The Tyranny of the Unsubscribe

I get it: getting new subscribers feels good.

You’re building your newsletter or your social media following and you’re watching those numbers rise, and it just feels good.

And then you notice that it’s one digit less than it was a little bit ago. Maybe it dropped a few numbers. Tens, maybe dozens or hundreds.

A sinking feeling sets in your gut as you begin to wonder what happened.

  • What did I do wrong?
  • Did I offend someone?
  • What do I change so it doesn’t happen again?

You feel a panic as you open up your newsletter system and start sifting through the unsubscribes. You see email addresses you recognize and a lump forms in your throat.

“I guess they don’t like me,” you think. “It’s a wonder more people don’t unsubscribe. There’s probably no value in what I post at all. Why am I even doing this?”

Friend, I understand. I completely understand.

So let me be the one to tell you: if you care about unsubscribes, you are a slave to a number. You are in chains, and your mind needs to be set free from the tyranny of the unsubscribe.

There are only two kinds of people who will ever come across your content:

1. People who resonate with your work.
2. People who don’t.

That’s it.

Why People Unsubscribe in the First Place

It has nothing to do with whether you post valuable content or not. In fact,it has nothing to do with you. Everything about an unsubscribe is about the person who is unsubscribing.

Unsubscribes used to bother me a lot. I would pour over the email I had sent, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

I wrestled with it for years, until it finally clicked for me:

The time you spend concerning yourself with unsubscribes is time you’re not spending to create more content for the people who are still subscribed.

If your subscriber count is 100 and it drops down to 99, don’t waste your time on the 1% of people who aren’t interested in what you’re creating.Your time, content, and voice is still resonating with 99% of your list.

It’s okay if someone isn’t interested in what you have to say: your content is not for them.

In fact, you should be actively trying to get unsubscribes. You want to produce content that is so tailored and highly relevant for the people who resonate with your work that it forces the others to opt out.

Remember Who You’re Creating For

I’ve had friends and family unsubscribe from my lists. I’ve had people I really looked up to (I was absolutely giddy when they signed up) unsubscribe from my lists.

And honestly, I don’t really care anymore, because the point of producing content is to reach the people it’s meant for. It’s for the ones who stick around.

The journey to disconnecting any sort of emotion from unsubscribes requires that you follow these two simple rules:

  1. Never, ever, ever look at your unsubscribes.
  2. Put all of your focus into creating content for people, not numbers on a screen.

Remove any notifications that you receive when someone unsubscribes. Disable the automatic trigger that logs email address of the people who unfollow. Delete the widget on the dashboard the shows how many people have opted out.

I don’t keep track of unsubscribes. To this day I have no idea how many people have opted out of my mailing list. It might be a lot, I’m not really sure. But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you continue to put out content for the people you want to reach. They are the ones who resonate with your work, the ones who are going to be positively affected by what you create.

Should My Brand Avoid Trends?

A trend is a common theme or direction in which something is developing or changing. It is often a short-lived common thread that ties together a specific group of people.

Trends are inevitable. They happen with cultures, generations, and new iterations of society and technology. You cannot get away from trends. Change is inevitable.

That doesn’t mean you need to go along with every single trend that pops up. If a trend doesn't seem to be going in the direction of your goals, then don't buy into it.

That being said, it’s important to keep an eye on what's happening around you. Keep tabs on the latest social media apps, and even do some research into current memes and jokes. This will give you the advantage, because I guarantee you most brands are not doing this.

As you embrace trends and become familiar with the sub-cultures surrounding them, you become more relatable and relevant to your audience.

It’s easy to stay locked in with the way you’ve always done things. It’s easy to maintain and keep the status quo. But successful brands embrace change. They embrace trends. 

What's popular now won't be popular forever, but if it's where your audience is, avoiding the trend means avoiding the people you want to connect with. Don't be afraid to capitalize on the popularity of what's happening now.


How You Feel About Your Brand Doesn't Matter

Whenever you’re conducting any kind of evaluation, one of the questions might be something like, “How do you feel you are doing in this area?” or, “What do you think about your current progress so far?” 

When it comes to your brand, however, how you feel about your brand doesn’t matter. How well you think your brand is doing doesn’t matter.

The only feelings that matter are the feelings of your customers. If your audience thinks your brand is doing well, then your brand is doing well.

Remember, a brand is how people feel about you. It’s what they think about you. It’s what they say about you when you’re not in the room.

A brand is not a company, but a company can have a brand.

Therefore, your brand is only doing well if the people who interact with your brand have a positive interaction. If your audience has good feelings about you, then your brand will do well.

The results of a great brand have the ability lead to greater revenue, higher ratings, more clients, and so on. These aren't guaranteed, but every well-known company that is doing well has a great brand.

And yes, some companies that have poor brands or negative associations may be doing well, but I recommend you look toward the ones actually making a positive difference in the world instead.

The indication of a good brand can be found in the words, thoughts, feelings, reviews, referrals, and comments of the people who follow you.

You might feel great about your brand, but if you’re the only one who does, you’re not going to win. 

If you are able to capture the positive feelings of your audience and customers, you will have the attention that you need to be successful.

Pursue Discipline to Achieve Excellence

Recently I was having a conversation in the seanwes Community with a young illustrator who was concerned about his skill level. 

He wasn’t happy with his current abilities, and didn’t like feeling the pressure of sharing his work online on a consistent basis.

He wanted to “retire” his weekly output on Instagram and focus on building his skills for two years, and when he was confident enough in his skills, he could start sharing his work online again.

This was my response: 

If you’re trying to build any kind of audience, going dark for two years isn’t going to help you. 

Uploading work for two years that continuously gets better is a thousand times more effective in the long run than “going dark”.

Additionally, you may be overthinking what your portfolio or social media needs to be. If a project is taking a month, that’s four work-in-progress shots. They don’t have to be final pieces. You dictate the curation of your feed.

The point is not to produce perfect work, it’s to develop a habit of showing up consistently.

Too many people, being consistent is much more valuable than having “perfect work”. It shows character and drive.

If you’re just trying to keep your head above water because you’ve said yes to too many things, then some things might need to go. Client projects are definitely priority if you’re under contract and need to complete the jobs that you are set out to do.

You know your balance for sure, and if there’s too many plates spinning, things are going to start falling and breaking.

The most important thing is to look at your goals and determine what it’s going to take to get there.

  • Where will you be in 2020?

  • What work will you be doing?

  • What sort of skill will you be the master of?

Answer those questions, and then do them. Work backward and figure out what you need to do today.

Finally, deadlines and pressure are good and healthy. Yes, they can be tough, and sometimes the work we put out isn’t the best, but becoming excellent requires discipline.

The act of pursuing discipline is what sets you apart from the rest of the world. 

You produce discipline by making commitments and setting up routine and doing hard things. The pursuit of discipline produces excellence.

Nearly two years ago I started writing weekly emails. Some of them have been terrible and I’m really embarrassed by them. But I keep on. It gives me something to look back to and see how far I’ve come.

You know your own commitments and what you’re capable of, but there’s a lot of future equity you’ll be missing out on by “going dark”. 

We’re all a work in progress. You’re going to look back on your work in two months and think “wow, yikes…” and then in a year and wonder why you ever let anyone see your work. 

But it’s good. It’s a process.

Why You Should Be Focusing on the 0.001%

My oldest daughter Rylynn is two years old. She is a perfect mixture of my wife and me, which means she is incredibly strong willed and headstrong. She knows what she wants and she knows that all she has to do in order to get her way is to get our attention.

Children work very hard to capture attention. They will cry, scream, or even jump on you. They are desperate for attention, and whether or not the attention is bad or good, they know how to get your attention. 

The modern-day currency of the 21st century is attention. The internet is noisy, social media is noisy, driving down the street is noisy. The world as we know it is filled with noise from people trying to get your attention.

The problem with your brand is not that you have the wrong name, the wrong logo, or you’re on the wrong social media platforms. The problem is that not enough people know about you. 

0.001% very small. In the grand scheme of things, it's not a lot.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. 0.001% of 7 billion is 70,000. That's it.

If you could get 0.001% of the entire Earth’s population to give you a single dollar, you would make more than the average American makes in a single year. 

What if they gave you $10? If you could get 0.001% of the Earth’s population to give you $10, you would have $700,000. 

The problem is not the money, nor is it the platform. It’s not even what you are trying to sell. The problem is you do not have the attention of 70,000 people yet. 

Do you think there are 70,000 people interested in what you have to offer? Are there 70,000 people who have the problem you’re solving? Of course there are. They’re waiting for you to find them.

All it takes is reaching 0.001%.

Attention is the modern-day currency. Find the attention, capture the attention, deliver value, and enjoy the results.

The Two Parts of Marketing More Important Than Your Words

Words are important. Words are the marketer’s tool. Words are the primary way the majority of humans communicate.

But what if I told you that there is another method that is statistically proven to net greater results than words?

What if I told you there is another form of media that increases people’s willingness to read your words by 80%, or to retain information up to 65% longer?

It exists, and it’s called visual content, or simply color and imagery.

Okay, I know I wrote a bit of a sensationalist title, but this is actually one of the most important things I can teach you about marketing.

Written words are important, but humans have used iconography and imagery far longer than we’ve had written language. You know the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words”? It’s true.

Customers are more willing to trust and buy a product from an ad with a smiling person on the front. The picture says to the potential customer, “This is you, smiling and happy, without the problem that you have which was solved by our product.”

This is why marketers and brand strategists encourage companies to have pictures on their websites of smiling people who have just had a positive experience from the product or service. You can say it’s gimmicky, but the numbers don’t lie.

In 2014, Xerox released some statistics about color, and this is just one of their findings:

"Color increases readers' attention spans and recall by 82%. Safety notices, warnings and vital technical information are more likely to be remembered if they stand out in color."

I have a secret for you: marketing is all about psychology. The best marketers are simply experts in humans. Knowing how the human brain works is critical to reaching the people you want to reach.

Color draws attention. Imagery triggers memory. Attention and memory are the two most important parts of marketing a brand. You want to get people’s attention and you want them to remember you.

Words are incredibly important, and they can and will absolutely transform your marketing into a powerhouse. Imagine what your marketing could do with the right imagery!