What It Means to Treat Your Subscribers Like Followers


I’m probably not the first person to say that to you. “Treat your subscribers like people!” And if I am, take note - it’s important. 

But, what does that actually mean? 

And, how do you actually do that? Most of us are not in a position where we could (or would) invite our subscribers over for dinner. And even if you’re able to organize a coffee meetup when traveling to a big city, it’s still only going to bring in a tiny segment of your list.

So, let’s start with the obvious, as a reminder is often needed: while you mostly know them as numbers and segments, your subscribers are actually living, breathing, human beings. Every single one of them. 

As soon as someone subscribes to your list (and in some cases, even sooner) you are officially in a relationship with that person.

Yes, I said a relationship. 

I like to think of it as a friendship, to be exact. And, just like with friendships, there will be those diamond-in-the-rough people who come along and click with you right away - minimal effort needed. But, just like with friendships, those people will be (very) few and far between.

Just like with friendships, the rest will likely take a little time, a little effort, and a little experimenting. 

But when it comes to your business, it’s not exactly a two-way street. There’s more responsibility on you to drive this ship, and you have most of the control when it comes to how things turn out. In a way, you’re hosting a party for your new friends, and whether or not they enjoy themselves enough to come over again is on you.

And ultimately, that’s the goal. Your job is to make people want to come back over and over, no matter what. You want them to be craving the invite before you’ve even pressed “send.” That’s the moment that subscribers have become followers, and followers are the bedrock of your successful business.

So, how do you do it? Let’s get started:

Collect As Much Data About Your People As You Can

This is where we start to break away a bit from the friendship analogy, mostly because I don’t recommend you collect as much data as you can about your actual friends. That’s a bit weird.

However, with your actual friends there’s more opportunity to sit down to coffee and learn more about each other. We don’t typically have that same opportunity with our subscribers -  definitely not in a way that we can capitalize on later when it comes time to leverage and convert that information into cold cash.

So, instead, we need to keep track of subscribers’ behavior in order to learn about them. The easiest way to do this is to automate the entire process. I like to start at the point of entry using one of the following methods:

  1. Create multiple lead magnets that automatically tell you something about your new subscriber. For example, if you have a blog about food and cocktails, create one lead magnet about food and a separate one about cocktails. Make sure you can track which people came in through which offers via your email service provider (I like to use simple tags). Not only do you up your chances of getting new subscribers by having more to offer, you know right away whether someone is more interested in one or the other (or both).
  3. Automate your opt-in process so the first email newcomers get asks them exactly what they’re interested in and logs that info for you. (I have a free template with instructions for how to do this here!) Using the same example as above, you’d ask if someone is most interested in food, cocktails or both.

From then on, make sure every content upgrade, new or additional lead magnets, webinars, etc. are automated to add tags to the people who opt in for them. Keep giving away awesome free content to your people, but make sure they need to opt-in for just about all of it.

Develop an “Entry-Level” Offering

If you plan to sell anything to your list in the near future (products or services), develop an “entry-level” offering to warm them up. This means something simple, something that’s easy for you to create and maintain, but is still worth every penny you charge for it. 

The goal here is not necessarily to generate income, but to separate the people who really love your free stuff from those who love it so much they’re willing to pull out their wallet and get a little extra, too! 

“Entry-level” is a kind of blurry term, and unfortunately, I’m not going to give you a number or even a range as to what you should be charge for this offering. The best way to decide on a price is to understand where this offering sits in your larger sales funnel. 

If you’re eventually trying to work someone towards a $599 offering, a $29 entry-level offering might not be priced high enough to really qualify buyers. And truthfully, you may have to play around to find a sweet spot. When in doubt, start at 15% of the next offering up and play with it!

Make the Right Ask of the Right People

Now that you’re getting to know a little bit about your people, you’ve got to know what to do with that information!

This is a really important point that is missed a lot, and it applies to every step of your friendship journey - even the very beginning.

You’ve got to make an ask that’s appropriate based on your relationship with someone. To go back to the friendship thing, it’s the difference between asking someone you just met to grab a cup of coffee (very appropriate) versus asking them to take a weekend trip with you (probably too much too soon). 

This means you shouldn’t be trying to sell high-level offerings to brand new subscribers in your first emails to them. What’s a better approach? Spend some time telling them about you, the general problems you solve and how you solve them. Your first ask could be more along the lines of an invite to join a free, informative webinar that may or may not include a sales pitch.

If you move too fast for your subscribers, you might be robbing yourself of the opportunity to make your case and move a new subscriber to a place where they would consider working with you or buying your product. 

Understand that Moving People Can Take Time

If you’ve ever worked with someone and/or invested in a digital product of someone you found online, think about how long it took you to take the plunge. If it was a recommendation from someone you trust, it probably didn’t take very long. But if it was more of a random discovery, it might have taken you a little while - months, or even years. 

That’s not uncommon, and you are no exception to the rule.

Now, this does not mean that it’s going to take you months or years to make a sale! But it does mean that someone who subscribes to your list and doesn’t buy from you for years could still be a potential customer! That’s just how people work.

And that’s why you can’t give up on them! Keep making opportunities for those people to stay involved with you and grow with you. Then, you’ll be the first person they go to when they’re finally ready to invest. 

Let Them Know You’re a Human, Too

Automated lead generation and sales funnels are great. But while you’re striving to build a super efficient business, make sure you leave some room for authenticity. Make yourself available for live conversations through live streaming, answer comments on your blog (and even comment on others’, and answer emails personally whenever you can.

It’s also great to let people know that, as a fellow human, you are not perfect. Some of my favorite influencer input is about what’s not working for them. One thing I love about online business is that things are constantly changing and developing, but that can also make it hard to keep up. I love hearing about the things that aren’t yielding that ROI sometimes more than the things that are.

Looking for more ways to engage your subscribers and ultimately turn them into followers? Get my free checklist: Five Ways to Turn Subscribers into Followers