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Project 10K: Surprising Results, Lots of Lessons Learned

P10K-optinsBack in January 2013 I announced by big project for the year: Project 10K. My goal: hit 10,000 subscribers by the end of the year.

I’ve had lots of people ask about progress. So did I hit 10,000 subscribers?

Nope. Not close. I’m regularly getting about 200 or so new subscribers every month. But not nearly enough to reach my 10,000 target.

So a miserable failure? Not really: here’s why.

Firstly, I’ve actually removed a bunch of subscribers from my list. As I said in the original post, I only want engaged subscribers. People who are actually opening, reading and most importantly acting on my emails.

There’s no benefit for you or your subscribers if they’re not doing anything with your emails.

So I implemented some automation in Office Autopilot to remove people who weren’t actively engaging. Turns out there were rather a lot of them. Over the year I’ve removed 2,743 folks, way more than I’d originally thought. If I’d just been going for numbers I’d have kept them and have got much closer to my target.

Secondly, I had to change priorities after a few months.

As I wrote in my earlier Project 10K posts on Getting More Website Visitors and Increasing Website Conversions I investigated lots of different ways of getting more subscribers and implemented some significant changes.

Some worked really well. I’m now a regular guest blogger for sites like Salesforce.com and Allbusiness.com and they’re bringing me a small but regular flow of new subscribers. I tested out different types of optin forms, boxes and using video and have increased conversion rates significantly as a result.

The method that worked the best early on was joint webinars. You know the ones: I do a webinar for a partner who already has a bunch of subscribers who match my target audience. And they do one in return for my audience. Usually we promote a product at the end of the webinar which means we get new subscribers and a nice little income boost.

I’ve found that depending on the topic and the partner I can get 200-400 new subscribers every time I run a webinar for a partner. As you can imagine, do one or more of those a month and you’re well on your way to 10,000 subscribers.

Lots of new subscribers and a cash boost to boot. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to doing lots of webinars as I discovered.

What I found was that after a couple of months of doing them I started getting negative feedback from the most important people in any business: my paying clients.

Not that they didn’t like the webinars. I always carefully selected high quality presenters with something new and valuable to say.

The problem was that the webinars with partners were crowding my own messages out. As one of my clients said, “it feels like we’re losing your voice. And you’re the reason we signed up”.

Now there will always be people who don’t like change. But when three of your paying clients give you very similar feedback in the space of a week you have to pay attention.

Now some people seem to manage this “Oprah” style well. They introduce a lot of new guests to their audiences and that’s how they deliver value. Or they’re so prolific that their voice isn’t drowned out by frequent webinar invites, events and follow-ups.

But it doesn’t work for me. I’m guessing that since people signed up for my particular spin on things rather than generic business advice, they prefer to hear mostly my voice.

So I radically cut back on the joint webinars I was doing. Instead of one or more a month, I switched to one every two or three months.

The result: far fewer new subscribers. But more engagement (and frankly, more sales) from my existing subscribers.

Business is all about decisions. I decided to focus on what was best for my clients and subscribers and my business rather than on hitting a target just for the sake of hitting it.

I’m glad I did.

So what’s the plan for 2014? Is reaching 10K subscribers in 2014 achievable?

It might be. Not just through joint webinars, of course.

One of the areas I’m going to focus on is paid traffic. I mentioned it as an option in my initial Project 10K analysis and I’ve had some success with Google Adwords in the past but I just didn’t find the time to get round to it last year.

But I’m not going to set a strict goal. I’m going to put the systems in place to to get more subscribers ticking in. But ultimately, my sales and the satisfaction of my clients take precedence over new subscribers.

By the way, if you want to find out how to use Google Adwords to grow your business you might like to join me on a webinar with the author of Simply Adwords, Mike Seddon, as we review the Adwords strategies that are working right now to bring you more subscribers and clients.

The webinar’s on Thursday and you can register here:

Adwords Exposed Webinar >>

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  • http://www.goldsbrough.biz Matthew Goldsbrough

    I was going to leave a comment, and then realised I had rather more to say… http://www.goldsbrough.biz/big-public-goals-ian-brodies-project-10k-impressed-even-failed/

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      Thanks Matthew – good post.

  • Mark Lee

    Well done Ian. I was going to ask re progress but guessed that no mention of it meant you had not hit the goal. Kudos to you for being so open here.

    If you shot for the stars you can still hit the moon.

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      Also good to hit the moon when you realise the stars are the wrong destination !

  • http://senatorclub.co/ Ian Adams

    Hey Ian – I love reading case studies like this. It’s so valuable to learn based on real life examples. What do you think is the average conversion rate from website visitor to subscriber?

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      Really depends on the page, sector, source of traffic etc. Ian. So my home page has an Optin rate of about 7-8%. But that’s on a blended mix of visitors including lots of people who’ve already opted in. A dedicated landing page getting only traffic from new visitors would be higher. A blog post whee people come mainly for the content would be lower.

      • http://senatorclub.co/ Ian Adams

        Wow 7-8% is sooo high! Well done. Clearly, I’ve got some work to do.

  • Mark Nugent

    Hi Ian,

    I think Clay Christensen would call this “emergent strategy” – to not change mid-journey would be intransigence. Good for you.

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      It’s a bit like football managers, I guess. Need to give ‘em long enough to have a fair crack of the whip, but if it’s not working…need to adjust

  • Cathy Goodwin

    Based on this post and others, you seem to be saying that no single method will work for everyone. You have to try different things and see what response you get. Most importantly, you have to get out there and try; it’s the only way to see what will work. All too many consultants and coaches offer cookbooks and get frustrated when a tactic either (a) doesn’t feel comfortable and/or (b) doesn’t bring results for that client. The key is to be responsive to the market market and to your own strengths.

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      That’s right. It’s a match between what
      works for your ideal clients (how many it reaches, what impact it has) and what works for you personally (what you’re good at, what you enjoy)

  • Paul Simister

    The old quality versus quantity debate on subscribers. I’m pleased that you are concentrating on quality.

    As for the webinars issue I believe there is a danger that you teach subscribers to be both
    A promiscuous
    B flighty

    Neitjer are good for personal or business relationships.

    In the end you help your tribe by clarifying rather than confusing, focusing rather than overloading and by giving people the confidence to take purposeful action.

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      Yeah. A good external speaker can bring new ideas in areas I’m not an expert in. However you don’t want to encourage people to flit from idea to idea before they’ve properly implemented what they’re working on now.

  • Dick Hoffmann

    Ian, this post brings up another good point of wisdom … Be careful what you measure! As you found, “10,000 subscribers” sounds good but could be a huge waste of time and lead to delusions of success if they are the wrong people. It reminds me of a pharmaceutical client of mine who set a metric of “speed to in-human testing” in the development of a new drug. That metric caused them to speed past some critical steps and they actually killed people, while being successful with their original metric. Dramatic example, but makes the point of being careful to pick the metrics that really deliver what you want to accomplish, rather than something that just sounds good.

    • http://www.ianbrodie.com/ Ian Brodie

      That’s a bit scary Dick!

      Sometimes difficult to tell in advance what the right metrics are – you’ve got to take a stab and go for it. But then you must be aware of what’s happening so that you can tell if you’ve been measuring the right thing.

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