Email is Still the Best. Here’s How to Use It (FS023)

Email is still the single best relational currency online. You can pinterefacetweetplus all you want, but email outperforms them all where it counts.

But building and running the email side of your business is problematic.

We’ve inherited shitty ways of thinking about email, mindsets that put us at risk of losing our audience.

We stress about “engagement” and “click through” and “open rate” without really understanding the human element.

We put up subscribe boxes and offer giveaways and completely miss the point.

Email is hands down the most powerful connection you have with your audience… and you’re probably thinking about it completely wrong.

(Sidenote: we have a ton of interviews with founders in Fizzle and so many successful online folks have the same regret: they wish they started their email list earlier. Do yourself a favor and start with Chris Johnson’s interview.)

Listen to this episode of the podcast if you want to approach email and build your list with authenticity and savvy. Savvy?

Subscribe: (how to) iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, RSS

Ask Your Question

A special thanks to the listeners who asked us a question in this episode (one even did it in an iTunes review!).

You can easily ask us your question and we’ll answer it on the air. (You can also write it in).

Quotables From This Episode

Don’t sulk about how ‘nobody’s signing up for my email list.’ No. Go solve someone’s problem, go serve someone.
  or copy + Facebook

What matters about email is the relationship. Real people with real struggles. Be someone who builds relationship there.
  or copy + Facebook

Topic + audience + problem come together to make the nest. The more specific you get the easier it is for my mind to come up with ideas that could solve that problem. The easier it is to decide what’s next, to learn more about the problems they actually have, the products they’re already using, the competition in that space, to learn how to talk their language and communicate with them.”

Find an audience you care about. Serve them, meaning, pay attention to what their problems are and how they talk about those things. Learn over time how you can build a thing that solves that problem or connect them to other stuff that solves that problem. Look at the business over the course of 2-5 years. You can really stab your audience in the heart when you try to over monetize too fast. When you go from zero to ‘this has to make money’ and in the mean time you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t know who I am, you don’t know what problems I’m actually struggling with, AND because you’re not making money on this thing yet and you’re so frustrated about needing to make money, you end up giving up. INSTEAD take more of an apprentice approach: listen, pay attention, see what works what doesn’t, come up with a strategy to see what feels good to YOU as well as what works best for THEM.”

“Once we started being ruthless about who we are, writing in our voice, that’s when interest+traffic picked up.”
  or copy + Facebook

One of the mistakes people typically make at first is they talk about what they THINK they should be talking about instead of what they ACTUALLY CAN talk about. So, what can you actually say?”

A lot of people are playing business. They have an idea, they put out content, but they don’t have a specific problem they’re solving. They don’t have a way for their audience to pay them for the value they provide, whether it be through an ebook or services or whatever. They’re just playing business.”

To worry about what’s scalable in the beginning is a fools errand. Go out and meet your first client in person, even though they’re buying an ebook! Do things that are completely un-scaleable but you get this rich experience by having that interaction and you win over true fans that you’ll have forever.”

Here’s how to make your email list more engaged: fire the people who aren’t engaged. Write for the people who listen.
  or copy + Facebook

You can get really worked up about pageviews and shares and subscribers and engagement and all this crap that in the end work against you. What I wish I was better versed at are those bigger questions about who am I and what am I here for? If I don’t have an answer for those, what can I do to have more clarity about them in one year?”

‘I’m someone who really cares about this thing.’ That. Is. It. That and 5 years can put you at the helm of something that can support you independently, or at least something on the side that you’re really fired up about.”

Show Notes

Steve Jobs on The Most Important Thing: “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.”

Ultimate Dog Tease: when Corbett first showed me this I knew, right then and there, that this partnership could work.

Evernote Essentials, The Definitive Getting-Started Guide for Evernote: “it’s everything you need to both get started with and master the powerfully useful tool that is Evernote.”

CMD+Space #37: Business Doesn’t Have to be Evil, with Brett Kelly: a great talk between two friends about the details of running a business. (All of the CMD+Space interviews are great. Check them out.)

Email-Only Products: DailyWorth, CodeYear, The Fetch, The Slurve and HackDesign are all email-based organizations we mentioned in the show. Check em out.

A solo home run: The Slurve is trying to build an authentic, profitable business around email: an article in the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Niche: (pronounced nich, ˈnēsh or ˈnish… though my canadian friend says it always has to be nēsh because they’re word Nazis up there… so oppresive). Originally from the Latin word meaning “nest” it now means “a specialized but profitable corner of the market.” Though I prefer this definition: “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment.”

Get the free guide to defining your audience
  • Leo Gopal

    LOVE the episode (as usual) although most tweetables were too long too tweet, but shortened some ;)

    Neat job guys! Thank YOU!

    Eternal Smiles.

    • Chase Reeves

      Yea, I found all these great quotes… all of them too long :|

      Kind of interested to see if anyone shapes them up and uses them.

  • Matt

    Things have such a short life span in the online world. Sites become obsolete as they are replaced by something new and better. Trends quickly rise and then fade into the internet ether. But email has probably been the most constant and reliable platform through it all.

  • Scott Riley

    You guys mentioned not being able to pull in all of the Fizzle international iTunes reviews….CommentCast will do the trick ( And it’s only $5.
    Keep it up boys!

  • Tea Silvestre

    My first thought this morning (before you even said it) was that you sounded like Click and Clack. LOL. Thanks for being funny. AND smart.

    • Chase Reeves

      Ha! in this episode particularly.

  • marianney

    Oh wow, seriously… this episode! I have been longing to make a connection with my audience, but I have been letting my email list cool (not too long thankfully) because I didn’t know what to say.

    Then I listened to this on my way into work this morning and guess what I did first thing? I wrote a newsletter to be sent out Monday morning ASKING my readers exactly what they want to hear from me.

    You guys were right, I’m looking at email in a totally different light now. Now I’m excited to get a free email course started. That’s why I’m asking them what they want to know. Thanks so much!

  • Daniel

    HEY GUYS! ;)

    Great episode and this time I actually have something to contribute. Corbett, you suggested to “Fire all email subscribers except the ones who care and open or click your emails.”
    Not so fast, because you might fire some loyal email readers! It really depends on how you’re sending your emails. An “open” only counts if people have their images activated/downloaded. That triggers a tracking code that your email service provider (MailChimp, AWeber, etc.) places in every one of your distributions and it’s usually just a 1×1 pixel image. Why would people ever not want to activate images? It’s a lot faster to load an email especially on a mobile device.

    When I look at Fizzle’s or Think Traffic’s eblasts there is really no need a subscriber would have to technically “open” your email, because it’s mainly text and you can read through and get the message without ever having to activate/download images in your email client.
    You see, there might be a lot of subscribers reading and caring for your stuff without ever being tracked in your email analytics.

    How to improve open stats? Tailor your emai message differently. Use only captions of what you have to say and make them click a link to read the rest. Use the ALT text on images to engage people to activate their images. Refer to a specific image in the text, so that they really want to see what you are talking about. Lots of ideas…

    Keep up the great work!


    • Leo Gopal

      Dan! Great post, and although I agree with most of it. I can safely say that that method of tracking ‘opens’ is in the dark ages.

      My emails thus far are image free and mostly plain text, I view the code the message comes from and there are no signs of images (there used to be about 2 years ago.

      Although ThinkTraffic does show the whole post, I love that about them as I feel that is more sincere and honest than teasing me and then making me click to see the rest, when the effect is the same.

      I click the resources links in the emails. who only has RSS subscribe options and you receive emails only of the latest articles also shows the full length and there too is not much reason to click anything, or even anything to click really (unless you want to read the whole post.)

      How to improve open stats? Give people something they would like to open, consistently.

    • Corbett Barr

      Great points Daniel. You’re right, open rates are tricky. I should have been more specific about the details of “firing your subscribers.” To employ this method, it would be smart to send an email to everyone who doesn’t appear to have opened anything, asking them to click on a link to confirm they’re still interested, just to be sure.

  • Adam from The Green Microgym

    Thanks for taking it right back to the basics of it all – connection.

    With regard to the question about what to do with my list that was asked in a couple different ways by callers:

    Ask your list: “what do you want/need from me?”

    Or if you want to be a little bit less direct: “what should I do about this specific part of what I’m doing?”

    Or: “I’m so passionate about this topic that I want to make a living doing it, so what would you be willing to pay $20 for if I created it?”

    Or: “What can I do to make your ass feel better?”

    I believe, in MOST instances, the people on your list are interested in your topic, but not as much as you are, and they also don’t devote as much time and energy to the topic as you do. So the opportunity here is to be the one who creates a product or experience to help them stay involved and become successful without having to quit their day job or be a zealot like you to make it happen.

    Even if you only have a list of 100, if you ask a question and only get 1 response, at least its a starting point.

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  • Tom Southern

    Getting good is the goal. Keeping good is the trick. Thanks guys great advice and love the show.

    Reading the phone book on my little island right of Nova Scotia as I write!


  • Darlene

    We get all the same crap you do, stop it! Come up here and stay in my igloo and I’ll take you to a hockey game. My dogs will take us there but dress warmly!

  • Darnell Jackson

    Excellent point here, in my experience email sign ups are a direct reflect of the OFFER.

    Nobody signs up b/c the “like” your site, etc.

    It’s all about what’s in it for them, what are you going to give me man, quid pro quo is the terms of the deal in this universe at least. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

  • Yassin

    Email is surely Good and it’s one of the best high ROI mediums. but how can you build a list if you don’t have a traffic from the first place.

    People trust emails (i can’t remember where i read it) but they are slightly trusting them less because of pushy marketers.

  • John Sonmez

    Hey Guys! This is my new favorite podcast.
    Very awesome. I am finding so much value and entertainment in these episodes.
    I am quite sad when I realize I have come to the end of the episode.
    Been working on growing my email list, so I was very interested in this episode.

    Thanks for all the work on this. The volume of work put into the show notes alone is staggering.

  • Kelby Barker

    Look Ma, I’m on the Fizzle Show!

    Thanks so much for the answer guys.

    Since I was so vague, here’s what I tell people about my business. I help people who feel stuck, plateaued, or overwhelmed improve their Mandarin Chinese.

    I sort of already took your advice before you gave it, which is pretty lucky. A month or two ago I put out a list of game-changing resources I used to get fluent in Mandarin and am prepping a book all about vocabulary learning for the Amazon store.

    The affects have been small, but nonetheless positive. Seems like every week or so I get someone who leaves an email and nabs the resource list. I’ve also broken the seal by selling my first and very rough edition of the book from my site via gumroad. I got the most charming email from a 70 year old English woman thanking me for the resource guide the other dayand that alone made it worth all the effort.

    I feel like I’m lacking on feedback for what I’ve written though. As far as right now I know one person liked my idea enough to buy it, but I’m not sure exactly how many fish are out there interested in biting as it were. Any quick and dirty tips on feeling out whether my thingnis actually what people want while I’m short on buyers?

    -Kelby Barker

    P.S. thanks for calling me cool, but I’m nowhere near as cool as you Filler. Next time you’re in central China I’ll buy you a beer ;)

  • justin

    great article and advice from the man himself, “Steve Jobs”.

  • James W

    This is on a lighter note about the ultimate dog tease. It’s hilarious! It gets me every time……. The maple kind? Great post lol. too

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  • Misha

    I like your post. Keep it up.
    But my favorite is “pinterefacetweetplus”; this word is going to be popular soon……..

  • Jared Dees

    Right after I listened to this show, I got an email from someone requesting to engage in a “content relationship” so they can guest post on my website. I had to laugh.

    Maybe I should respond and say only if it is a “niche content relationship” since it’s more intimate that way.

    • Chase Reeves

      HA HA HA!!

  • Joey Kissimmee

    LMFAO – the Woj Bomb lol.

    Great show guys, as always ;-)

Up Next:

I Lost My Motivation, Now What? (FS056)

If you’re struggling to find motivation, listen to this episode—rich tips to get you out of the muddy waters and back into clarity, focus and direction. In this conversation we address the second part of “Terry’s” question: how to re-find your motivation.

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