An artist's biggest enemy isn't the critic. It's the apathetic passerby who doesn't give their creation a second look.
That's why I started out 2013 by asking people to unsubscribe from my email newsletter list.
Yep, you read that right. I asked people to leave. Why? Because, as an artist, nothing bothers me more than apathy.
Email isn't my canvas, but communicating digitally with people is.
There is a skill involved in crafting subject lines that grab attention.
It takes an artist's touch to build a newsletter that people don't immediately delete. Crafting valuable digital communication pieces is the art I create.
Here's Your Chance!
That's why I sat down and penned an email giving people permission to leave my newsletter list. Here's a portion of it:
It's not that I want you to go. I just know how easy it is to hit “DELETE” on emails you don't enjoy anymore, rather than unsubscribing. I don't ever want to add more noise to your inbox, so now's your chance.
2013 is going to be an amazing year. This newsletter will be filled with exciting news, giveaways, previews of my new book, and beta testing opportunities for upcoming projects, all wrapped in my finest attempt at self-deprecating humor.
That said, it would be foolish of me think that each and every one of you would be interested in those things. Neither of us gain anything if you're not here by choice.
Think of this opportunity as a chance to purge your inbox if it's become too cluttered. I want THINK DIFFERENTLY to be a breath of fresh in your life, not something you dread (or worse yet, ignore).
I wanted to share some lessons I learned from the experience. Some good, some bad, and some just downright ugly. Feast your eyes on these!
1. Don't Ask People to Unsubscribe Unless You Mean It
Here's a very important lesson I learned: You shouldn't ask people to unsubscribe from your email list unless you're prepared for them to do so.
Ironically, the open rate for the unsubscribe announcement was the highest of any campaign I've ever sent. It could be because of the subject line, though. A very simple:
I wrote something to catch people's attention, regardless of where they were at.
The harsh, humbling reality is people took me up on my offer. Lots of them. Here's a look at the unsubscribe averages for the unsubscribe campaign, my list average, and the industry average:
If you're not good at math (like me), that's a 736% increase in unsubscribes. Ouch.
But truth be told, this is why I sent the email in the first place. My philosophy on email is very simple: Respect the inbox. If people aren't finding value in my newsletter, they deserve to not have it clutter up their inbox. It's that simple.
I know how many times I hit “DELETE” on newsletters instead of taking the extra two seconds it takes to unsubscribe. This, ultimately, hurts both me and the person or organization sending the email.
It hurts me by:
- Not unsubscribing from unwanted emails takes away time from other things. Even if it's a few seconds, you multiply that by a few dozen or so emails per day and the time starts stacking up.
- Not unsubscribing builds up resentment. This may sound strange, but when someone sends me an email I don't want, the thought in my head is, “Why won't this dummy stop sending me emails!” Of course, they can't hear the thoughts in my head (yet), so the logical course of action would be to unsubscribe. But I don't. Why? Because I'm lazy. Give me a blatant option to jump ship and I will.
It hurts the person/organization by:
- Skewing statistics. Email open and click through statistics are, admittedly, an inexact science. But many publishers depend on them to give a general sense of effectiveness. Some email clients make you open the email to delete it. This, in turn, will show up as a positive open to the publisher, giving a “false positive” of sorts.
- Resting on their laurels. If someone believes falsely what they're doing is working, they are less likely to make changes. This, I'm afraid, is the human condition.
- Duplicate subscribers. Any list offering a free resource will have people who sign-up with multiple email addresses. I've seen it happen more times than I can count. As an email marketer, you want to get as close to reality as possible. One person with eight email addresses on one list is, unfortunately, not reality. Close the gap.
Bottom line: We all get enough email garbage. I didn't want some of my most valuable content getting thrown on the heap.
2. You Cannot Please Everyone
This was an important lesson for another reason. People will find their way into your newsletter list through different avenues. Most will stay, some will leave. This is completely normal and consistent with the order of things.
Some folks will get on board to grab your free resource and jump ship the next time you send something. Let them jump.
Some folks will sign up and, when you give them a chance to unsubscribe, write and tell you you're being offensive. No joke. Here's the actual quote from a reader:
The letter asking me to unsubscribe was offensive.
I'm not sure what's offensive about giving people a chance to declutter their inboxes, but there you have it. Again, Let them jump.
This serves as an important reminder to stick to your mission and execute without fail. Your job is to produce valuable content—information, deals, and exclusives that you yourself would be pleased to have show up in your inbox. People will come and go, but your purpose must remain true.
I repeat: Let them jump.
3. People Can Believe in You and Still Not Subscribe
A reader wrote in the unsubscribe comment box:
Good info but seem to be bombarded by emails from many different sources! Keep up the good work!
I appreciated the sentiment behind this. Why? Because people are still on my team even if they don't get my monthly newsletter.
It may sound silly, but there was a time when I took unsubscribes personally. I know, I know. “But Justin, your worth isn't in what you produce it's in who you are…blah, blah, blah.” I get it. But each email newsletter I wrote felt like one of my little babies, sent out into the world, just trying to make it on its own.
An unsubscribe felt like a big, bold red stamp over the forehead saying, “FAIL!” And no one likes to fail, let alone an artist!
Now, I receive comments like the one above with nearly every newsletter I send out. (Which is why, by the way, I've made unsubscribing easier. No one should be coerced, forced, or tricked into staying on my list—especially if they don't want to be there.) Personal interests come and go. Sometimes those interests shift out of the areas you write about. Don't take it personally when they unsubscribe. Folks can be for you and have no interest in your content.
To sum up, here's what we've learned:
- Don't make the ask for unsubscriptions unless you're ready for a wallop. People will take you up on your offer!
- You will piss people off no matter what you do. This is a hard lesson to learn, especially when folks opt-in to your list, but it's important. Once you get past this, it's smooth sailing. For reals.
- People can like you and not read your newsletter. We shouldn't need to be reminded of this, but many of us do. Say it with me, “I am not what I produce—including my email newsletters.” Got it? Good.
What about you? What are some of the things you learn as you create?