Lately my favorite topic has been building audiences. Not just for a blog, but how you can build following for any product by teaching useful things. The results are pretty crazy and have changed my world. Through building ConvertKit I’ve been trying to teach these methods and give everyone the same tools that I have.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about building audiences is that email has the best engagement rate. So that’s where I’ve focused. From July 2012 to August 2013 I built an email list of 10,000 subscribers. To help in the process I even built the best tool for rapidly growing an email audience: ConvertKit. Anytime someone says they built the best of something it’s probably an overstatement. I want to prove that true.
How? By using ConvertKit to grow my audience at a rate I’m still not entirely sure can be accomplished. Remember how I said it took me one year to add my first 10,000 subscribers? Well, I want to add the next 10,000 in just 30 days.
Currently I add subscribers at an average rate of 25-50 per day through a series of forms and email courses I’ve already written. I’ve learned what techniques work pretty well, so it’s time to start scaling.
In order to hit my goal I need to add 330+ new subscribers per day.
Where are you at now?
At the moment my list for NathanBarry.com has 10,747 email subscribers. This is the list I’ve used to run my entire business and do over $250,000 in product sales. That email list—or rather the relationships it represents—is the most critical asset in my entire business.
At the end of this challenge that number should read at least 20,747 email subscribers. It’s also important to note that the subscribers must be high quality. It’s easy to buy 10,000 email addresses for less than a hundred dollars, but there is an industry term for that: spam. Instead I’m looking for 10,000 new people who value design and marketing in the same way I do and want to learn much more.
Isn’t it a bit vain to arbitrarily double the size of your audience?
Yep, I’ve wondered the same thing. When do you stop growing and decide enough is enough? My answer: never.
Before you say how ridiculous I am or whatever other insult you may be thinking of, we should all step back to consider motivation. What’s the point of adding 10,000 new subscribers? What’s the point of any of this writing?
In my writing I have three goals:
- To learn,
- to teach,
- and to make a living.
Each one is important to me, but in the order listed above. Let’s take them one-by-one.
First, I want to learn. This entire blog has been a journey to learn more. The most important breakthroughs have all been around learning marketing. I’ve learned exactly how to get attention and how to turn that attention into trust. I’m constantly trying new methods, asking people much smarter than me what has worked for them, and trying to implement their advice.
Second, I want to teach. It’s not just that teaching is the best marketing method I know (it is!), but also that I enjoy all the other benefits. I want to share everything I learn so that other people will take my ideas and build better things on top of them. I want to help designers, developers, and marketers release slightly more successful products.
Finally, I want to make a living. I teach and sell products so that I don’t have to work for someone else’s company. It gives me freedom to travel and work on what I want. My only requirement is that whenever I sell a product it should deliver far more value than it cost.
Money is an important topic for me. On this blog I talk about money in specific details. I’m tired of it being taboo to discuss specific salary amounts. When I took my first job I had no idea what was a good salary because no one ever talked about money. If I can provide a few data points to help a few people make more educated decisions, them I’m thrilled.
Basically, that was a really long winded answer to say that, I’m doing this challenge because I believe it will help me learn new skills, give me an opportunity to teach those skills to far more people, and to make more money while doing it.
Why a challenge?
I could just continue growing my audience quietly and not make a huge deal about it. But where’s the fun in that?
This January I launched The Web App Challenge to build an app (that ended up being ConvertKit) up to $5,000 a month in recurring revenue. Through that focused effort I pushed myself to make more progress than I ever would have otherwise, but also helped to inspire a lot of people along the way.
I hope to do the same with The Audience Building Challenge. Whether you are starting with your first 10 subscribers, trying to hit the next 1,000, or just following along for fun, I want you to learn something and be inspired to try something big.
Will it work?
It wouldn’t be a good challenge if I was entirely confident I would succeed. So I’m not sure if I can do it. But I do know it is possible. My last public challenge failed, sort of. I still haven’t hit the revenue goal, but I have a great product that has helped me build the rest of my online business. Oh, and it is breaking even each month. Not bad right?
So, I don’t know if I will succeed, but I will try hard, and know that if I “fail” it will really just be a partial success.
I’m also well positioned to do this quickly because of the content I’ve already created. A few of the incentives I plan to use to drive a lot of subscribers are:
- Mastering Product Launches (email course)
- The Productivity Manifesto (eBook)
- Lessons from building a blog to 10,000 subscribers in a year (video course)
- Designing with CSS3 (video course)
- Designing forms that convert (eBook)
How will you do it?
My basic strategy is to write as many guest posts as possible with really strong calls to action back to some of my best content. Using ConvertKit I can host many forms and landing pages that all give out an incentive that closely relates to the content of the guest post. Done well this can result in over 500 subscribers from a single guest post.
ConvertKit is key to this process because I need to be able to give out many different incentives (video courses, PDF guides, email courses, templates, etc) and have the subscribers all go onto the same list. This isn’t possible in more traditional email marketing apps that aren’t built for rapidly growing an email list. For a high level overview of my strategy, take a look at this post on email marketing.
As an example, I wrote a post for Smashing Magazine on How To Launch Anything, with a very strong call to action to an email course called Mastering Product Launches. That combination of excellent content drove over 1,000 email subscribers by itself! Now, I don’t expect to hit that level of success with every post, but I do hope to structure posts well so that I can get at least a few hundred subscribers from each one.
I have a lot more ideas and tactics, but you’ll have to wait till I try them out for the full story.
Learn with me
The best part of these challenges is that I do them entirely publicly. That means I’ll share each detail with subscribers who want to follow along. I’ll share each of my tactics and the results. Some will be in public posts on this blog, but most of it will be private to an email list of those who are really interested—after all, I don’t want to bore my readers here (especially those who only care about design), with endless marketing-focused content.
If you want to learn with me, join the email list below (come on, you knew that was coming!). And yes, if you subscribe (as you should) it counts towards my 10,000. Why? Because launching a public challenge or doing something big is a great technique for building an audience. You should try it.
So whether you currently have 50 subscribers or 5,000, learn and grow your list with me during this challenge.