I want to try something kind of interesting, which is to liveblog an experiment I hope leads to some worthwhile guidance for the assembled throng here.
Specifically, those of you that have asked me how you start building an email list from scratch.
There’s lots of what I consider really mediocre advice out there about how to do this.
What makes most of it mediocre is that they propose methods that either just don’t work because they’re outdated or silly (“go to Chamber of Commerce meetings and invite people to your insider’s circle email list”), or they trade relevance for scale (“personally ask all your friends and family to join your email list”), or they suggest you learn a complex digital marketing stack just in order to start building an email list (“run Facebook ads and drive traffic to a landing page and segment them and optimize conversion rate and… blah blah blah”).
I’d rather have an email list with 50 relevant subscribers than 500 who aren’t relevant to my business focus. If you don’t see the appeal in that kind of relevance-over-scale, then by all means check out those aforementioned list-building approaches. They might be a good fit for you. Or you might be doing something other than trying to sell expensive, high-ROI consulting services and for that reason those other approaches are a good fit. All of which is fine.
However, if relevance seems important to you, then you understand why I haven’t been satisfied with any of the list-building advice out there.
So, I’m going to try something. A live, 35-day experiment that I’ll report back to you weekly about.
Who’s with me?
My goal is to attract 100 relevant new subscribers to my list. We’ve talked about why I want them to be relevant. But why 100?
No particularly special reason, other than 100 is a number with a nice ring to it, especially if just a few weeks ago you had zero list subscribers. If you had a list of 100 people and they were all in a room with you IRL, it would feel impressive to gaze out over what you could legitimately call a crowd. Now in reality maybe only 20 to 30 of them will pay much attention to your emails (those are typical open rates) and only maybe 1 to 5 of them would take any kind of action on any given email (those are typical click rates), but that’s OK. If you started with zero not long ago, 100 feels like a meaningful achievement, and it’s a nice milestone on your way to bigger and better things.
Here’s what the experiment will look like in terms of constraints:
- I’m going to pretend like I don’t have a book to promote. No mention of The Positioning Manual.
- I’m going to avoid any fancy multistep marketing funnel approaches, and limit myself to one of two possible opt-in incentives: an email course, or a PDF lead magnet. I’ll probably go with an email course because this approach makes it 100% natural to ask for an email address, and there’s no need to do any visual design.
- I’m going to go where the action is to engage with potential list subscribers: social media. The action is also on podcasts and other platforms, but I want to do things in a way a beginner to marketing could more easily replicate, and that constraint mostly rules out podcasts and mostly recommends social media.
- I’m going to limit myself to a budget of $150/mo. That will pay for subscriptions to: LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Dux-Soup or Leonard, and the lowest price tier of almost any modern email marketing platform (I use ConvertKit). This budget also mostly rules out paid advertising, but it’s enough to get access to something that is the next best thing: the precise search targeting of LI Sales Navigator combined with the automated connection-creating machine that is Dux-Soup/Leonard. I will also deploy a very costly resource: my own time, but I won’t “bill” for this against the budget.
There will be one “anti-constraint”. Or in other words, I’ll do one thing that might be challenging for email marketing beginners to replicate:
- I’m going to throw every bit of subject matter expertise, insight, and point of view I have at this. After accepting the constraints above, this is the absolute best remaining asset I have for attracting relevant list subscribers, and I’m going to deploy it in the best way I can. I know this is not something every beginner could replicate because in addition to being a beginner at email marketing you might also be a beginner at your craft and therefore not have the deep expertise or crisp point of view yet, but if I deprive myself of this asset I just don’t think this experiment will work at all. But in another sense, this is kind of what this experiment is all about. Is expertise combined with a strong point of view enough to build a good email list with, without resorting to complex or manipulative “funnels” or other shitty forms of “marketing”? I believe it is, and I’ve pretty purposefully constructed this experiment to test this idea.
One question I’ll probably get, so I’ll go ahead and respond: “
Philip. You may not have noticed this, but you already have a list, dude. How is this a legit test?”
You’re right. It’s not the greatest test. But I insist on testing or researching my advice as best I can before I start promoting it, so what I have in mind is actually a two-phase experiment. Phase 1: I try the idea out myself to make sure it’s not hot garbage. If it’s solid, then I’ll move to Phase 2 wherein I recruit 5 folks from this list who have the exact situation I’m trying to help with (no list but want to build a list of 100 relevant subscribers) and offer to coach you through the process for a beta price. If that works well, then I start making claims that this is an idea worth your attention.
Until then, it’s just an un-validated idea.
If you want to follow along, you won’t have to do anything extra, just stay tuned for these here daily emails where I’ll report in weekly on what I’m doing and how it’s working (or not). 🙂
Who’s with me? Pls reply if you find this idea interesting or relevant or dumb or weird or otherwise worth commenting on.