Achievable Online Success Starts With An Audience-First Approach KDS: 064

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Most of the coaching conversations I’ve had lately (and even conversations with friends) have had one common theme.

Getting in front of the right people at the right time.

In other words, having an audience.

Start planning your marketing with an audience-first approach.

I was tempted to use the term list as opposed to an audience, but I can’t say that they’re always interchangeable. Knowing there is an audience and having an audience who follows what you do doesn’t mean all of those people are always on your email list.

Which is why there are so many channels to market on (and also why you should always be driving people to get on your email list).

I spent way too long being passive about growing my list.

You’re not serving anyone by not focusing on growing a list of people who have raised their hands (does typing count as raising your hand?) and said they want to hear from you!

I am taking a strong stance on email now because I know firsthand that it works… better than social.

Yep, I said it.

Although… here’s where I may contradict myself…

You can and should use social to grow your email list.

I shared a few predictions in my recent issue of #FtheHustle, and one of the things I predicted is that we’re going to see massive changes in social media this year.

People are tired of the noise, lack of privacy, lack of organic results, etc. There will always be a pay-to-play model (without it they wouldn’t be in business), but it’s going to look different.

There is also tons of opportunity for new advertising avenues and growth channels, so I have no doubt we’ll see those things popping up.

I also wrote a more in-depth post on Content Creators Planner with some content marketing predictions if you want to go deeper. For now let’s get into some tangible things you can do to grow your email list and take an audience-first approach.

Optimize your website for list growth

As many times as I’ve said this, I don’t think you can hear this too much.

If you’re worried about being too pushy or overly aggressive with asking for opt-ins on your site, you probably aren’t.

It’s much easier today to use conditional logic when it comes to displaying pop-ups, exit pops, ribbons, etc. My tool of choice is ConvertBox (it’s what I use for all my lead generation on my site).

At the bare minimum, you should have:

  • Homepage opt-in
    • a subtle opt-in above the fold
    • a ribbon or slide-in to capture people who scroll further down the page
    • And/or what used to be called a “Welcome Gate” that takes over the screen but can be closed
  • In-post opt-in
    • at least one in every post
    • one at the end of the post
  • Exit pop

Because a tool like ConvertBox allows you to only display if people aren’t tagged (one example of conditional logic) as being on that list, it’s very easy to keep this from feeling obnoxious.

In-line posts will always display, but they require an action on the part of the reader (I’m referring to a button or image at the bottom of the post that triggers an opt-in form when clicked). You can include a slide-in on your posts as well and also set conditional logic (only display once every 5 days as well as not displaying to people who are already tagged).

Get picky: choose 1 or 2 social platforms to focus on

I might be starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to social media, so let me clarify that I am not anti-social media and will continue using it.

What’s changing is how I use it.

I’ve become very disciplined about closing social when I’m working and not getting caught up in the scroll.

I don’t have time to become an expert on any of the platforms, but there are a few things I can absolutely do that are solid growth strategies and will drive the right people to my site.

I’ll share where I’m spending more time once I have a solid strategy in place, but for now, know that it will probably be two platforms only (I’ll continue sharing everywhere, but more effort will be put into the other two).

How this translates to the audience-first approach:

  • checking my bio’s on all platforms to make sure they’re all sending people to an opt-in
  • repurposing longer form content as articles on specific platforms
  • making sure how I’m sharing content (the message), is about solving a problem for someone
  • making my position crystal clear: using my #FtheHustle message as an example, start taking a stronger stance on how I feel about the hustle culture in general (this will attract my ideal audience)

For the most part, I tend to focus on the positive and am always trying to be moving towards something as opposed to moving away from something (i.e., the glass is half-full vs. half-empty).

Taking the time to get clear on your message is hard work.

Especially for someone who likes to do things from a place of inspiration. Fortunately, I’ve fallen in love with mastery, as hard as it can be, the results are kind of like an air-horn… loud and in your face.

You have to be able to clearly articulate your message – which is something that I’m always working on.

Getting crystal clear about who you help, their problems (and how you help solve them), and the solutions you offer will make the biggest difference in everything you do.

You just have to suck it up and do it.

And then revisit it often and rework it. The more results you deliver the better you’ll get at refining your message.

Boring works (i.e., consistency)

Boring is kind of like the entrepreneurs kryptonite.

No one decides to go into business for themselves because they like the status quo and don’t crave change.

However, this is what differentiates the people who succeed from the people who don’t.

I’ve experienced this on both sides of the coin.

My podcast grew because I was consistent: publishing, sharing, promoting, etc. It also took a hit when life went sideways and I simply couldn’t be consistent.

I look at the growth of #FtheHustle and Creativity Published… both continue to do well because we continue to publish without fail (Creativity Published is at 28 weeks and #FtheHustle has been published for 11 weeks).

When I really started getting into email marketing 5 years ago, I was floored at the results from my ‘almost daily emails’. Not only was I getting results (opens, clicks, and most importantly, SALES), but I was loving what I was doing.

I thoroughly enjoyed starting my day writing that email.

I’m working my way back to that for my personal brand and will be adding one or two broadcast emails to Content Creators Planner as well.

Which means… a lot of writing.

So I have to stay focused and simply schedule it.

I’m much better at hitting deadlines for Content Creators Planner than I am for my own brand, simply because I’m accountable to Jodi and don’t want to let her down.

Start treating your audience the same way.

Too often people spend time where their peers are, not their potential subscribers and customers.

This is where having a strategy in place that supports your business goals will help keep you on task.

Ask Questions

This is probably the most under utilized yet simple thing you can do.

You have to ask people questions.

Ask them what they’re struggling with, what they want more of, what industry they’re in, etc.

You can do plenty of research online and make assumptions, but at the end of the day hearing it directly from the people you serve is priceless.

I do want to differentiate one thing here though…

Asking questions of people who are on your list and part of your audience is different than crowd sourcing opinions.

I see this a lot in Facebook groups.

The admin will ask people what they want (and note: this is still a valuable resource, I’m not negating that there is value here) with a poll or general question that requires engagement from people.

And is it me or is anyone else tired of the Facebook questions that require people to respond with a one-word answer to show they’re interested in something?

I know, I know. It works.

Moving on.

Crowd sourcing for feedback tends to keep people stuck.

It’s a great tactic if you already have a solid strategy in place for what you’re doing to do, but it’s not the job of your audience to create it for you. Remember, you’re supposed to be helping and serving them.

You also can’t come from a place of taking what people tell you or the responses you get as law.

In other words, just because someone says they’re interested or will buy something from you, doesn’t mean they’re going to pull out their wallet when the time comes.

Do your own due diligence, get clear on the problem you’re solving, and then put it out to your group.

On the flip side this is also a great way to garner some interest for the thing you’re going to release, whether it’s free or paid. Just make sure you have something in place to actually deploy ‘said thing’ and get it out there.

I want to wrap this up with a little simplification.

The easiest way to create and build your own audience-first approach is to go back to the basics of being a decent human being.

I often think of the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum.

It was a best-seller for a long time (originally published in 1990). One of my favorites:

“Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and work some every day.’

Robert Fulghum

Maybe I should create something similar for entrepreneurs…


If you’re clear on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who you want to serve, it’s going to work… how well and how fast it works is up to you.

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