced far more sales than expected. The phenomenon repeated itself on future launches.
Michael had seen this before during his tenure as CEO at Thomas Nelson. Sometimes an author who looked great on paper—big email lists, high social media engagement—would launch a new book, and no one seemed to care.
Clearly, there can be a disconnect between the size of a list and engagement. It all comes down to three things: investment, trust, and expectation.
If you want strong product launches, then you must ask these three questions about your audience:
- Is Your Audience Invested in Your Message? We’ve told you before about Wired magazine cofounder Kevin Kelly’s idea of “1,000 True Fans.” He argued that most creators won’t ever see blockbuster success. But they can have enough success to sustain a profitable business if they cultivate 1,000 true fans.
“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce,” says Kelly. “They have a Google Alert set for your name. … They can’t wait till you issue your next work.” In other words, they are invested in you, and your message.
This is critical when building a list because subscribers who aren’t invested won’t move the needle. The affiliates with smaller lists drove more sales because their audiences cared enough to respond when they spoke.
- Does Your Audience Trust You? What the smaller affiliates in the launch lacked in size, they made up for in trust. When they said a product was worth buying, their audiences believed it and acted on it.
Trust comes down to one question: Can I count on you? If audiences can rely on you for high-quality content and recommendations that interest them, then even a small list can churn big numbers. The affiliates with smaller lists drove more sales because their audiences counted on their recommendation.
- Does Your Audience Expect to Buy? Some of the affiliates that were okay in the first two departments still had trouble making the sale because their audience did not expect the product pitch, the price, or maybe both.
True Fans are happy to buy when the offering fits their needs. Not everybody on a list is a True Fan. So when they see a pitch they ignore it or even scoff at it.
That’s why the size of the list almost didn’t matter. A person with a small list of people who expect to buy from time to time will see far better results than a person with a massive list of people who expect everything for free. You’ve got to train your audience to expect the pitch.
In business and in life, the quality of relationships always beats the quantity.