Never meet your heroes

A year or so ago, an “internet famous” person joined my email list, and a few days ago they unsubscribed.

I got more bent out of shape about this than I have any right to, but I want to tell you about this because it touches on one of the big reasons you are probably under-utilizing email marketing. This might be hurting your business, so let’s talk about… email marketing hurt feelings.

hurt feelings

I’m sure this person had good reasons for unsubscribing from my email list.

It’s highly likely that those reasons had nothing to do with the value of my daily emails, though it’s possible that my frequency of emailing (which is optimized for encouraging engagement and repelling people who are unlikely to become customers) or intentionally polarizing style were part of this person’s reasons for unsubscribing.

Here’s the thing: at the end of the day I have no idea why they actually unsubscribed.

But… I’ve noticed something in myself that I bet you suffer from too. I’m going to call it Reasonitis.

When I noticed that [redacted] unsubscribed, part of my mind rushed in to fill the “reason why” gap.

Of course I could email this person and ask them why they unsubscribed, but that’s likely to create an awkward situation. I actually admire the shit out of them, and that’s a) why I don’t want to risk an awkward interaction with them b) also why it really stung to see them tune out of my email list.

So lacking that information about why they unsubscribed, part of my mind started making up possible explanations.

“Maybe I offended them… somehow.”

“Maybe they think I’m an imposter and my emails are valueless time sucks that measurably reduce their quality of life.”

“Maybe they accidentally unsubscribed and I’m getting bent out of shape for no good reason and in a few days they will re-subscribe and all will be right with the world.”

And on and on it goes… that’s the mental trap of Reasonitis at play.

tears of a rapper

My larger mission of helping self-employed software developers specialize their business is not harmed at all by this person unsubscribing from my email list. Despite feeling sort of bad about it for a few days, it means nothing. In other words, it doesn’t matter why they unsubscribed. I have enough other evidence that my mission and my methods of furthering that mission are all solid.

It takes a fair bit of mental discipline to avoid feeling bad about this kind of situation.

And when you start to market your services assertively using email, you expose yourself to these kind of emotional risks every time you send an email to your list.

I call this part Asymmetric Vulnerability. Or as David Lee Roth put it:

You stick your head above the crowd and attract attention and sometimes somebody will throw a rock at you. That’s the territory.

This experience actually led to a tiny breakthrough for me. It led me to add the following two questions to my onboarding survey; the list of questions I ask new Positioning Accelerator Program participants:

  1. What is your primary source of objective feedback about how your business is doing?
  2. What is your primary source of subjective feedback about how your business is doing?

I think it’s important to distinguish between the two.

All that Reasonitis did was give me was subjective feedback about how my business is doing. I’m not saying that subjective feedback is worthless. Quite the opposite. But in this particular case, there was no corresponding objective feedback that matched the subjective experience of feeling bad about [redacted] unsubscribing.

I felt bad about it for a little bit, but it did nothing to harm my business.

What about you? I’d be super interested to know what your answers to these questions are:

  1. What is your primary source of objective feedback about how your business is doing?
  2. What is your primary source of subjective feedback about how your business is doing?

Talk to you soon after I get this rain off my face,

hurt feelings

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"This is by far the most valuable email I have ever received from an email list." - Timothy Voice