building a mailing list

After 5 years building a mailing list, I deleted 25% of my subscribers – here’s why.

Last month I did a search for people within my newsletter provider, Mailchimp, who hadn’t opened the last 20 newsletters. That’s right…they hadn’t opened anything from me for around 6 months. I then emailed that subsection and wrote the following:

building a mailing list

Four people opened that email, and only one hit reply to tell me they’d like to stay on. So as promised, the following Monday I deleted everyone who didn’t respond…25% of my total newsletter subscribers…and breathed a sigh of relief.

Here’s the thing: like I said, I don’t want to be dead weight in someone’s inbox. I don’t want to be that sender whose emails automatically get deleted because they’ve moved on.

I’m not at all offended if people clear their inbox of Republic of Freedom emails.

Let’s discuss:

Your mailing list is your business.

I run a business. I don’t spend hours and hours a month honing my writing and my message solely out of the goodness of my heart. If that were the case I would have stuck to my Dear Diary posts over at LiveJournal that only my sister and best friend ever read.

My blog posts are my work, my theories, my teachings to the world. My posts are my marketing, and it costs me a lot. A lifetime of experience informs what I share and I spend a lot of precious hours honing my craft. So if I have a mailing list full of people who never intend to work with me, recommend me, or buy my courses, then I’m not running a very effective business, am I? Those people not even opening my emails aren’t benefitting from me at all, and I’m not benefitting from them.

Open and click rates are an important measure of impact.

Having a good chunk of people on your mailing list who rarely open your emails affects your open rates which can be really discouraging considering the behaviour of your mailing list is an important part of market research. Their behaviour lets you know if you’re doing it right.

Before I bid 25% of my list farewell, my open rates were somewhere between 26 -30%. Since the cull, my open rates are consistently between 30 – 40%…and that matters to me. It’s more accurate because the remaining people on my list are the ones who are engaging with my brand for real. It also gives me something to aim for. Based on which emails are opened, I can see which subjects are resonating more with my audience and focus my work accordingly.

It’s not you, it’s me.

We all outgrow people. I used to be subscribed to some of the big names in online business, and then I got bored. I was just over it. There are only so many #truthbombs that are helpful to me and then I need to move on. We evolve, and as much as I’m totally ok with hitting the unsubscribe button, I’m more than happy when people hit the unsub button for my newsletter and leave a little comment like, “Too many newsletters right now…I might come back later.” Right on, Reader! Good for you. No harm, no foul. Unsubscribing from newsletters is a form of creating healthy boundaries. I’m all for it.

No really…I love you tons but…

At this point I’ve unsubscribed from most mailing lists…from many people whom I adore and whom I know are doing great work in the world. Although I love and support them, I don’t need their wisdom or what they’re selling RIGHT NOW. In order to run my business and still have a life, I need to control my channels of input at all times. I’m only paying attention to people who are telling me something helpful for the business stage I’m in RIGHT NOW. And besides, I can always go back, just as my readers can (and have) come back if they want to re-engage with what I’m dishing out.

Keep your eyes on your own paper.

There are a myriad of reasons why someone might unsubscribe. But whatever the reason, the harsh truth is that it’s none of your business. (Though I’m pretty sure it’s not because you suck or that your work doesn’t have impact.)

Trust that that person is making the best choice for him or herself at the time. And fergodssake, turn of the email notifications you get when people unsubscribe. Repurpose the energy you would have spent being bummed out into efforts to get in front of new people who you can serve with your work.

Have you felt bad when people unsubscribe from your newsletter? Tell me about it in the comments. And if you’ve got a short list of newsletters you adore, share those too!