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How to choose an audience for your email list

Written by Justin on November 13, 2013

Back in 2012, Amy Hoy gave me some hard (but needed) criticism:

“Justin, your blog is unfocused. You’re talking about everything! As a reader I don’t care about you; I only care about my problems. Who is your blog for? What do they need?”

Ouch.

But you know what? She was right. Go back and look at my old posts on justinjackson.ca. I talk about the AppleTV, photography, and even toilets. Yes, toilets.

It wasn’t until I started focusing on product entrepreneurs that my blog started to get traction.

This advice also holds true for email lists. Before you start your mailing list, you need to answer two important questions:

  1. Who is this for?
  2. What do they really need?

People don’t care about your problems, your dreams, or your outcomes.

They’re focused on their own issues. The key to a successful email list is choosing an audience you can speak to, and then finding their pain.

How do you choose an audience?

Again, Amy Hoy gave me great advice here: start with a group you’re already a part of. If your goal is to eventually launch a product to your mailing list, make sure that the group you choose also has money to spend.

Here’s an example of a good target group:

“I’m an executive who travels a lot, so I’m going to target business people who are new to international travel.” 

This group has money to spend (if you launch a product) and has a pain point you can help with.

Here are a few examples of bad target groups:

“I’m a college student, so I’m going to target college students who want to learn about investing in stocks.”

I’m surprised by the number of people I meet who want to launch lists and products for college students. If you’re looking for an audience to sell products to, college students are generally a bad market, because they don’t have very much disposable income.

“I’m a programmer, and I’d like to target real estate agents.”

Again, the number of people I meet who want to target real estate agents is surprising. Here’s the problem with this scenario: you’re a programmer. What do you have to say to real estate agents? Who are you going to more passionate about serving; other developers, or a bunch of salespeople? Which group can you provide value for right now?

Amy Hoy has a great quote on why all of this is important:

“If you start doing something that’s even remotely out of your zone, you’re discarding all the advantages you have. You have to use every single advantage you have, every single one. You have to be able to ‘punch above your weight’.  If you have a really powerful punch, you can punch above your weight. You can knock out somebody bigger than you.”

Here’s what I want you to do: write a list of the different groups that you belong to. Here’s mine:

That’s a long list! To trim it down, I asked these questions:

  1. In which of these groups do I have an unnatural advantage? For me, I decided to target product bootstrappers. I have an unnatural advantage in that I ran a podcast (called Product People), have an audience there, connections, and a lot of insight from people that would like to build and launch their own thing. I’ve also been working for a bootstrapped startup for the last 5 years. I understand the challenges and needs of this group!
  2. Which of these groups am I currently most excited about? Passion and excitement are like a magnet: when people sense your excitement about a topic, they’re more likely to listen.
  3. If your goal is to eventually sell a product: which of these groups has money to spend? When I chose my audience, I realized that there would be individuals willing to spend money on their product business (it’s a business expense) as well as the possibility to sell to teams who are bootstrapping.

Here’s your homework:

“My name is    (name)   . The audience I’m choosing is    (web designers)    who are    (just starting out)   , because    (I just finished my first 2 years and remember what it’s like)   .”

Cheers,
Justin Jackson
@mijustin

PS: I’m running a 7 day email course on building your list to 1,000. If you subscribe to my list below, I’d love to have you send me this “homework” directly so that we can chat about it. You’ll also get a printable PDF.  To join, subscribe below:

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