List Building Secrets – Engagement thru Great Content

Top Tip # 1 from my vault of List Building Secrets is … Engage your audience by providing them with great content.  One of my best List Building secrets is to keep your list active and responsive is by engaging your subscribers with excellent content. It sounds simple but so few people do it and then they wonder why they aren’t building a profitable list of subscribers.

What is “Great Content”?

“The ultimate determiner of how good your content is comes from your audience.” – dMark Wheeler

If they like it, then it is good.  If your audience wants fart jokes, then good content would involve some really good fart jokes.  If  your audience needs* and wants* information on building speeches and you give them fart jokes, then you are probably going to lose them, or more likely, never get them to sign up for your list in the first place.

How to Measure “Content Quality”

The old saying is that “What gets measured, gets done.” Another similar quote by John H. Lingle says “You get what you measure. Measure the wrong thing and you get the wrong behaviors.”  so we definitely need to measure the right thing.  What is the right think regarding “content quality”?  There are a number of possibilities including the number of comments (shows people are willing to engage in your conversation) or the amount of traffic your website gets whenever you release a new piece of content, but the core measurement is the number of people on your list.  If your content is judged to be of high quality by visitors to your website (either in terms of free content or your giveaway for joining your list), then the number of subscribers will grow.  That is the bottom line.  If you see a deterioration in the number of subscribers, that tells you that something is not right in how you interact with your list and the content you are providing.  Check your subscriber count regularly and if you are serious put it on a big chart on your wall so you can see it every single day.  That number is what is going to make you money.  Watch it carefully.


* What they need* is not always what they want* !

Let’s assume you are an expert in a particular area (as most speakers are), then you probably have a pretty good idea what your audience really NEEDS to be successful in your area of specialization, right?  Unfortunately, many of your potential audience members don’t know what they need and, in many cases, they think they need or want something that is completely irrelevant to their success.  Your job is to figure out what they want and give them that … along with what they really need to be successful because a successful customer is a happy customer.


The “Curse of Knowledge” may be holding you back

The disconnect between what you know, as an expert, and what the audience knows / wants is made worse by the “Curse of Knowledge”.  Simply put, the Curse of Knowledge is when you learn something and then can’t imagine what it was like when you did not know it.  It is like learning the secret behind a magic trick.  Once you know how it works, it is harder to be amazed by the “magic” since you can see how it is done.  This is made even worse for experts because they have so much knowledge that they forget that not everyone has learned what they have learned and their training may go right over the heads of their students.


Beating the Curse with “Good Content”

The best way to avoid the Curse of Knowledge is to build from basics to more advanced concepts and check in with your students to make sure there aren’t any missing steps along the way.  That’s why it is good to test students periodically… not to grade them but rather as feedback on their progress towards learning the subject matter.

TEST # 1 – What is the best way to make sure your audience is following along?

[Answer:  Ask them questions.  Even rhetorical or hypothetical questions can help “take the pulse” of your audience.]


Formula for Good Content

(Information + Entertainment ) * Various Media = Good Content

Media includes audio, video, text, pictures.  People have different formats they enjoy more than others so it is worthwhile to use as many forms of media as you can.  Even the same person might like to have you “switch it up” every now and then to add some variety to the information you are providing.  The different types of media also have different entertainment values which are important as well.  What is your strongest media?  Where does your personality shine the most?


Why must my content be Entertaining?

In today’s busy world, you need to stand out from the crowd in some way or you will not even be seen.  If you are not letting your personality shine through, then you are holding yourself back.  Don’t worry if you don’t appeal to everyone… you just need to appeal to your target audience … and appeal in A BIG WAY so that they are truly ENGAGED with what you are saying.


Have you made the LEAP?
Create your “List Engagement Annual Plan”

To keep your list engaged, you should be sending them something of value, i.e. Good Content, on at least a weekly basis.  This keeps you fresh in their mind and positions you as a provider of valuable information / entertainment.  Good Content once a week means you have to come up with 52 communications to your list as part of your “List Engagement Annual Plan”.  If you are thinking that it will be hard to come up with enough good content to deliver it once a week, then don’t worry.  We will address that in a second.


Where does Great Content come from?

– Offers of your own or other people’s products can be considered good content if it is a real value to the people on your list.  If it is pure sales, then your list will see through it and you will lose them.  This is why you should not abuse the good will of the people on your list by sending sales messages more than once a month.  Once a quarter would be even better and there are ways to still provide value as part of your product launch.

– News can be valuable to your list.  Industry happenings, discoveries or even a great article by another leader in your industry can all be considered news.  You know your list and what is important to them so use that knowledge to find things that would be of interest or value to them.  Don’t feel that you have to be the creator of everything.  Sometimes you are the reporter … and it is OK to add your own editorial opinion if appropriate.

Your speaking schedule or appearances can be of interest to your list.  If you are appearing on stage with another leader in your industry or some sort of celebrity, it adds to your own credibility so be sure to let your list know.  It is also a great way to fill the audience at your live events by telling your list about future engagements.

Surveys are a great way to get feedback from your list but don’t over do it.  A survey a quarter or even once a month might be the line between curiosity and spam.  You can ask your list about what problems they need solved … which will help you create articles or products that address those needs.  Or you can ask questions to gain a better understanding of what is important to the people on your list.  These are your target customers so the more you know about them, the better you can serve them.

Articles will probably be the biggest part of your content since you are trying to position yourself as an expert in your field, right?  Articles can be instructional, “How-to” or they can be opinion pieces or editorials.  Don’t worry so much about upsetting your audience as about boring them.  If you provide exactly what they expect or what they already know, they have no need for you and will eventually unsubscribe to your list or simply send your emails to their spam folder.  You want to get people talking about  your articles, good or bad doesn’t really matter.  Although we would all prefer good comments, the negative comments may actually strengthen the resolve of your supporters which can turn out to have positive effects.

26 Bonus Ideas from…

26 Ways to Bring Your Blog To Life
(but they can be applied to a speaker’s content as well).


How do I come up with all this content?

The answer:  Divide and Conquer.

You want 52 pieces of valuable content so you can send them out at least once per week but you don’t have to go from 1-52.  You can start by creating 12 so you have one per month, then 12 more so you have 2 per month.  Repeat this 4-5 times and you will have more than enough content to keep your list engaged for a full year.

Ideally you also want the best content that you can provide so you will probably need to create more than 52 pieces so you will get 52 Good Ones.  It’s not as hard as it might sound if you follow the ideas below…

gps-SpeakerMarketing Number 1First, start by creating one for each month.  Some of these could be simply encouragement to your list to keep them motivated and making progress applying the ideas that you have already sent.  Some may be seasonal or holiday related.  The holidays are going to come every year so why not build them into your content plan.  It should be easy to create 12 piece of content that will get you started.

number 2Second, once you have your first 12 done you could lay out 12 more articles about the “Key Basics” or set up monthly Themes / Topics.  If one article is particularly long (more than 600 words) you might consider breaking it up into a “series“.  If you do, be sure to build in some teasers for future articles or even some “cliff hanger” questions to keep the interest high for the next part of the series.

number threeThird, with 24 pieces done, you can now think about what “New stuff” will need to be sent to your list.  What will be happening in the industry that your list will want to stay on top of?  What are you working on that will help them be more successful?  You may combine this with some surveys in the first few months followed by progress reports in later months.  One of my favorite lists to be on is from Pat Flynn over at  He posts his “Monthly Income Report” where he explains how he grew his income or the challenges he faced each month.  It is an interesting list to be part of and you should definitely check it out.

number fourFourth, with 36 pieces done, you can now kick it into high gear and do some research and create some amazing articles or position papers or “white papers” or just some great, in depth information that you find interesting and your audience will as well.  Keep in mind that you only need to create one per month to keep up with your yearly plan.  Start by thinking of titles that will draw in readers and then go out and build the articles/papers/programs/series.  This is where you set yourself apart from other experts by going the extra mile and discovering some great stuff for your audience.

number fiveFifth, with up to 48 pieces so far, this is where it gets FUN (or even more fun since you probably enjoyed all the interesting stuff you came up with in steps 1-4).  This is where you construct your offers and make your money.  It should also be where you really let you personality shine.  And example of something you could send to your list would be an article that starts “A funny thing happened to me…” and tell about what you learned, experienced or just found interesting.  These “personality pieces” can really help you strengthen the connection you have with the subscribers on your list.


One more Secret for writing Great Content…
“Write for One”

While you may have hundreds or thousands on your mailing list, be sure to remember that every reader is ONE PERSON.  You should have a picture of a person in your mind that is your “model reader” and write as if you are talking directly to them.  The names will change but your tone will help you connect with each person on your list in a more personal way such that they will want to open your emails in the future.


What’s Next in the
List Building Secrets program?

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