Building a List vs. Building a Community
Every marketer will tell you the importance of building a list but here, we think a little differently.
Why you want to build a community, not just a list
When I first wrote the title to this post, about three weeks ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, the problem was, while I knew deep in my heart that it made so much more sense to work towards building a community, I found it hard to define and quantify the exact reasons why…until today.
You see, I’ve always found it amusing that nearly all the online marketers I’ve come across, tell you, cajole you, scream at you and generally shout from the rooftops, the importance of building your list.
The basic premise being that once you have a list of hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands even, you can start to ‘sell’ to them. That, is the typical understanding of sales: find a market, sell to it.
Now, there is truth in that, don’t get me wrong. Many many people have been successful and made tons of money on this premise of owning a list a selling to that list, however…
1. Numbers are not everything i.e. size does not always matter
A significant number of ‘experts’ out there, insist that the best way forward is to build your list, focus on increasing your subscriber numbers. But, is a big list all that it’s made out to be?
Think about it this way.
If Dave has a list of 10 K subscribers, but only has about a 4% open and interaction rate, compared to Julie who has a much smaller list of just 2K subscribers but with a much tighter closer interaction and therefore an open rate of say 50%, the Julie would realistically be in a much better position than Dave.
So while numbers on a list is important, the key ingredient really is engagement.
The question of engagement, or being ‘in tune’ with your audience, is a very tenuous and contradictory one.
Me, My Voice and I vs. The Message for Everyone
The vast majority of internet marketers advise you to stick with a niche and a message that would appeal to the greatest majority of people – a wider audience. Now if you think about this logically, it makes absolutely sense. After all, if you aim at a large audience, there is a greater likelihood that you would actually reach some, if not a large number of interested participants.
The downside to this obviously is the possibility that you might dilute your message in order to appeal, so much that you don’t stand out, or you end up working harder to find ways to share your message in a more generic way.
Recently, in a facebook group I participate in, a member asked for opinions about the title of her freebie giveaway. It went something along the lines of If You Can’t Find a Pickaxe, Use a Teaspoon.
Interestingly the feedback comments were extremely polarised, ranging from ‘Absolutely love it’ to ‘I don’t even know what you’re trying to say’.
It could have gone either way – but I’m really pleased to say, that the person decided to stick with her original title – completely at the risk of alienating all those other people who did not ‘get it’.
But the real point I’m trying to make here is, she really did NOT want to reach everyone. She wanted to reach a specific target person, who understood her humour, and approach and appreciated what she had to offer.
By being completely herself, she was in a much better position to build a list that completely loved what she had to offer.
So here’s something to think about – what if your voice is so weird and wacky, what if what you have to offer, you’ve never seen a precedent for and don’t know how it will run?
At the end of the day, as much as we all like to think that we do what we do for all those people out there – the real truth is that we do it so much more for ourselves. The need to voice those thoughts, to share our emotions and opinions. It is precisely your own individual, original voice that is going to lead to an audience that is completely, engaged and inspired and in awe of what you have to offer.
The current and continuously growing levels of Internet use ensures that there will always be at least several million people online at any point in time. The sheer number of users ensure that its is so highly likely that someone, more likely several hundreds if not thousands of people are going to come along and absolutely love your message.
And there you have the beginnings of a truly engaged community. When you build a community, you know you are working towards crating something of value, not just of value to you, but of value to the great number of people out there.
And so to follow, keeping it true to your voice, your personality, ideas ideals, you simply have to continue to focus on:
a. Building Trust
Exceptionally valuable communities are built entirely on Trust.
Offering and sharing whatever you can in terms of knowledge and expertise (not necessarily for free) is but one aspect of it, but to be honest and open about it, takes it even further.
If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to say so. And if you make a mistake, simply apologise and own up to it.
Regardless of how large or important you may consider your influence to be, you are still human and fallible.
b. Offering Value and Over Delivering
Many marketers advise withholding information – ‘Don’t let it out all at once’ ‘Use a teaser’. There is much truth and great value to this idea, particularly in encouraging sales and marketing. However, if you can just go that little bit further, offering something a little more than what most people would expect, you’ve got yourself a head-start in which most people would trust and value what you have to say and offer, knowing that you really do have their best interests at heart.
c. Why you do it?
Ultimately and quite possibly, the major defining factor to building an absolutely enamoured, engaged and dedicated audience is how you answer the question ‘Why do you do what you do?’
Your aims, purposes and intentions always always come through in all that you do, and if what you do is simply a front for a get rich quick scheme or to get people to part with their money, then at some point, you’ll simply join the ranks of the savvy marketers.
If however, your intention goes deeper, you know that you have something of value, that other people will benefit from, you have a gift to share – art, music, craft, or you absolutely love what you do and it’s precisely the reason that gets you out of bed and sharing it with the world.
These are the intentions that set apart a simple list and a whole community all for you.
So which will it be – Names on A List or An Interactive Supportive Community?