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How do I avoid unsubscribes?

Someone from a recent speaking event asked me about something he is quite concerned about. He has built up a small following on social media and has an e-mail list, but he has never done much content marketing to take advantage of these “opt ins” that he has amassed. He’s never taken advantage for a very simple reason: he doesn’t want to annoy his customers and prospects. He is afraid that once he starts selling, he will get a slew of unsubscribes. How can he avoid that while still being relevant to his customers?

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This is a common problem, but it has a simple solution. You need to constantly ask yourself one simple question about every communication you send out: What’s in it for my customers?

Now that doesn’t mean that you can never sell anything. Some of you probably know that I do a lot of professional speaking and training–if you follow me on Twitter or you are connected to me in Facebook or LinkedIn, I will send you notices of when and where I am speaking. I even have a newsletter that you can subscribe to about my comings and goings. But that’s not all that I do.

The vast majority of my social media sharing, including this blog post, is not designed to sell you anything. I’m honestly trying to help. Now, I am not bucking for sainthood–I know very well that if I help you that you might want to hire me as a consultant or a speaker. Or you might recommend me to someone else who will. But I am not hitting you over the head every day asking to work for you. I figure that you are smart enough that if I stay relevant to what you care about that you will remember to hire me if you need me. I try to keep my credentials in front of you–Chief Strategist at Converseon, IBM Distinguished Engineer, teacher at Rutgers, Darden, and other places, author of blah, blah, blah.

But no one wants to hear about all those credentials all the time. Because that is all about me. What your audience wants is for it to be all about them.

My advice is to focus on your audience. What are their problems? What do they need to know? How can you help them? If you provide information that is truly helpful, very few folks will unsubscribe–and those that do are people that you don’t want, because they are leaving because they don’t care about your subject, so it is OK.

If you are providing truly helpful information, people will pass it along to others with the same problems. If you really don’t know where to start, begin by identifying a few of your customers that you think are very representative of the people that you want to attract, and buy them lunch–ask them what they are struggling with around your topic areas. Get some ideas on how to help them and then start doing it.

If most of what you do is about your audience’s needs, you’ll do exactly the right thing. And you might be gladdened to find out that these people kind of like you and they really want to know what you sell. And they might even want to recommend you and help you back.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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