Michael, you’ve created a resource called Platform University, where you help people launch or grow their own platform. In the videos you use a term you call an inflection point – a point where things start to really take off. It’s the point where more readers start coming in at a much faster rate than before. But like you say in the video, the challenge for many people is hanging in there until they get to that inflection point. What words of encouragement could you offer to Modern Achiever readers so they can keep hanging in there?
This is a great question, and one I am asked often. In my own life, I’ve faced discouragement more times than I could count—in fact, there is usually a point in nearly every project I begin where I want to quit. This happens almost without exception for me, even now.
Here’s what I’ve learned from those experiences:
First, the desire to quit is completely normal. I’ve had the chance to interview and get to know countless successful entrepreneurs. You know what their dirty little secret is? They all contend with self-doubt, fear of failure, and the desire to quit. And yet, they succeed in spite of those feelings, not in the absence of them.
Second, the more important the project—the more there is at stake— the more likely I am to want to throw in the towel. Stephen Pressfield calls this the resistance. If you’ve tried to do anything that matters, you know what I’m talking about. Things go wrong left and right. You feel like you can’t build momentum. Your big launch didn’t go as well as you hoped. All of that serves to weed out the folks who aren’t serious and strengthen those who are.
Third, I’m often most discouraged right before I hit an inflection point or have a breakthrough. If you haven’t experienced this pattern yourself yet, you’re just going to have to trust me. You’re probably closer to your next inflection point than you think you are. They key is to not quit before you get there.
The most important thing to remember is this. Don’t give in to the resistance. Fight back. Stay in the game. You’ll get there if you don’t quit. I promise.
You mention that it took nearly four years before your blog had a thousand readers per month. But what about your email list? When did you start building your email list and how long did it take to get your first thousand subscribers? What mistakes did you make along the way?
This is a painful one for me to talk about because it’s one of my biggest professional blunders to date. Thankfully, I have since recovered. That’s good for me and offers hope for anyone else who’s late to the party.
While I’ve always had a way for people to join my email list, I wasn’t seriously focused on it until about two years ago. I had a very successful blog, but I wasn’t thinking about list-building yet. As result, I missed a huge opportunity to build an audience of people who had given me permission to tell them about other products or services I had to offer in the future.
Once I caught the vision for how valuable my list could be, I got building. I created an eBook as an incentive for my readers to subscribe to my email newsletter. The incentive was compelling and I made it really easy to join—I just asked for an email address and a first name.
I was careful to make this my only call to action on my home page. I didn’t want to overwhelm or confuse people; I just wanted to move them to do one thing when they visited my site for the first time—join my list. From there, I hit a thousand subscribers very quickly because my blog traffic was already quite significant.
I think the takeaway for entrepreneurs is start building your list from the beginning. Offer a quality incentive and then make the call to action prominent and singular. Continue to add value with great content. Eventually those readers will convert to subscribers if you make them hungry enough for your content. Once they become subscribers, you can easily convert them to customers as you continue to serve their needs with your products and services.
Something fun: The Borg have just taken over cyberspace. Planet earth continues to do business in stealth mode, which means you’re limited to a small amount of bandwidth on the interwebs (or risk being assimilated!) using just ONE list building technique per year. What would be your choice – and why?
Ha! I love this. Okay, the very idea of a “small amount of bandwidth” has me shaking in my boots. But, seriously, if I had to pick only one list building technique to employ this year, I would create an email subscription incentive for my blog.
When I’m talking about an email subscription incentive, I’m talking about a digital product—like an eBook or special report—that you offer your audience in exchange for their email address. Generally, this “offer” is placed in a prime spot on your blog or website (I recommend the upper right-hand corner, just below the header).
So, with that as the backdrop, here’s why I would put all of my eggs in that basket.
First of all, if you have decent traffic and your incentive is really enticing, you can build a list very fast. The key is to create something that your audience perceives as being very valuable. It has to be good—really good. Offer something truly excellent that speaks directly to the strongest felt need of your audience.
To increase the perceived value, spend a little money and have digital packaging designed for your product from a service like 99designs. com. Your conversions will be much higher if you do.
Finally, if this is your only list building strategy for the year, you’re going to want to promote the heck out of this incentive. Make it the singular call to action on your blog or website. Promote it when you speak, guest post, or are interviewed. Create a Facebook ad for it. Tweet about it. Promote it just as you would any new product and watch the names roll in.
In the midst of all this promotion, don’t forget to continue to create exciting, reader-focused content for your blog that keeps bringing people through the door. After a year of minimal bandwidth and all this focused energy, you’ll have an enviable list of high-quality subscribers while your friends are left scratching their heads.
The bigger picture of list building includes adding new subscribers and keeping the old ones. You recently published a video called Six Reasons You Might be Losing Blog Subscribers. Can you tell us how similar themes could apply to keeping email subscribers too?
You’re absolutely right—it’s not just about adding new subscribers. The real value is in cultivating a relationship with the ones you already have and moving them through your sales funnel from a subscriber, to a customer, to a repeat customer, to an enthusiast, to a raving fan.
In my experience there are three keys to subscriber retention.
First, you must continue to add value to your subscribers. Don’t just use your email list for promotion. Your focus needs to be on serving your audience not exploiting them for marketing purposes. Remember, when someone freely gives you their email address, it is an act of trust. You have made an implied commitment to steward that trust with integrity. Be generous with your content and guard against the tendency to become greedy.
Second, abide by the “20:1 Rule.” I recommend you add value twenty times for every one time you extract it. One idea is to provide a content-driven regular email newsletter (this could be weekly, biweekly or monthly). It could be a summary of your recent blog posts like I do, ways to get more value out of products you offer, or other educational resources. The important thing is to make it content driven, not sales driven.
Third, give your subscribers special treatment: Everyone loves to be first, to get the inside scoop, and to feel like a VIP. In that spirit, I always offer new products to my subscribers before they are available to the public. I do the same thing with special announcements, event ticket sales, etc. This kind of VIP treatment shows my subscribers how much I value them, and in turn, makes them want to stick around.
You’ve worked in the publishing industry since you were in college. But many of us have had several careers, oftentimes in very different industries. If you knew you might go through different careers, how would that shape the type of platform you build over time?
I’m passionate about helping people build a platform precisely because we change careers so much. I want to empower people to build a personal brand that transcends any particular job they may have.
The great thing about a platform that you own and control is that you can take it anywhere. You own the real estate and you control the messaging. That offers incredible security for people in the midst of economic uncertainty. For example, say you have a large following on your blog and through social media, and suddenly you lose your job. Instead of trying to network in traditional ways, you have a platform to network from. Your ability to get noticed is far greater than someone without one. Maybe you want to start a new business or launch a new product. With a platform, you already have an audience poised and ready to respond to what you have to say or offer.
Here are a few practical suggestions for those of you who want to build a platform that can grow with you.
For starters, you need to establish a home base. This is a piece of digital real estate that you own and control. I recommend you do that through a self-hosted WordPress blog. You can find out more about how to do this in my short screencast. It’s easier than you think. If possible, use your name or a version of your name as the URL. This will give you maximum flexibility as you and your professional life evolve over time. I also recommend that you install a premium theme like my recently launched Get Noticed Theme for WordPress, specially designed for platform builders.
Next, begin creating content in your area of interest. What are you passionate about? Where do you think you can really add value? What is the one thing you are an expert in, but probably take for granted because it comes so easily to you. The answers to these questions provide clues that will lead you to your niche. Chances are you’ll start out with a hunch and uncover more over time. Don’t worry too much about getting it completely figured out. Just start creating content in a way that feels natural to you—this could be a blog, a podcast or even a vlog (video blog).
Finally, select one social media outlet and focus on it. I am often asked if you need to have a presence in all of the major social media outlets to build a significant platform. My answer is a resounding “no.” You should begin with the one where your audience naturally congregates and that you like the most. For me that’s Twitter. For you that might be Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest. Pick whichever one feels right and forget the rest for now.
Any last thoughts or ideas about list building and lead generation you’d like to share?
There has never been an easier time to build a list or generate leads than right now. The tools we have at our disposal are unbelievable. Just imagine trying to build a list without social media—or gasp—without the Internet. It’s almost unthinkable to us now, but that was the norm not so long ago. We live in exciting times, full of opportunity.
But, the important thing to remember is that list building naturally flows out of a well-established platform. If you’re serious about building a list, your first step is to build a dynamic platform. Executed properly, that platform will get you noticed, enable you to build trust with your audience, and give you a place to organically generate leads—lots and lots of leads.
If you would like to build your platform faster and with more success than you ever could on your own, I want to invite you to check out Platform University. Inside the membership, I will personally walk you step-by-step through the process of creating a platform. Together with the experts I trust the most, I’ll show you how to create compelling content, maximize (and demystify) social media, generate revenue in non-traditional ways, and build your platform business. I’m so proud of what we have created there and I can’t wait for you to experience the benefits for yourself. Find out more at www.michaelhyatt.com.