Let me start off by saying that I might be in my feelings while writing this article. Something just happened which bothered me so much that I feel the need to rant. However, rather than go off on a rant I had enough composure to focus my annoyance and put my thoughts on paper.
A Growing Problem
I sent an email out to my mailing list, and a few people unsubscribed. I didn’t have a problem with the unsubscribes because unsubscribes can lead to a more engaged mailing list. What shocked me was the types of people who unsubscribed. When I viewed the unsubscriber list I was shocked to see some influencers that I follow unsubscribed.
I don’t know if they felt the content was not relevant or it was time to break up but less than 5 minutes later the same influencer who unsubscribed sent me a 1,200-word email asking me to buy a product from them.
No doubt the sales email was more than likely automation or the start of a launch to their mailing list but I was offended. How could they expect me to give them my attention and money when they can’t even endure subscribing to my email list.
Though nothing was said and I understand they may have a crowded inbox this sent the message:
I don’t want to listen to you but you should listen to me and buy my product.
The earlier example is not the first time something like this has happened. I recall purchasing a $300 course from a creator only for them to give up on the project and their future promises of “lifetime updates” never coming to pass. This creator was also on my email list and unsubscribed.
The unsubscribes could be an indication I need to change the content of my newsletters but also I want to bring up a very important point:
If you want to engage people online and build trust with others in your marketing you have to be willing to reciprocate.
Influencer or Ignorer?
I see this problem everywhere, the more popular influencers get online the less they tend to reciprocate. It’s like unlocking an achievement level while playing a video game, once you reach level 10 you now have the permission to ignore the very people who granted you the experience points to make it to level 10.
Is this what we’ve come to now? People hoping to gain millions of followers on social media, become a so-called Guru and then use an email list to “print cash” and no longer connect with people?
I mention all these things prior to saying that there is a tremendous opportunity available on the internet. The opportunity is simple you have the opportunity to humanize least me tactics of growth hacking. You have the opportunity to listen to others and be genuine and authentic. In a world where everyone is building a persona and we don’t know if the Persona is really them or not there’s an opportunity to hear real stories for people.
Reciprocation is not just based on giving something in hopes of getting a return, but reciprocation also extends to attention. Some people in your audience just want to be heard.
Years ago when I worked at a web hosting company and one of the things that I used to handle was supervisor calls. These were phone calls in which an upset customer wanted to speak directly to a supervisor or a manager. I was neither a supervisor or a manager but they passed these phone calls to me because “Nathan is good at diffusing a tense situation.”
There is no secret to how I was able to master these phone calls. I exercised the patience to listen to someone’s problem fully, hear what they really wanted, then recommend the best course of action. Ultimately they felt like they weren’t being listened to and when I gave them attention it detoured a cancellation and lead to more money for the company.
Maybe you have an audience and it’s no longer is easy to keep up with all the requests, emails, and questions you receive on a daily basis. If you cannot keep up then turn these questions into a community. Whether this is a Slack group, Discord group, Facebook group, Meetup or a YouTube Live Q&A there are more than enough free ways to do this.
I respect Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, not because they are experts, but because they answer their audience. They both have millions of follows yet and still, they will reply to mentions of Twitter, Instagram comment or direct emails. Maybe it’s not them and they are using a virtual assistant, I’m not sure but they were wise enough to hire someone because answer their audience is important.
Gary Vaynerchuk turned his audience’s questions into the AskGaryVee Show which then became a podcast and book.
Too Busy or Too Bothered
If you’re reading this and you feel that it is impossible to keep up with your audience then this wasn’t written for you. This was written for the person who has a desire to grow an authentic audience, connect with people and are willing to at the least listen and learn from their audience.
I will admit after experiencing being ignored over and over there are certain people who I will never purchase another product from again. The main reason I will not purchase another product is due to their lack of reciprocation. I monetarily invested in their business and when I reached out to them they replied but also said “I’m too busy and don’t have the time”.
Even though I understood I heard:
I know you paid me hundreds of dollars but not enough for me to value you as important.
An email list is not an amalgamation of click-throughs, open rates, and subscriber count. Behind each subscriber is a human, someone’s life, someone’s family that you have a direct opportunity to influence and impact. My hope is you’re using your influence to make the person’s life better and not to take their attention and money.
I believe customer service is a dying art form. What used to be at the forefront marketing and sales is now an afterthought replaced by a chatbot. Creators release products and services hoping they don’t have to do customer service, instead of taking pride in that someone cares about their product enough to use it or ask about it. The definition of customer service is simply giving the customer extra attention to ensure all their immediate needs are taken care of and for them to know you care about them.
Who Are You Doing This For?
False authenticity is disingenuous. Do you really want to help as many people as you can? If not, let’s be honest and call a spade a spade. You’re doing what you’re doing because you want to make money. That’s not evil but it does mean you shouldn’t take the “I want to help you” approach.
There’s a bigger picture here. Sometimes in order to help others, you cannot meet with every single person who asks for you because your time needs to be spent on creating the most value for others. Whichever your reason provide context for it by stating this directly to your audience.
For example, I reached out to Scott Belsky the CEO of the Adobe Creative portfolio website Behance for help on a resource I was creating. He was unable to assist me but he told me why and gave me a future date when he would be able to help me even though it was months away that was a more genuine answer then ignore me or saying no.
When you don’t provide context on why you don’t want to help someone then the only assumption that can be made is you wanted your audience member to invest in your business but you don’t want to invest in them.
Ultimately the internet is becoming reduced to content marketing, email sign-ups, and growth hacking tactics to monetize an audience. This may work in the short term but in the future, this will not work. People more than ever have been able to see through those who aren’t authentic. Remember at one point in time you were the person who was reaching out to the so-called expert for help and you hoped very much they would reach out to you.