The Great Email Experiment (or, Why Your Inbox is the Best Social Media Channel to Grow Your Biz)

The Great Email Experiment (or, Why Your Inbox is the Best Social Media Channel to Grow Your Biz)

Last month, a couple of folks I know (yep…Carney folks!) were lamenting the fact that there seemed to be an unusual number of people unsubscribing — or, worse! complaining about SPAM — every time they sent an email to their lists.

Feelings of panic, fear and frustration were jumping around the discussion like a bunch of caged, crack head monkeys — it wasn’t a pretty site.

I’ll admit that I used to feel horrible every time someone unsubscribed from my list, too.

Then I decided to figure out why and take some action.

So here’s what I did:

1. Last fall, I told my subscribers that they deserved more from me — special content and treats that regular old blog readers (aka NON-subscribers) couldn’t access. And I decided to call this content “Secret Suppers.” The SS happens about once per month (I’m behind on this now…don’t judge!) and is a way for me to peel back the curtain of how I market my own business and share what’s working and what’s not working (yes, even marketing pros don’t hit home runs every time they step to the plate).

The reaction to those emails was pretty cool. I got responses like this one:

“You leave me breathless with your expertise, analytics and problem solving skills!” (Gloria)

The Secret Suppers are currently housed in my Digital Dining Room, but you can see one of the earlier ones here. And if you’re a subscriber to my list, you have free access to the DDR (just so you know).

But I didn’t stop there.

2. Next, I changed up the format of my newsletters so that they’d be more conversational. You know — more the way they are when you’re emailing a friend. Here’s one of them. Then I started getting responses like this one:

OMG. Thank you so much! I LOVE to hear stuff like this. That’s what email newsletters should be — a 2-way conversation! Email! go figure. (Monteve)

Cool beans, right? This is exactly what I was hoping for. (I also got a fair number of folks who responded to my question on that email!)

But guess what? Even though I always seem to get positive responses from readers, I also get a number of unsubscribes the same day.

(It’s a head-scratcher, I know.)

3. This month, I tried something even more novel (at least for me). I invited folks on my list to have coffee with me via Skype. So I could get to know them a little better. Put a face and a voice with the name. Hear about their current projects, find out what they do for fun — you know, really connect with them.

And guess what? Same thing! I had a total of 28 people raise their digital hands and take me up on the offer. (Click here to see the actual invitation.) And only three of those were people I already knew.

The number that unsubscribed that day? Seven.

Yep. Seven little dwarves couldn’t handle a simple Thank You/invitation to say hello.

(Apparently meeting the person-behind-the-blog scares the bajeezuz out of some people…)

Any who.

There will always be those who say, “No, thank you. Not for me.”

And that’s a very good thing!

How tightly are you connected to your right people?

If you’re doing it right — giving people extreme value and using email as an opportunity to be social, to have real conversations — then some of your ties will get stronger and tighter, and some will loosen or disappear altogether.

You will never please everyone. Cross my heart on this one, folks.

Nor should you even try. (So stop doing that right now!)

Your right people can only identify themselves as your right people if you take the first step and be who you really are. Share what’s going on and help them achieve their goals. Clue them in on WHY you do what you do (not just that you do stuff).

And your wrong people? They need to go away, fast!

Who wants to pay extra for dead email weight anyway? Those unsubscribes were never going to buy from you. They just wanted that free gift you offered up as an enticement to join the list.

Which brings me to my next bit of advice:

Your enticement needs to be delivered over time. In chunks.

If your freebie is a one-time download, guess what? You’ll attract a lot more lookie-Lews to your party.

It’s happened to me.

Someone subscribes, gets the download, and before you can say, “Sweet Baby Lettuce,” they’ve unsubscribed and gone on their merry way.

If you offer something, make it a mini ecourse. That way, folks are a lot more likely to get used to opening your emails. And they can’t just do an opt-in/opt-out dance with your site.

You’ll definitely get less people subscribing…but they’ll be quality people. The kind you want in your tribe.

How about you? What have you experienced with your email list? Let’s share and see if we can learn something from each other.

Oh, and if you’re not on my list? Clickety-click and join the Word Chef family today.

Bonus resource:

The Science of Email Marketing

This post is part of the June 2012 Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.

  • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

    Sweet baby lettuce, Tea! You managed to amuse me, enlighten me and make me hungry all at once. I hate unsubscribes soooo much. Mostly it’s the timing that kills me, like with your offer – so you asked people to chat and they left?? HUH?? Sometimes people unsub from my list three seconds after something totally awesome went out and I think… really? Really.

    But you’re right, those aren’t the people you’d end up doing business with or connecting with anyway. Better to get rid of the weeds than end up with a dead list. I appreciate your advice to send value in chunks. I’ve been obsessing over an ebook for a while now and part of the hangup is that I don’t want to end up with 20 subscribers, 20 people with my book and 20 subsequent unsubscribes. I might just reconsider that strategy. Thanks for your insights as always!

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      You’re welcome, Carol Lynn! Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.devacoaching.com Sandi Amorim

    Can I just say I love how you toss in “sweet baby lettuce”? 

    I think after reading this it’s time for me to mix things up a bit more with my list. I’ve already tried a number of formats and schedules, but it’s time to take it up a notch. I love the idea of reaching out and inviting them to connect. For me, if I can keep the focus on connection I’ll be more consistent in my emails to the folks on the list. 

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      I think that’s the key, Sandi. Remembering that there are people behind those email addresses that we want (and need) to connect with!

  • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

    I’ve always loved your emails, Tea. You go the extra mile to make sure you’re offering value and I’m constantly being surprised and delighted by your content and the way you present it. The coffee dates via Skype thing was GENIUS. And your message here — that unsubscribes are a good thing – is SO necessary. I don’t understand those seven folks – you don’t either – which is in itself a VERY good reason for them to leave your list, as it most likely indicates they won’t “get” YOU, either. And those folks – well, you’re fighting an uphill battle, to say the least. Great post. 

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Annie! The feeling is mutual by the way. Kind of missing YOUR emails, girlfriend. You gonna start ‘em up again?

      • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

        LMAO – way to call me out publicly, Chef Tea! Yes ma’am, look for something from me this week. :D

  • http://www.thenumberswhisperer.com/ Nicole Fende

    Tea this post inspired me to really start experimenting with my email list.  Big surprise that the numbers geek doesn’t always like to mix it up.

    For the record I love your emails and I’m STILL scratching my head over how in the world free coffee and a chat leads to unsubscribes…

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Nicole. I appreciate your vote of confidence! 

      Maybe if you looked at experimentation as a way to test the numbers, it would be more fun for you? LOL (just a thought)

  • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

    Yes, I love your emails. You are definitely providing awesome value and exciting branding which keeps me coming back for more.  Yes, I so agree bye bye to unsubscribes..I love your point about dead emails can cost you money…so very true.  My client that has over 50,000 get’s about 5000 that view the emails and each email receives at last 150 unsubscribes.  I find it interesting that they wait until a new email comes out that they unsubscribe..what’s that about.  At least those that stay are truly gold and I so love your point about building relationships with them.  Some are great at that and some are not.  I find for me, if I get too many…I am out…But I do try to give people a chance because I signed up free you just may share some good stuff with me…so I will hang around a bit.  another great one Tea!

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Wow – that’s just a 10% open rate! (5K opens of 50K size list). Most of us would curl up and die if our open rates were that low. It’s my understanding that a “good” average open rate is more like 20-30%. Would love to follow up with you offline about this, Michelle.

      • http://virtuallydistinguished.com Michelle Church

        Yes, when he sends emails to his entire list, his open rates is small.  It does depend on his subject.  The good thing is his list is very segmented, so when he sends to specific groups on his list, and focuses the messages to them, his open rate is 50% or more and his clickthrough rate is very high.  The other piece to this is, he has had this list for years and for a long time he was sending newsletters at all until he hired me.  Now he has more consistency and things are more focused and I believe that is helping.

  • http://upyourimpactfactor.com/ JennyBBones

    You really nailed it here, Tea. And I’m in love with your Secret Suppers idea (and SO much valuable data in the one you shared here!) Thank you.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Glad you enjoyed that, Jenny. (Now I’m off to plan my next Secret Supper…)

  • clarestweets

    Great idea about the mini course. Right now my free download is all five of my 5 Easy Pages. Starting to think that I should offer them one by one. And you are so right, its the quality people that you want on your list, not the lookyloos! Your emails always have super content. I don’t even need to say keep up the good work, because I know you will!  

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Clare! 

  • http://getpaidtowriteonline.com/ Sharon Hurley Hall

    I find your emails very personable, Tea, and I’d love to implement some of that pizzazz into my own emails. Very inspiring.

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Gracias, Sharon! I’m glad you read ‘em!

  • http://eadesign.me/ evan austin

    “Your enticement needs to be delivered over time. In chunks.”
    Doy…genius! Is virtual coffee a standing offer? Been thinkin’ about it since you first mentioned it. (Yes, I already know that the arc of information-to-action is obscenely long for me)

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Dude! Don’t you get my newsletter? LOL I just told the fine folks on the PB&J list that I have a standing slot every Friday a.m. (so, YES, we can still meet for coffee). I would love to “see” you sometime soon.

  • http://www.creativekatrina.com Creative Katrina

    All of your tips — fabulous! These are great ideas that are easy to implement and give you a chance to connect more with your email list in a way that gives you both what you want, clarity on why are are connected in the first place and the value that grows from that exchange. I especially like the secret suppers idea and helping create that elite element. And on a random note I LOVE the photo for this post! Please use that for future marketing purposes. It’s so creative! 

    • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Katrina! Got that lovely photo via Fiverr. It’s amazing what you can conjure up on the interwebz these days!

  • http://www.IAmNickArmstrong.com/ Nick Armstrong

    Tea – this is great advice. Probably always in the back of my mind now, “space out the incentives” so that folks stay engaged longer.

    I also love what you did with the invitation to coffee. I’m interested to see long-term if this actually increases your engagement and purchases! :-)

  • http://www.letsradiate.com Michelle

    I still think it’s fascinating that people unsubscribed to the invitation to coffee email! Go figure. I think that’s probably as good a sign as any that sometimes, unsubs are entirely unrelated to the content and are just because. I also think your tip about an ecourse vs. a download is a good one – not only are they likelier to stick around, but I’d be willing to bet they’re more likely to actually interact with your offering and take action on the tips presented within it (as opposed to downloading and then…letting it sit, which I think we’re all guilty of sometimes!). 

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