[Podcast] Pushing Send – Episode 7 with John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas

Ever wonder how you can use your email newsletter to move audience members from passive listening to deeper engagement? Today’s guest, a prolific business podcaster, John Lee Dumas, shares his earliest experience sending an email newsletter and how he used it to grow his online platform.

John is the founder and host of the award-winning Entrepreneurs On Fire Podcast where he interviews inspiring entrepreneurs to help them on their entrepreneurial journeys. He has interviewed over 2,000 incredible entrepreneurs, including Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Barbara Corcoran, Tim Ferriss, and many more. In today’s episode, we talk all about John’s initial email Newsletter experience and how it has evolved through the years. We also discuss how John has used different avenues to grow his email list, the importance of capturing emails, and how John applied what he observed from other podcasters to his own email communication stream to help grow his business. Stay tuned for an insightful conversation with John Lee Dumas on turning your listeners into subscribers.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How long John has been publishing their Entrepreneurs On Fire email Newsletter.
  • The specific content and what the newsletter looked like and sound like back then.
  • What email responses looked like and why it was different than it is today.
  • How John handled the long email responses and deep engagement from listeners.
  • What John believes is the difference between emails and the podcast.
  • The importance of capturing emails from your podcast audience for growth.
  • How John applied what he had learned from other podcasters to his email communication.
  • John shares his initial lead magnet to grow his email list.
  • How John incorporated his courses to grow his email list.
  • John’s approach to keeping his brand authentic to his own personality and voice.
  • What his business and day-to-day look like today.

Tweetables:

“Email has been like my lifeblood into my audience because I get over a million listens of the podcast a month and podcasting is a very passive form of consuming content.” — @johnleedumas

“You’ve got to be really intentional. Email gave me a direct link to their lives by pressing the send button and getting the content straight to their inbox.” — @johnleedumas

“Sometimes with podcasting — you are absolutely speaking to a black hole and sometimes you wonder, ‘Do these people exist?’ Because you don’t often hear from them, they’re not engaging — and that’s one of podcaster’s biggest struggles.” — @johnleedumas

“You own your email list. Build your email list!” — @johnleedumas

 

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Episode Transcript

John:
Email has been like my lifeblood into my audience because I get over a million listings of the podcast a month and podcasting, it’s just a very passive form of consuming content. There’s no easy way to respond. Like you’ve got to really be intentional and to get home from whatever activity you were doing after listening to the podcast and the load of your computer and go to that person’s website, find what you want to do in the contact form and do all these different things. Whereas with email like that just gave me this direct link of being like, you know what? I’m going to reach into your lives by pressing the send button. And you are going to get this content into your inbox. I don’t have to wait for you to press a play button on your podcast player to hear from me.

Bryan:
From rasa.io, the free tool for sending smarter and better email newsletters. This is Pushing Send a show, featuring people who send emails. Their subscribers actually want to read. I’m Bryan Kelly and on today’s show how one prolific business podcaster with over 2000 published episodes and 1 million downloads per month utilized his email newsletter to move audience members from passive listening to deeper engagement. Here’s John Lee Dumas sharing his earliest experience, sending an email newsletter. How long have you been publishing the fire nation email newsletter that accompanies your entrepreneurs on fire podcast? Since the very start?

John:
Yeah, I launched it from the very beginning. I can still remember so clearly like setting up my, a Weber campaign being so confused. It was so different and janky and just like all over the place. And that first email went out and I was like, Oh my God, like I just sent an email to like 34 people. That’s unbelievable. And then I remember, so clearly I got my first unsubscribe and I was like, so debt I’m like, why would somebody unsubscribe? I worked so hard in that email. And then like, I went to like, look at the reason why they unsubscribed was they collected, leave it. And the person just wrote something like, no worries. I subscribed with two email addresses by accident. And I was like, Oh, vindication. I’m so thankful that it wasn’t something that I wrote.

Bryan:
What was the specific content you were sending back then? What did it look like? What did it sound like?

John:
Back then? It was really raw. Like it was just me being out there saying, Hey, this is what I’m doing. This is what I’m trying. These are things that I’m screwing up. And there is an endless amount of content there for emails, for sure. It was really just kind of me throwing a ton of pieces of wet pasta at a wall. And a couple of them would stick and I’d be like, Oh, that email kind of connected with people was I would see the open rates from the subject line or like the click through rates. And I would really just try to start to piece things together. And every time I had a dud, I would take note of why that was a dud and why that didn’t work. And slowly but surely, I was just kind of understanding what at least my audience was looking for, what they wanted, what they needed from email.

Bryan:
Do you remember any of the early email replies you were receiving from people as you started growing your business?

John:
One thing that really surprised me when I was getting my first initial email replies was the length of them, like how long people were replying, because I was just assuming that people were going to kind of read these emails, maybe give like a one or two word reply, if that at all. But back in 2012, I mean, there just wasn’t this massive proliferation of spammy email and just everybody having a newsletter and all this and that like every single day of the week overload, like it wasn’t like 1998 when Gary Vaynerchuk talks about 90% open rates, but it wasn’t 2020 either when, you know, we’re just like so overloaded with everything from every direction. So what surprised me was the length of some of the emails that I would get. Like, I can remember this one person just replying to me and literally it was pages and pages. And I was like, Ooh, look at this. I mean, like, I want responses like this, but at the same time, this is going to take me like half an hour to read. And it was just crazy to me that one person was spent so much time knowing that they were just emailing one person. Like I got the fact that when I got up to like a few thousand emails, but I was spending a lot of time on because this going out to a few thousand people, but this person either replying to one person, I just couldn’t believe like the intimacy and the time the energy you’re putting into replying to just meet just one person. And I was really, really surprised. And then I kind of felt obligated to go in depth with my response as well. So not only the time to me writing the initial email and then getting this unbelievably lengthy response and then having to read it and then having to respond to it. I’m like, man, I think I may have to like stop podcasting and just start responding to emails. This is all I have time for.

Bryan:
Well, it’s incredible to get that type of deep engagement from subscribers, but it’s clear how overwhelming that might be too. So how did you handle those messages?

John:
So I responded and I did realize that it was one of those things where if I really went with a lengthy in depth response, that I would just continue this kind of communication. So I did have to learn, even though if it seems like it wasn’t the kindest thing to do to be very grateful and thankful for the person upfront, of course, for emailing me, but at the end of the day, very short, somewhat terse and really, and realistically like an obvious close to the conversation by being like so best of luck, everything and thank you for listening and yada yada yada. So that was something that I realized I had to do where I just couldn’t become like this individual who was sending out a thousand emails on a broadcast and then spending hours and hours and hours handcrafting, these replies, it was just kind of now turning into kind of like this pen pal relationship type of thing. So that was a lesson I definitely learned early on that, you know, there’s definitely some people out there that rightfully so look at email as a very intimate form of communication. And a lot of them find it easy or either get on a roll and just start sharing their life story. And you know, a lot of them want to kind of keep that communication going.

Bryan:
Your success is built on the deep relationship with your podcast audience. So, how you’re utilizing email is really interesting. What do you feel is the difference between email and the podcast ?

John:
You are getting like sometimes instant responses from people who are just going in depth and really sharing a lot of things where sometimes with podcasting, like you are absolutely speaking to a black hole and sometimes you wonder like, yeah, I’m seeing the lessons in the dollar numbers, but do these people exist because I’m not really hearing from them. They’re not engaging. And that’s one of Podcaster’s biggest struggles is sometimes they feel like they’re speaking into a void and they’re not getting that feedback because it’s just a different way of communication. Like when you’re listening to a podcast, you’re driving in a car, you’re crushing it, the gym you’re walking your dog, there’s no reply button right there. Like you have to actually be very intentional at a time in the future to go and respond to somebody. And that usually life takes over. But when you’re sitting in front of your computer, reading an email and there’s that reply button that you can click right there, that’s a really easy and quick way to just be like, yeah, I’m just gonna reply right now. And boom, off to the races.

Bryan:
When we come back, John describes how folks like Pat Flynn from the smart, passive income podcast were major influence when it came to handling email. Plus John explains why he still writes his email newsletters today, despite building a team that handles many of their aspects of running his business. I’m Bryan Kelly, and you’re listening to Pushing Send from rasa.io.

rasa.io:
Creating email newsletters takes a lot of time. You might curate articles, write content, tweak your template, and look up metrics. And not to mention, you’re probably doing all of this once a week. well at rasa.io, we said enough and built a free tool to simplify the process, which saves you time. It also uses AI to personalize emails for each subscriber based on their interests. That means they get stuff they like to read. Want to see how it works. Visit www.rasa.io and click how it works.

Bryan:
Yes. Welcome back to Pushing Send. I’m Bryan Kelly, John Lee Dumas started his podcast in 2012 with a hope and a dream. In fact, his big ambitions led him to quickly learn how to grow and engage a massive audience. But John had some help along the way and began to understand that while building a podcast audience was important capturing their email addresses was even more critical. Here’s John recalling key influences he’s had along the way on his journey. How did you understand that email was going to be instrumental in your growth?

John:
It really came from observing others. I was on Pat Flynn’s email newsletter list. I was on Chris Brogan’s email newsletter list, like people that I looked up to and admired, and that were doing really well in the industry. I said, wow, like, how are they communicating with their audience? How are they staying in touch and engaged? Like how are they actually going that extra mile to build that bond and to really make that commitment that they are promising to their audience? How are they fulfilling on that commitment? And, you know, I would listen to Chris’s podcast. I listen to Pat’s podcasts and it was great and it 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, like, this is really how the magic happens. Like this is where I can hit reply and get back into Chris and Pat’s inbox. This is where they can reach out to me with a timely call to action, with an opportunity for an offer or a product or a service, or to join a community. Like that’s where I really saw the light was by studying others that I looked up to and admired. And then I said, Hey, I’m going to implement this into my day to day into my business.

Bryan:
Back in those early days, learning from folks like Pat Flynn and Chris Brogan, what was it like taking what you saw them doing and figuring out what your personal approach

John:
I was converted? I mean, for a couple of years at that point, I had been consuming all of the podcasts, you know, for Pat, from Chris, from Andrew Warner mixer G. And you know, if there’s one thing that was consistent, especially back in those days, it was like, email is how you communicate with your audience. Email is what you own. We can’t take that away from you. There’s not going to be a Google Panda update. There’s not going to be some Facebook algorithm change. It’s like you own your email list, build your email list. So I went in day one, converted. It was always a focus of mine. In fact, I remember super clearly in blog world 2012, which was June of 2012, took place in New York city. I was so fresh on the scene. I was still three months, Bryan, away from launching entrepreneurs on fire. So it was way prelaunch, but Jamie Masters was my mentor and she strongly encouraged me slash forced me to go. And so I went and I knew I was going to enjoy it. And I’ll never forget that in the back of the room. And I raised my hand when it was Pat’s turned speak and he asked for questions and Pat said, Hey you in the back, come on up here. And I went up and I asked my question, which was, Hey, I’m about to launch my podcast. What would be a great lead magnet for me to, um, start getting email addresses so that I can start building my email list. And he was just like, well, let’s talk about this. And long story short, we came up with the idea that since I was about to be interviewing all these successful entrepreneurs, that my lead magnets on my website front and center right there at the top was going to be the top 20 tips from the top 20 entrepreneurs. And so that for the longest time was my lead magnet for entrepreneurs on fire.com, EO fire.com, because that was the conversation I had with Pat and I, you know, I really looked up to him and respected him and he gave that great piece of advice and guidance since that for years was like my focal point of growing my email list.

Bryan:
Now, if I’m correct, you’ve got a couple of email courses people can sign up for how impactful have those been to increasing your email list?

John:

Yeah, it’s been massive. I literally use that as the top of every one of my funnels. So I have a podcasting funnel. I have a revenue course funnel. I have a funnel on how to create funnels. I have a mastermind funnel. I have a funnel on your big idea, like all of these different funnels all start with email. And then the actual course is delivered via email with calls to action or where they can go to watch that next tutorial. And then of course the upsell or whatever the offer is going to be is delivered via email as well. And that’s the entire process. And it’s just always been very good because it’s great to, to have like this kind of drip sequence campaign for bringing people through a course through a process, and then also the followup campaign for those people that don’t make that leap in, jump into whatever that offer that upsell that course might be. So I’ve always used email in a very effective way. I love how you can really study analytics and see which emails are getting opened, which ones are getting clicks, how you can tweak subject lines and get improvements on those things and try different optimization techniques and all these different things. You can just get some great data from that. Now at the end of the day, you still had their email address. And that’s a very valuable thing.

Bryan:
With those email course, drip sequences. Did you bring in an outside copywriter or were you involved in developing the strategy, maybe even writing those messages?

John:
So I write the content for all of them just because my attitude is like, I do it one time and it’s, they’re meant to live for a long time. Now there are tweaks that I will do them from time to time. Like I mentioned, as we’re kind of like studying the analytics, but the reality is I know a lot of people come to our brand and to our business and into our email sequences from entrepreneurs on fire, the podcast. And, you know, I definitely have a certain personality that they’ve come to know. And hopefully some of them know like, and trust that. And I kind of want just that theme and that personality and that’s just overall vibe to stay true throughout the process. So I feel like if I’m writing, it’s, it’s staying true to whatever personality that they may have been drawn to through the podcast. And I kind of want to see that all the way through. So I write the contents, I write the copy, you know, I, I’ve always enjoyed writing. In fact, writing my first traditionally published book right now, which is turning out to be quite a process, but you know, it’s going to be over 50,000 words and I’ve always enjoyed writing and never really dreaded or struggled looking at a blank page or a blank email. It’s always been something that you don’t have taken pride in and definitely taken my time and, you know, tried to craft, hone and improve my skills over the years.

Bryan:
That’s great because with a business like yours, it’s so rooted in your personality, and this approach captures your authentic voice. So how did things transition from you being the one, doing all the work to now, handing a lot of it off to others.

John:
It was a process of building the team. You know, at first it was really just me. I was entrepreneurs on fire. I was the person having to figure out and integrate aWeber. I was a person that had to like do all of these different parts of the business and then slowly but surely I brought on a virtual assistants and then a second one, and then Kate join me, you know, about seven or eight months into the business, which has really elevated the level of professional ism. That’s, you know, I was trying to bring with entrepreneurs on fire that really kind of allowed us to up level our game. But I will say that, you know, pretty early on, I read Russell Brunson’s book, dotcom secrets and dotcom secrets was really big eyeopener for me because he talks a lot about what he calls the Seinfeld sequence when it comes to emails about how a lot of people are scared to email their audience once a week or twice a week. Cause I think they’re just bugging them. And he said, listen, if people think they’re bugging you, they’ll either one, they won’t open the email or to the lone subscribe, or they’ll just say them up and they’ll open them all at once and they’ll read them then like it’s, it’s not your job to make assumptions about people that are subscribed to your email list. You need to email them every single day. So for a really long time, I actually took that advice and I spent a good amount of time on a daily basis crafting an email, not like the super long email, but just like something like, it was basically like a message to my audience of inspiration and motivation thought, provoking sharing a failure, a struggle, an obstacle, a challenge, like whatever it was for that day for a long time, it was me tracking this email and then sending it out and like, yes, we had other bigger broadcast emails and you’re promoting our webinars or somebody else’s launch or their course or whatever that might be.

John:
But, you know, I had these kind of quote unquote Seinfeld emails. I’ve just like everyday emails. Cause I really did connect with what Russell said, what, which was these people subscribed because they want to hear from you. Like they want to be part of your life, bring them in, make them part of your life. And those are one unsubscribe. They really were that valuable anyways. And I really kind of adopted that mentality for years. And, you know, as a result, like I’ve really had spectacular open rates and click through rates and a lot of great engagement and replies and interactions. You know, I had a couple emails that I literally had thousands of replies to like thousands of responses. And those were kind of like my quote unquote glory days and became the email.

Bryan:
So what does it look like today? Right now

John:
The past few years, you know, I’ve just shifted things. I mean, we’ve, you know, a bit of business has been running for eight years now, seven of those years, we’ve netted seven figures of revenue. I moved down to Puerto Rico four years ago almost to the day, which means I’ve only been paying 4% tax on all of my corporate earnings since 2016. So like my war chest has just continued to grow and not going to lie. Like there’s some things that I’ve become a little lazy on and some things that I’ve shifted my focus to, like, as you evolved in that manner where I’m like no longer sitting down and like writing emails every single day, absolutely not every couple of weeks something might hit me and I sit down and write an email. Absolutely. And I’ll send it out and it’ll be fine. But for that part, it is mostly more on that structured level of just, Hey, what’s going on in our world with the podcast, with any promotions that we’re doing, you know, the glory days of, of my waking up every day, knowing I was going to write a short but sweet and hopefully powerful email to my audience are gone, but they were good days.

Bryan:
John Lee Dumas has an incredible story, but by examining just this one aspect of his business, how he approaches his email newsletter hopefully helps you re-examine priorities around email in your business. Now John runs a personality driven enterprise. So what if you’re a brand? Coming up on our next episode, we’ll hear from Bill Macitis, a marketing executive who’s led growth at three of the fastest growing software companies, Slack, Zendesk, and Salesforce. Bill describes some of the essential ways a rapidly growing B2B company can be both genuine and sincere through email communication. I’m Bryan Kelly, and you’ve been listening to Pushing Send from rasa.io.

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