While I wasn't blogging, I also wasn't emailing my list. The last email I had sent in May, trying to dust up the stale list. It wasn't stale because of my subscribers. It was stale because it wasn't working for me.
As with my blog, I had driven myself into a corner. After reading all the advice on how you should give more value and information and more this and that, I was trying to write emails that weren't... me. I was going against my own advice on not trying to please your audience, and it was not working out. Besides, I had set myself a schedule of weekly emails which was way too much.
Last spring I considered starting the email list from the beginning. Just scrapping the old one, and building something totally new. Obviously I wanted at least some of the people from the old list(s) to join in. Admittedly, I chickened out and just asked people to resubscribe. No real reboot, just a pretend boot. Plus I tried to create too complicated ideas of what to post the list. Way. Too. Complicated. As a result, since last May the people on my list didn't receive anything.
Not emailing your list for a while tends to build the pressure. First of all, some of the folks on the list may have forgotten they ever had joined it. Sometimes, when someone emails their list I've subscribed to after a long hiatus, I get confused. What is this? Did I subscribe to some random list at some point? Is this spam? Well, I did. It was just a while ago, and the lack of consistency with their emails had let to a point where I just didn't remember they should have landed my inbox.
Another thing is, that people change their email addresses. Perhaps they get a new job and with it a new email address. Perhaps they change their names and the old firstname.lastname combo doesn't work anymore. Not to forget new domains (and getting rid of old ones), new businesses and multitudes of other reasons why the old email addresses just quit working. The longer hiatus you take on emailing your list, the greater the likelihood of hard bounces for broken email addresses.
Eventually I was embarrassed to reach out to my list again. I knew to expect all the broken email addresses, but also all the angry unsubscribes. Possibly even spam complaints.
For a bit I decided to forget the whole thing. Not to send another email to my old list. Not to build a new list. Just leave it be. It's not like the list was that big anyway. Building a new list would be so much work, how could I get anyone to subscribe?
Finally I decided to take a leap. If nobody would subscribe, it wouldn't be that big a deal. I mean, it would be great if people subscribed, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if nobody did. You know what I mean?
Since my previous email provider decided to change their pricing and features, I slumbered back to MailChimp. I'm not a huge fan, with my not-so-great experience with their customer service years ago. However, they have a decent free version, which fits my current budget. Hopefully, as the list grows, I will have a budget for a paid email marketing plan.
Of course I made a new plan for the new list. Right now there's no set schedule. I will try things out, so if you have joined already or are planning to join, beware. I'll email more or less frequently, and just see what works and what doesn't.
And the content? Well, it will be more free. No constrains on what I will post, but there's a basic outline: These will be letters of creativity, life and simple things. I have decided that in the web of constant advertisement and promotion, I need to start giving you something else. This doesn't mean I wouldn't promote my stuff, since I still need to pay my bills and buy foods. I also decided I wouldn't hurry with sending the first new letter. Probably I wouldn't get enough subscribers to justify that very fast, anyway.
I did send a final email to my old list, tell them that this is it. No more emails there. If you want to keep up with me, you gotta get on my new list. No hard feelings if you don't. After sending that little note, I removed the list. I didn't back it up, I didn't move it my new email marketing provider.
It was a scary thing to do, and at the same time liberating. Starting from a blank slate. This shed me from the pressure and embarrassment of emailing the old list with a "sorry I haven't been there". And I knew that those who really wanted to receive my emails would subscribe to the new list. They have.
What surprised me was that I have already gained a bunch of new subscribers. As a matter of a fact, they came in before the old ones returned. While the popularity of my new letters took me by surprise, it also has changed my plans a bit. The first new letter will be going out sooner than I expected. This is happy news, makes me feel good about this new plan.
While it may feel really scary and seem like you will lose all your subscribers and hard work, sometimes it is a great idea to start completely over.
Building a new list is a lot of work. However, email lists are a bit different than, say, blogging in the sense that the old content and old subscribers don't necessarily grow the old list. Unless you also publish the emails, they are more personal as they hit private inboxes, and rarely lead to growth directly. Of course, you can use your amount of subscribers as a way to convince new subscribers to join in, but for a small list that doesn't necessarily work.
You can go ahead and ask your current subscribers reconfirm their subscription, or just clear off the addresses of those who haven't opened to your emails in a while or don't ever engage with them. I tell you though, the empty slate does give a great feeling. The feeling of building something completely new, instead of trying to dust up something that wasn't working before.
A new email list is a good idea when your old list has gone stale and you need to start over with it. It could be because lots of your subscribers only joined for the free gifts, and don't really have interest in what you have to say. Or you may have changed your emphasis, leading your list full of people who joined for something else.
Additionally, you may want to start a new list on the side of your old list. There's no rule agains build multiple email lists, you know. Especially if you have multiple business paths or multiple target groups, it may be a good idea to give them their own lists. Obviously, the more lists you have, the more emails you have to write if you want to keep them engaged and not going stale. Having one email list isn't mandatory, not even having one main list.
Whichever reason you feel like you need to start over with your email list, consider it a good thing. You will get a blank slate, which lets you do something completely new. You don't have to try and keep happy those subscribers, who joined your list for freebies or when the lists emphasis was somewhere else. And you don't have to worry about mass unsubscriptions or hard bounces.
Sometimes starting over from a blank slate is the best thing to do. Even with your email list.