The Numbers Myth

I was speaking with a friend the other day about my fiction writing goals. Some of you know that in addition to being a content marketer and freelance writer, I’m also a novelist, penning tales of mystery and imagination with a strongly Christian flair. That means tales of the supernatural where good guys win, bad guys lose, and playing with magic is dangerous.

It also means that commercial publishers probably aren’t interested in many of my stories. They have expectations for their genre which my work doesn’t fulfill. That’s okay with me. Self publishing means I can bring my work directly to the public and let them decide if they like it or not. (Generally, they do).

My friend was helping me winnow down my goals for my forthcoming novel, I Believe You. She asked me, “What do you want to get out of it?”

“I’d rather have 100 raving fans than thousands on my email list who will never buy and aren’t interested in my work,” I answered honestly.

It struck me then how much we marketers play the numbers game when it comes to our marketing campaigns. Take social media, for example. As a freelance writer, I’m often asked by potential clients what my Klout rank is, or how many Twitter followers I have, or how many Facebook followers and so on. Potential joint venture partners often set thresholds for their list marketing campaigns, stating outright that unless you have 10,000 email list subscribers, they aren’t interested in partnering with you and so on.

That’s a shame, because frankly, 10,000 email list subscribers are absolutely useless if they don’t care about your stuff.

[Tweet “I’d rather have 100 fans on my email list than thousands who don’t know who I am.”]

Many consultants and coaches have gigantic lists because they’ve done all the right things to build their lists. They’ve offered enticing free gifts, set up autoresponders, taken out ads, participated in calls…you get the picture. But their lists are worthless because the email addresses they’ve collected are filled with people who have no intention of purchasing from them – ever.

I had a brilliant marketing professor at NYU who used to ask at the start of her advanced graduate course on direct marketing, “What is a good response rate?” Someone would always be fooled into shouting out a number: 1%, 10%, 5% and so forth.

None of those are good response rates if you have a list filled with junk names. You can have 100,000 subscribers to your list but if only 1% are truly connected with you, then you have a response of 1,000 people. I can have 1,000 deeply interested followers and get 100% response when I publish a new Kindle novel because these are people who are absolute fans. Would you invite me to be your J.V. partner with just 1,000 followers on my list, even if I know that they are perfect for your offer?

Don’t let numbers fool you. Big lists are just that – big lists. It’s not quantity that counts, but quality. Go for quality by putting forth your best effort, truly connected with people you care about, and letting your work speak for itself. It’s counter intuitive to all the hype out there from every guru of this or that, but it’s what I’ve found to be best for people who truly care about their work and want to make a sincere and direct impact.

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