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So you’ve built an email list. Congratulations! Building an audience is one of the most important pieces of getting your message out to the world.  Unfortunately, you may have noticed that your hard-earned subscribers aren’t exactly engaging. When this happens, it might be time to cull your list.

In Episode 23 of the Leadership Forum, we’re talking about what happens when your audience becomes bloated, and how to cull your list without killing your biz. You’ll learn:

⭐How to know when it’s time to get rid of audience members
⭐Why a small-but-mighty audience is powerful
⭐How to shrink your audience in a way that serves your message {and doesn’t unnecessarily hurt feelings}

Episode breakdown:

0:00-2:30 – Welcome and Introduction
2:30-9:50 – When to shrink your audience
9:50-15:30 – Why a smaller audience could help your business
15:30-21:35 – How to shrink your audience without hurting feelings

Alright, let’s dive in!

What does it mean to “cull” your list?

Specifically, we’re talking about the act of removing people from your email list, but this concept can be applied to anything. It can mean shutting down a social media channel, unfollowing a ton of people, closing down your Facebook group, or even switching up who you serve.

If this sounds counter-intuitive, stick with us. It can be hard to let go of audience members you’ve worked for, but doing so can actually help your business.

When to shrink your audience (2:30)

As your business shifts and grows, odds are your audience will also shift and grow. We’re constantly evolving as business owners, and as a result you may outgrow your original audience.

We’ve been there ourselves. When we first started to build our list, we served entrepreneurs who were new to business. They were still figuring out their voice, still figuring out their services, and still looking for their first clients. That’s changed.

These days, we serve leaders who have established businesses. They’ve been around the block more than once and are looking to spread their message to more people.

Some of our early audience members have stuck around and fit our current audience. Others don’t. And those people are less likely to open our emails, engage with our content, or buy our services. We’re cluttering up their inboxes and they’re impacting our stats.

What do you do when your audience has changed? 

Be open about honest about your business’ evolution with your audience. Give them a chance to decide for themselves if they want to stick around. There are a couple of ways you can accomplish this:

Revitalize Your List With an Automated Engagement Sequence

With so many other moving pieces to your business, you don’t have time to make sure every subscriber feels engaged. At least, you don’t have time to do so manually. Luckily, most email platforms allow you to create automation sequences. This is an amazing tool for keeping your subscriber list engaged.
An automated engagement sequence is essentially a series of emails that are triggered to send when someone has not opened an email from you in a certain amount of time (say, three months). When the sequence is triggered, an email is sent offering a freebie. If that email isn’t opened then they get a few more follow-ups before they are automatically removed from the list.
Boom. Your sequence runs in the background and your list is automatically being trimmed of dead weight.

Trim Your List With a Manual List Cull

Sometimes the automated sequence isn’t enough. If you have a feeling your audience isn’t engaging or is engaging but not converting, it may be time for a manual list cull. This is where you give your entire list an option: Stay in or Opt out.
Before a recent list cull, we sent several emails that were designed to help people decide whether our list was the right place for them.
You know how sometimes you feel held back by what once excited you? And you ask yourself WHY something you loved feels so danged heavy all of a sudden? That’s about where we are with this email list. We looooove emailing you. It’s one of our core content areas, and it’s where we’re most consistent. But lately, we’ve been feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole thing. We’ve shifted a ton in the past two years, but this email list has essentially stayed the same. Same structure. Same content. Same strategies. Same same same. Well, we’re ready to mix it up a bit. New structure. New content. New strategy. And we’re kicking it off by doing a massive list cull. We want shed some of the dead weight from your inbox and free those of you who have been clinging to this list without opening our emails. If you opened this email and are reading these words, you’re safe. But just to make EXTRA sure you’re in the right place, this list is for established business owners who: Want to make sure their message is crystal clear {and converting}. Consider themselves leaders {or emerging leaders} in their field, who are full of innovative ideas, expertise, and the desire to spread their influence. Need support around all things content, copy, and storytelling. Not you? No hard feelings. Just hit “Unsubscribe” and you won’t hear from us again. If that little list up there does resonate with you, awesome. Stay tuned, because we’ll be mixing things up in the weeks to come and delivering some epic new content right to your inbox. Jessi + Marie Copywriters + Messaging Strategists North Star Messaging + Strategy
In the end, we sent three or four emails along these lines. They were the first step in a list culling process that allowed us to embrace a list filled with the right people. At the end of a week or so we cut everyone who chose not to engage with our emails. This is a more aggressive list culling technique that’s worth doing anytime you feel like your automated sequence isn’t doing the trick.
As we move forward, we’re focusing on growing our list with the right people, rather than relying on vanity metrics (the number of subscribers you have is meaningless if they aren’t opening your emails).

Why a smaller audience could be helpful (9:50)

While embracing a smaller audience may seem strange, it actually brings quite a few benefits to your business. Here are just a few things that a smaller list allows you to do:

  • Cultivate deeper, more personalized relationships.
  • Create more guided email content, based on real, in-the-moment needs.
  • Continue to nurture your relationships as you scale.

Can you create meaningful relationships with a larger list? Of course. Segmentation and automation (and amazing relationship-driven content platforms like MemberVault) allow you to maintain engaged audiences even when they’re large.

But a small list with solid performance will always beat a huge list with no performance. When you build a firm foundation of engagement, a deep understanding of your audience, and a responsiveness to their needs, it makes it easier when you’re ready to scale.

How to cull your list without hurting any feelings (15:30)

No one wants to feel kicked out, excluded, or left behind. That said, it’s important to maintain the opportunity of choice within your community.

Transparency is one of the most effective messaging techniques, and this is true for shrinking your audience as well as growing it. Make sure you are sharing openly and freely and give your audience every opportunity  to be a part of your list. It should be no surprise to them when you stop showing up in their inbox (and if they choose to resubscribe, make it easy for them to do so!).

And that’s all for Episode 23: How to Cull Your List Without Killing Your Biz. Thank you so much for joining us (live or via the replay). We’d love to know what you do when your audience starts feeling unengaged. Leave a comment and let us know.

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How to shrink your email list

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