How email helped Entrepreneurs On Fire hit 1 million monthly downloads

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John Lee Dumas knew he needed to know more about the people who were listening to his business podcast when he started Entrepreneurs On Fire in 2012. So, he turned to email.

The decision to start an email newsletter was one of his earliest, well before most of his 2,000 episodes hit the airwaves. His motivation? To broaden his reach by turning what had been a podcast monologue into a two-way dialogue, Dumas said.

That decision paid off.

Dumas sent his first email newsletter to 34 people in 2012. Today, that list has thousands of subscribers. And the podcast? Entrepreneurs On Fire now boasts 1 million downloads a month.

Dumas, a recent guest on rasa.io’s Pushing Send podcast, noted there was plenty of trial and error along the way. He described his initial approach to newsletter writing like “throwing a ton of wet pieces of pasta at a wall.” He started to track open rates and click-throughs to see what topics connected with people. Over time, a picture of his audience emerged, he said.

“Every time I had a dud, I would take note of why that was a dud and why that didn’t work,” Dumas said. “Slowly, but surely, I was understanding what my audience was looking for… what they needed from email.”

Getting inspiration from others

Dumas drew inspiration from business podcasters Pat Flynn and Chris Brogan, and their individual email newsletters before starting his own.

Listening to their podcasts “was a very passive, amazing way to get great content, but it was when I got their emails, that’s when I really realized that, ‘Oh, this is really how the magic happens,’” Dumas said.

Dumas recommends looking to others in your segment to inspire your own email marketing efforts, including email newsletters. Look at what your peers are doing, and ask:

> How are they communicating with their audience?

> How are they staying in touch and engaged?

> How are they going the extra mile to build a bond?

> What are they promising to their audience?

> How are they fulfilling on that commitment?

Actively gathering feedback

A lot of businesses struggle with the feeling that they’re speaking into a void. Often that’s because they’re not actively seeking audience feedback, Dumas said.

Consider how people interact with your product or service to determine how and when to seek their feedback. Podcast listeners, for example, are often consuming content while doing something else—driving, walking the dog, working out—leaving them unable to share a reaction with the podcast host in the moment.

Dumas said Entrepreneur On Fire’s email newsletter strategy evolved as a way to reignite the conversation while listeners were sitting in front of their computer and sifting through their inbox.

“There’s that reply button that you can click right there,” Dumas said. “That’s a really easy and quick way to just be like, ‘Yeah, I’m just gonna reply right now.’”

To be sure, most people you email won’t hit reply. You may go long stretches with no responses at all. But the payoff is big when you do get an answer, Dumas said.
“One thing that really surprised me when I was getting my first email replies was the length of them,” he said. “I was just assuming that people were going to kind of read these emails, maybe give a one- or two-word reply, if that.”

He remembered one reply that spanned multiple pages and took a considerable amount of time to read.

“I couldn’t believe the intimacy and the time and the energy you’re putting into replying,” Dumas said.

Preserving your voice

Dumas continues to write email newsletters himself now several years into the process. The reason? He wants the voice and tone of the newsletter to be consistent with the podcast. The best way to do that is to continue writing, he said.

Dumas encourages businesses to invest in shaping and preserving voice and personality in their outreach.

“I definitely have a certain personality that [listeners have] come to know. Hopefully some of them know and trust that,” Dumas said. “I want that theme and that personality and that overall vibe to stay true throughout the process.”

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