Would you like to look under the hood of my email list?

I’m sure you know that I’m a huge fan of email marketing because of its potential to scale trust-building.

I use my own email list as a bit of a laboratory. I’m always trying to find ways to deliver more value. I’m also interested in how my email list performs over time from a marketing perspective.

The blunt way to phrase that question is this: Is it worth all the time you put into your email list?

I’m looking into ways to quantify this. Gross sales that I could attribute to my email list would be one handy metric I don’t quite have worked out yet.

This week I reached out for help with another interesting list metric question: how much time passes between someone joining my list and their spending money on my book or my other services?

I got the best help I could ask for in the form of Ari Lamstein, an expert R developer who helps other R programmers map open data sets (stuff like census data, etc.). Ari helped me take a bunch of CSVs and turn them into some pretty interesting charts.

The one below charts out home much time elapses between someone joining my list and them making a purchase of some kind:

(bigger version: http://dsh.re/79021)

There are a few outliers beyond the 1-year timeframe, but I constrained this one to include the time from from 1 day to 365 days.

You can see that there’s a lot of buying activity in the first 30 days or so, but there’s also a lot of buying activity in the remaining 11 months of this time period.

My takeaway is that email marketing is a long game. One that generates a substantial share of the potential revenue over longer time periods. This reinforces my distaste for the “cult of the big launch” where undue emphasis is placed on hauling in big one-time numbers of sales from a big, splashy, high-pressure launch. There’s plenty of money to be made from developing long-term relationships with people over longer periods of time, or doing multiple smaller launches.

If I don’t exclude a 0-day time difference between joining my list and buying something, I get this:

(bigger version: http://dsh.re/1dc04)

The absolute lion’s share of the buying activity happens on day 0. That’s because a fairly large number of copies of The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms have been sold as part of bulk sales. Buying the book also opts customers in to my list, causing a zero day time difference between purchasing something from me and joining my list.

The final chart I’ll share is from day 1 to day 90, just to give you a closer look at the first 3 months:

(bigger version: http://dsh.re/d7695)

To me, the most interesting plot is the 1-year timeframe, although the max time outlier is one purchase that happened 625 days after joining my list! Again, that 1-year timeframe is most interesting to me because it shows that sales continue to happen over the long term.

And I think that long-term perspective is the most healthy way to think about my own business. Perhaps the same is true for yours?

What could you start doing to build for the long term? What lead or client relationships could you strengthen by contributing more value? What partnerships could you be building with peers who are in adjacent or complementary positions? How could you invest more in the future strength of your own market position?

Anyway, major thanks to Ari Lamstein for this insight. All I did was export some CSVs, and before I knew it he’d made an R program I could use to spit out these slick graphs.

Ari’s got a lot to offer if you have any needs around R or data mapping using R. Check him out at: http://www.arilamstein.com/

In it for the long term,

Want to stop competing against every other developer?

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