Given our number of students (1200+ in 30x500 alone), their number and range of product successes, and our overall business size, people often think @amyhoy and I must have a HUGE email list for Stacking the Bricks.
You need to have a huge list to generate this much success, right!?
Nope. I wanted to share a peek behind the curtain and help people better understand email lists, and more importantly list size.
While migrating to ConvertKit last spring, we decided to do some list hygiene.
The good news is that since leaving Drip, our open rates ARE back up. But the CK team recommended we consider cleaning out some of our cold subscribers to improve overall deliverability (not just raw % numbers).
So, how big is our list?
As of Spring 2019, our list was just shy of 14,000 subscribers. Respectable for sure (and maybe eye-popping for someone just getting started) but remember that everybody starts somewhere, and we definitely started wayyyyy below 1000 subscribers.
What’s interesting (at least to me) is that many people – including our peers! – assume we have at least double this size. Also notable, we have several 30x500 alums with lists MUCH bigger than ours. They also make more $$.
Not all subscribers are still tuned in.
Here’s where things get interesting, though.
According to ConvertKit data, several months after switching to ConvertKit, over 6000 of our subscribers still haven’t opened or clicked an email in the last 2 months. Given that we send email every week, that’s…a lot of people tuned out.
The thing to remember here is that this is not necessarily a BAD thing. It was surprising to me, and not a great thing for sure, but it’s not exactly alarming.
Subs go cold for lots of reasons.
Could be us (email subjects aren’t good, for instance).
Could be them (busy, no longer interested).
So what do you do with cold subscribers?
For the first time in a decade, we ran a “re-engagement sequence.”
Essentially, those 6000+ cold subscribers received up to 4 emails over the course of a week.
Each of these emails offers value, a way to reconnect, and a way to indicate “I’m still interested!”
Now, this concept isn’t novel or anything, but a lot of the examples out there are pushy or needy or passive aggressive.
“We miss you!”
“Hey did you die?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Don’t you want VALUE?”
“Don’t you want to SUCCEED!?!”
No no no. None of that.
Everything in our sequence is friendly and direct.
You can read the exact emails below, but I’ve also created a shared visual automation for ConvertKit! Go here to see it and add it to your account, and then modify it for your own purposes.
1 Email #1 - Direct Ask
This first email asks the direct question and gives a good reason for sticking around.
Clicking any of the links explicitly adds the same tag that we’ll use to indicate someone wants to remain on the list.
2 Email #2 - Update Email
People have all kinds of weird email habits so the second email comes 2 days later and offers an easy way for them to update their email address.
While this one doesn’t register the specific tag (this is a ConvertKit limitation) they’ll be automatically removed from the “cold subscriber” segment by clicking that link and taking action.
3 Email #3 - Q&A
In email #3 I wanted to do something bold: give people permission to ask us for direct advice.
Now we’re not offering 1-1 video calls or anything….but we are inviting people to ask a specific question.
Some might be anxious about opening the floodgates to questions, but here’s why I’m not worried:
First, this is the 3rd email, which people will only get if they didn’t act on either of the first two.
Second, this is a list of COLD subscribers. I’m not expecting most of them to open this email at all.
But for the ones who get the email, and open it, we can offer a VERY valuable opportunity to ask us a question directly.
(You’ll see why this is magical later.)
4 Email #4 - Last Call
The last one cuts right to the chase. Click the link.
I heard from a few people that they’d be worried about a sequence like that due to people who might miss the sequence entirely due to one of their weird email habits/coping mechanisms, or simply being on vacation.
That’s why I added this line to the very last email we send:
Change your mind (or miss the deadline)? You can always re-subscribe from our homepage: https://stackingthebricks.com
If they realize we stopped sending to them, they’re likely to search their inbox for us, or look in the folder where they hide our goodies. When they do, the last email will make it pretty clear what happened and how to get back on the list.
So that’s the sequence. Nothing too fancy, nothing whiny, nothing passive aggressive.
And by George, it worked! Here are the stats from the first email after the first ~48 hours:
The final stage: preparing mentally to DELETE YOUR SUBSCRIBERS.
At the end of this sequence, if a subscriber has not clicked or opened, we delete them from ConvertKit.
Seems scary, right? All of those hard-earned email addresses….
Amy and I have talked about how this feels so weird for us, too. It almost feels wrong. But we’ve also talked about how that’s not rational at all.
These subscribers aren’t reading anyway. Why would we keep sending?
Wanna talk ACTUAL numbers? I thought you might.
So. Back to list size, cuz that’s why I started this article.
I expected a fairly small % of our cold list to re-engage, but after just a few days, we were already at 6.6%. That’s close to 500 people!
At the end of the series (ignoring new subscribers and normal churn) we had around 8500 actual subscribers.
Actual Subscribers is a much better statistic to keep track of, since these are the people who actually reads what we send.
Now, let’s put that number into some perspective:
- As time of writing this article, JFS has sold around 4500 copies. That’s over half the list.
- Our holiday bundle sells 400-500 units every year. That’s 5% list to sale conversion.
- Also at the time of writing, 30x500 has had over 1200 students enrolled between our bootcamp and our self guided academy.
That means 30x500 currently has a 14.1% list to sale conversion rate on a VERY premium product. 14.1% of our list has already bought our most valuable (and most expensive) product.
WHAT SORCERY IS THIS!?
You’re probably used to seeing low single digit percent conversion rates, or even partial %. These are considered “normal” in most online marketing circles.
But “normal” is relative.
Our subscriber count is low-ish, but our subscriber quality is VERY high.
We grow our list the with ebombs - aka fix-delivering educational content (and not just blog posts!).
We focus relentlessly on understanding our audience and their problems. We offer fixes. We communicate in their language.
BTW: those questions we’re letting people ask us in email #3? Those are all ebomb fodder. Anything that can be answered over email (or with a video, or with a re-usable template/kit/checklist/etc) can be an ebomb.
Helping one person turns into helping many. Sneaky? Nah. Scalable? Absolutely.
So do you need a big list to be a success? Hell no.
What you DO need are people who trust you.
People who you have actually helped, and believe you can help them again and again.
You need to understand them, deeply and clearly. Maybe better than they understand themselves.
Let’s run some more numbers. Cuz you like numbers.
Maybe you don’t have a list at all, or just your first few dozen subscribers. And you’re sitting there thinking “whatever Alex this doesn’t apply to me, my list is NOWHERE near the size of yours and Amy’s.”
And I’ll tell you “yes, you’re right, but it doesn’t have to be.”
With similar list-to-sale conversion rates (which our students routinely achieve), a 500 subscriber list built this way can easily generate 50-70 sales.
This means a mid-tier product ($140-$200) could break the $10k revenue mark with just 500 subs.
Grow your list a little bigger, around 1000 subscribers? A tiny product ($50-$70) can make $10k with the same math.
Small lists can make real sales.
And that’s just from one product!
Customers who love one product are likely to buy the next thing (if you understand their pains and that next thing is based on them).
Once you start to factor in list growth and multiple products and you can start to see with simple math how tiny empires can be built from even tinier lists.
And this is without recurring revenue.
Big lists are nice, but most of them are bullshit.
So next time you see someone touting a giant email list, or you think you need a huge list to start selling products, STOP.
With the former, big lists are top line numbers that don’t really mean much if you don’t know their conversion rates.
With the latter, start selling now.
When you can make $1000 in sales this way, you can make $10k.
When you can make $10k this way, you can make $100k.
1.5x-2x-5x or more year over year growth ACTUALLY can happen when you are consistent and use an effective process.
The key isn’t precisely what you sell, or even the exact model you sell with.
The key is who you sell to, and how well you understand them.
There's more where that came from
We email every Wednesday with the latest insights from our business, our students, and our research. Drop your email in the box below and we'll send new stuff straight to your inbox!
Absolutely no spam, ever. We respect your email privacy. Unsubscribe anytime. Huzzah!