I’ve never liked them – the goals of being popular – measured then by the number of people at your party or the number of party invites you got. Measured now by “likes” and followers and the number of people on your mailing list. I’m not one for thinking of people as numbers. Just not my way.
I kind of wish it wasn’t anyone’s way.
But I’m not delusional, and I do want to make a living – to write books, to craft the farm into a retreat for people who want to step away. I do want to continue working full days in my pajamas.
So I do what I can without compromising my integrity and without – I think – turning people into numbers. All the good marketing research says that we should “engage” with the people who give us their time. I don’t think that’s marketing – I think that’s kindness and citizenship and just being a good person.
I come, then, to my work with a desire for a community – genuine community where people support one another even when we don’t always “get” or even agree with what we the other people do. We stand beside them with our hands on their backs to hold them up, and they do the same for us. This is one of the principles we are building our farm on* – “love people first and hard.” And it’s a principle I try to keep central to my life. I don’t always succeed, but I do try.
So when you follow me or “like” my Facebook page, when you sign up for my mailing list or send me an email, please know this – I’m glad to know you – not because you are a number but because you are YOU and you gave some of your precious time on this earth to me.
For that gift, I am ever grateful.
Yesterday, Anthony asked me on Twitter if I’d ever written a post about building a mailing list, and I haven’t . . . so here are my 5 tips for building a mailing list. A small caveat, however – my mailing list is not nearly as large as other people’s; thus, do a search and look for website growing tips. You’ll find lots, and you’ll also find that most people say the same thing.
1. Do what you do and do it well. It’s easy to think that you should alter your content – become all sale-sy, for example – to get more followers . . . and you may well get a few more folks initially, but you will also lose folks who love you for you. . . and the folks who came because of that one thing will disappear to find other “one things” if you aren’t writing your true stuff.
2. Ask people to sign up. I’m a big believer in the “just ask.” I believe it for book sales, and I believe it for mailing list sign-ups. Put your ask on the top of your page with this handy little gadget I just found called Hello Bar (see mine at the top). Ask people on social media. Lay out a sign-up sheet at your readings and then transfer those addresses to your list when you get home. Ask, and ask again. People are grown-ups, and they can say “no” or ignore you if they want. But if you don’t ask, they don’t do it. (By the way, I use MailChimp for my mailing list because I appreciate the easy interface and the fact that it’s free until you have 2,000 subscribers.)
3. Give something away. Right now, if you sign up for my mailing list, you get a free ebook with writing tips from 8 writers, and giving away a book is a good tool for a lot of people. But you can also give other things away – books you’ve read that you no longer want to own, a consult on a few pages of someone’s manuscript (although be careful not to bog yourself down), a discount on an upcoming class or seminar you’re offering. If you give something, people are likely to sign up, and if you provide good content, they won’t just disappear after they get their free gift.
4. Don’t abuse your list. I only send newsletters once a month EVEN if I have something exciting to share because I told my subscribers they’d only get one email a month from me. I don’t send random announcements to people who sign up for my daily posts either. I send people only what I said I would send, and that’s just the respectful thing to do. And I NEVER sign someone up for the list without their permission. That should be obvious, right? (Also, people will unsubscribe from your list. It stings, yes, but it’s never appropriate to track them down and ask why. Just pout and move on – that’s what I do.)
5. Make yourself available. In your opt-in emails, write something personal, ask people to send you feedback, say thank you. And when people reply to your newsletter or posts, write back to them, even if it’s just a short note. Yesterday, Nicole Curtis – The Rehab Addict – posted a note on FB to say that she had been up all night answering the emails from her website that had mistakenly been unanswered. That’s dedication there – a real desire to connect with the people who love her and her show. I admire that. (That said, I’m probably not going to be up all night answering emails. No one wants to hear from ME at 2pm, I assure you.)
But above all, be real. You can build a huge list. You can give away awesome stuff. You can do all the tricks and tips that people recommend, and none of it will matter if you don’t really give a little of yourself. People can sniff insincerity from miles away, so be yourself and be true to the people who honor you with their time. That’s the best advice I know.
What tips would you add for building a mailing list? Or what things do you HATE about the mailing lists you are on?