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I Deleted My Email Database I Had Been Building For Six Years, By Mistake

When you constantly turn up, you know who is with you, not by number, but by name.

It means you have less work to do. This becomes a continual process, not a fun pastime or some campaign to just sell something.

This article is about always being present. This way you know who is connected is just as important as people who aren’t that bothered with you. 

It is also about spending time and concentrating on those who are with you.

This article starts with a hands up disaster I have recently made.

I Deleted My Email Database By Mistake

I deleted my entire email database. I had been building since 2013 (it had originally started though in 2010).

This is everything that I have reached out from, conversed with, sold from and built around.

This is also a word of warning. I use Mailchimp for the You Are The Media Weekly and whilst I have been cleaning the database after the summer break, for some unknown reason I thought I was deleting a few 100 names, not the entire list of emails. I don’t extract the database every week/month. I do not have a constantly updated CSV file that sits in a Dropbox (or a USB!!), I put my faith in an email provider. 

Here is what happens. When you have deleted an audience, on Mailchimp, no matter how many times you plead with them, there is no back-up that exists. It is 100% down to you. For a few minutes, I was going to throw the towel in and stop the weekly email. I would be effectively be starting from zero and wind the clock back six years to where it all started. I felt sick to my core.

It makes me queasy sharing this with you now.

I had lost everything.

If you ever find yourself in this scenario, the work you have created flashes before you. You cannot retrieve something you have deleted or reboot to a version that was from 30 minutes earlier. What you have to do is create a brand new audience, as you cannot add names of people who were in the original list and you want to add them back in.

Whilst I have naturally lost emails, what I did was retrieve the emails of people who had subscribed from (basically they saved my email database life, thanks, make sure you check them out) and then worked through the people who are very much a part of the You Are The Media community. These are people where there are conversations via email, people who come to the conference and Lunch Club and those where there is some form of ongoing conversation and connection.

The You Are The Media community stood up and became counted. I posted on LinkedIn last Wednesday (10th July) that I had deleted and people double checked their side.

Where there is a mutual exchange and familiarity with each other, you know you don’t have to start again from zero (which is the loneliest place to live). 

Going through everything became a six hour exercise (on Friday 5th July). I also went through everyone manually during the weekend, it’s amazing how many names pop in your head at 5.30am

Whilst I admit that I have lost hundreds of subscribers, the majority of people who are not in are those who may have subscribed two or three years ago and are just dormant. These are people where there is not much interaction, engagement and we are just not very close.

We all move on, consign emails as just a force of habit that we don’t open, just delete, or just don’t float our boat anymore as each side moves in a different direction. That is totally fine. We should not be driven by mass. That is why the likes of Mailchimp want to charge you more money when volume becomes your goal.

A lesson here is you can do more with less. I certainly have less with a database that has seen a cull from around 2,500 to now 900 email addresses. Nevertheless, a smaller audience means you focus on the quality of output, rather than the reach of mass approval.

How Did The First Week Back Of Sending To A ‘New’ Audience Fair?

Where there are now over 1,000 less people in the email database (900 people). This is how the first email back to an updated audience faired:

BIG MAILCHIMP LESSON – why waste money every month on people who will never get involved and never be a part of what you want to achieve?

900 emails sent

50% of emails opened

35% of those emails opened, people clicked (normally around 20%)

12 unsubscribes (normally between 0 or 2)

1 threat 

What Has This Got To Do With You?

The only way that your network trusts you and are with you, is when you turn up and check in, time and time again. It’s not just you, it’s the person on the other side too. You turn up together.

When you show up, week after week, year after year, it becomes easier to know who people are and they become more than just an email address.

When you focus on what you create and the people you create for, it becomes a higher quality.  You know what you want to say and in the minds of others. They know the things you believe in and stand for.

The question for you is, how many people in your audience are still with you? Can you see who is bothered and who barely shows a flicker of interest?

The more you show up and the more you encourage interaction with the right people, it improves the quality of your true network. In the words of Woody Allen, “80% of success is just showing up.”

If you start now, when you look back, you can accumulate so much. 

There are people who came to the first Lunch Club back in May 2016, who I now consider friends. There are people who subscribed when I published the Content Revolution in 2015 and we are still in conversation, but we will will likely never meet. The more you have the ability to turn up, the stronger it becomes to have a filter that is based on closeness of connection. 

This is not about that project you did for someone who gave their email address whilst you was working together. Fast forward a few months, the relationship fizzled out when they didn’t pay an invoice for over 60 days. 

When you turn up, create and improve the quality of your network, this is what happens:

You can connect other people together and the quality grows.

This isn’t just about you, this is about the world that you connect with and feel a part of (trying hard not to write the word ‘ecosystem’ here). There is a sense of energy from people who are part of the You Are The Media community, it was evident on the day of the conference. The reason is because of the calibre of connections.

You share others.

The weekly You Are The Media email always highlights the work of others, in my eyes these become subscribers for life. If someone started noticing they were off the grid, when they didn’t receive the email, I would hope they would get in touch and mention they have been missing. This means that no matter how an email database ends up in bin, all you need is the right people to care.

Move from aspiration to a habit.

When you move from setting a goal to create once or twice a month, it then moves to a habit. It is the habit that becomes the glue for people to stick to a base and a constant that happens during their week or month.

It becomes easier, the more you do it.

One of the saving graces of losing the database is the frequency in delivery, other people notice. As it has been once a week for nearly six years, it has become something genuinely has become easier. It doesn’t feel a chore, it is part of a routine. The moment it becomes a chore, is when I will stop. 

It becomes easier to pivot.

The more you document, the easier it becomes to look back, reflect and make tweaks here and there. When others are along for the journey too, they can see the thinking and application being played out in front of them as well.

You have less work to do.

By deleting a master email database, whilst it was devastating at the time, the hard work had already been done in getting people to trust and commit. Rather than starting from scratch, the audience were already there. For instance whilst, I acknowledge people have unsubscribed over the past year or so and may have been added again, there were only 12 unsubscribes in this first week back.

There is power in proximity.

The stronger the reason you give people to get behind something, the closer they come in. Whilst I love the idea that people would come for the content, there is also that thing of being a part of a wider community that has a pulse. The email just happens to be a central part of everything, where the tree started to branch out from.

Let’s Round Up

By losing a sizeable number of email subscribers, that is all it was, a number. The click through rates were not affected, in fact they were higher than many weeks. 

With a smaller overall audience, you can do more with less. Focus on what you have galvanised, rather than what you have lost. 

Seeking volume, just becomes another milestone when you reach another 00 or ‘000 and the only person that gets the gone in a moment gratification is you, not those around you.

By losing my original database and who is a part of it today throws in one question for both of us. If I took away your email database, can you build again based on the strength of the connections you have made? This has nothing to do with numbers, downloads and clicks.

When it comes to building something with others, the legacy you leave is the group of people you brought together, not just the money you took from someone else.

This is why people will want to stick around with you.

When you die, can you look back at the strengths of the connections you have made? It has nothing to do with numbers, downloads and clicks. The thing you leave behind is a mass of the people you brought together. You do this by turning up, week in, week out, year after year.

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