How to Keep Building the Relationship with Your Audience When You’re No Longer the One Answering Every Email and Call
When Mirasee, an online education company for business owners, was first founded (and called Firepole Marketing), founder Danny Iny was thoroughly involved in every aspect of the company.
Its baseline, the blog, was filled with articles he wrote – mostly revealing the behind the scenes of his marketing strategies, what helped him grow the business and what failed – but also personal posts about his personal journey and life milestones.
In an article published in September 2017, approximately 7 years after he launched the business, Iny wrote that, back at the beginning, he was “much more personally connected to our audience. I answered every email myself and knew many of our audience members by name.”
But now he has an audience of 100,000 people, and two little kids at home.
“As our team grew and my role shifted from frontman entrepreneur to coordinating CEO, some of my old patterns were assigned to members of my team. Others [like writing regularly for the blog] just fell by the wayside. Too much to do, too little time,” he wrote.
If you relate, know that this isn’t the end of the story.
Whether you hire in-house or outsource your customer service, there are many ways to stay connected to your audience.
Let’s explore some of these ways, including what Iny himself did when he realized he needed to regain that connection – the magic of his company, as he calls it – with his audience.
We’ll be using mostly examples in video format, so that it’s easy and fun for you to explore them, but, of course, everything we cover today is applicable in text and audio formats as well.
Set Regular or Random Office Hours, When They CAN Call You Directly
As your business grows, there’s just no way for you to answer every comment, email or phone call, or you would never get any other work done, let alone get any sleep.
But you could set office hours – even if it’s just one hour a week – when you answer phone calls from your audience. You could limit it to email subscribers, or even paying customers, so it’s a premium offer only to people who have shown interest in a deeper relationship with you.
But if even that feels like too much at the moment, there’s another option – make it random.
For example, one time Carol Tice, founder of Make a Living Writing, had a long commute, she emailed her subscribers with her phone number, and said she’ll take 10 minute calls with whoever called her first.
If you don’t want to give an email list of tens or hundreds of thousands of people your phone number, there’s another way to do this, that we’ll cover later in this article, so keep reading.
Answer Comments Online, But Be Strategic About Which Ones
Another option is to show up where your current audience is already hanging out, and potential new audience members might be checking out too – the comment sections on your blog and social media accounts.
If you’ve already built an engaged following, chances are you get comments on your company’s content across the web, but it might be too much for one person to handle on this front as well.
You could decide that you’re responding to comments, just not every comment.
Commit to answering the first 10-20 comments on each channel, or one channel that matters to you most. You could do it every day or once a week.
But, as Roberto Blake, founder of Create Awesome Media, explains in the video below, telling your audience that you’ll be available to answer their comments in the first hour a post goes live on your most important channels can help these channels grow.
According to Blake, the amount of engagement your post gets on the first hour on platforms like YouTube and Instagram can impact the post’s chances of success.
Regardless of social media metrics, knowing that you’ll be available in one or two places online to answer questions for a limited time can encourage a larger part of your audience to participate in the conversation, thus strengthening their emotional relationship with your brand, while keeping you connected to them as well.
Use These Strategies to Become an Audience Mind Reader, and Use Their Phrasing in Your Marketing Messages, so it’ll Feel Like You’re Talking to Them One on One
If you’ve built a successful business to the point where you can afford to share the workload with others, you probably have some pretty good insights about your audience and customers.
But, as Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income, says in the next video, “you might know what your audience wants, but if you might know, you don’t know enough. You need to know for sure who your audience is, and what it is that they’re looking for, what is it that they’re struggling with, and also what is the language that they’re using.”
“That last part is really important,” he added, “because that’s going to help you determine the headlines for emails and subject lines for blog posts… or vice versa… and also the copy that you’re going to have in your sales copy for whatever it is that you’re promoting.”
That’s why, as he reviewed a book about surveys in the video below, he encouraged his audience to use deep-dive surveys. Yes, have some bullet point questions, where audience members can choose their answers from several options, but also leave room for open-ended questions, where audience members can write their own answers from scratch.
Watch the video to see how even Flynn, who’s got such a great relationship with his audience, that some of them are raving fans, discovered he didn’t know enough about them before running his latest survey.
As you can see, Flynn is now segmenting his audience deeper, and writing copy that’s more accurate to their needs.
While the connection isn’t one on one anymore – in February 2017, Flynn revealed in one of his tutorials that he has about 180,000 email subscribers, and in March 2018, he celebrated 100,000 YouTube subscribers – it often feels personal to his audience members, who remain highly engaged with anything he and his team send them.
As you can see in minute 14:00 of the following video, his email open rates are significantly higher than industry standards – 58.4-82.3% in one of his audience buckets vs. the industry standard of 10-15%.
In minute 16:41, he shows the open rates of another list segment. The lowest performing email we see got 35.9% open rates, and the best performing one – the first in the sequence – got 77.1%. The rest of the emails are mostly in the 50s and 60s.
In minute 17:25, you can see how he used audience answers – their actual words – in the first email of the sequence, to confirm to new subscribers of this segment that they’re in the right place, and to empower them to keep engaging with the company.
(Side note: Watch the last 5 seconds of the video, too, if you want to hear Flynn rap a CTA to watch the next video).
Solve a Common Problem for One Audience Member… in Front of Everybody Else
As you can see, doing “voice of customer” research can be very powerful. Surveys is one way to discover what your audience is thinking and how they’re phrasing their challenges and needs, but there are other ways.
You could have your team mine the comments, emails and calls your business receives for repetitive topics.
Then, choose one or several audience members that asked a question that’s relevant for the rest of your audience, that’s phrased in a way your audience can relate to, and highlight them.
There are several ways to do it.
Here are three of the popular ones:
Conduct Q&A Sessions
One popular way to do it is by doing Q&A videos, podcasts and blog posts.
Check out, for example, how personal finance and lifestyle YouTubers Tasha and Joseph, founders of the rapidly growing One Big Happy Life brand, analyzed a viewer’s situation to help her come up with a solution to a challenge: At 53, should she save for retirement or pay off student loans?
The couple explained their answer while emphasizing some principles they continuously teach on the channel – some of which are quite the opposite of other, more popular approaches in the personal finance space – so they can serve a larger audience while answering this one viewer’s question.
As the couple explains, they see many of the viewer comments, and try to answer as many as possible, yet they understand the majority of their audience misses out on these answers, because most people don’t go back to read comments from past videos if it’s not their own channel. So this way, it’s a win-win situation.
You can dive into one question per video, podcast episode or blog post, or do a roundup of questions, where you answer a bunch of people’s questions one after the other.
To make it feel more personal and authentic, mention the person’s name (or user name) before reading their question, and consider including a screenshot of the email or comment you’re responding to for further proof that a real audience member asked this question. This might be problematic to do on podcasts, but will be great for other content formats.
Of course, make sure you don’t reveal anything personal, like their email address or phone number, and, if it’s a sensitive issue, like the one in the video above, consider protecting your audience member’s anonymity further, as Tasha and Joseph did, and change their names (or, at least, don’t use their names without their permission).
Provide Free Consultations, and Record Them for Everyone to See
Whether you’re a fashion expert or a programming expert, chances are there’s something you can teach your audience to do better. In that case, you can take it a step beyond Q&As and do a 30 or 60 minute consultation session with one of your audience members – while recording it for everyone else in your audience to see or hear.
Derral Eves, a YouTube and video marketing expert, who’s helped both large companies and independent creators grow on YouTube, has a few consultations like that available on his YouTube channel.
Even though the content is specific to one creator’s success goals and audience, if you’re someone who wants to grow your presence on YouTube, there’s a lot you can learn from these sessions, especially if you watch more than one.
As an audience member, you get the feeling of going behind the scenes and listening in on a professional consultation with one of your favorite thought leaders, who you might not be able to access one on one.
Want to see it in action?
Check out Eves’ in-depth YouTube evaluation and strategy session with That Santa Guy:
Integrate Your As to Their Qs into Your Regular Content
Let’s look at an example from a smaller YouTube channel, Phill Our Home, where the Phillips family shares their lives as a foster, adoptive and biological family, “answering questions, raising awareness and providing an inside look,” as they describe it on their YouTube “about” page.
The Phillips vlog their way as a foster family – anything from how they make decisions about which foster kids to take, through the struggles and joys of everyday life, to saying goodbye to the kids when they go back to their birth family, or head to another foster home.
The Phillips spend much of their vlogs talking directly to the camera and sharing updates on what’s going on. In the following video, they do exactly that, but also integrate an answer to a question they got repeatedly since announcing their two previous foster daughters were moving to a new home – why do foster kids move from home to home?
As you can see, while the Phillips didn’t include any audience member names (you could mention a few names for greater personalization, but again, mind people’s safety in sensitive issues), it was an easy way to answer this repetitive question.
Similarly, if you have a software company and everyone keeps emailing you with questions about when a certain feature will be available, or why another feature doesn’t work, you can address it as the business owner on your vlog, blog or Twitter account, so that your audience members will know you still hear them, even though other people now answer your emails.
Be in the Same Virtual Room as Your Audience and Answer Their Questions in Real Time
After publishing that blog post exploring the changes Mirasee (previously Firepole Marketing) has seen as it grew, and as its founder, Danny Iny, was no longer as directly involved with the audience, Iny found new ways to reconnect with his audience.
One of those ways was going back to him hosting free webinars. His audience could attend from the comfort of their homes and ask him questions directly.
While we don’t have a recording of that first webinar after the article was published, if you want to see the deep, practical level Iny goes into in his teaching, check out this two hour webinar below that he did for another company about creating and monetizing online courses, even if you’re starting from scratch (the actual practical training starts at minute 22:51).
As you’ll see, even though the webinar was conducted in order to introduce a paid program at the end of it, Iny doesn’t only give an enormous amount of value – enough for you to see results, whether or not you pay for the program – but he also gives the audience exercises to do right then and there, and then he coaches a couple of people live – and that’s besides the quick polls he conducts throughout the presentation, to keep the audience engaged and connected with him.
And yes, if you watch the first few minutes, he did just offer $100 to anyone who was fully present in the *free* webinar and did all the exercises, but wasn’t satisfied with what s/he learned. It’s something that he does with his paid programs – offering a money compensation on top of the usual money back guarantee to anyone who does the work yet doesn’t see results – so that’s part of his brand messaging.
If you can and want to do the same, wonderful, but it’s not a requirement. If you watch this entire training, you’ll know that the value he gives is incredibly high quality and helpful, and that’s all the audience really wants.
A webinars is the closest thing you could do to being in a room with your audience, because they usually happen live and give your audience direct access to you.
Thankfully, there are simpler ways to do it now, as practically every social media platform lets you go live whenever you want.
This is a great way to combine some of the strategies we covered today, because you can run live online events that focus on Q&As, mini one on one coaching sessions, or teach something you think would might raise some questions, then stick around and answer them.
These can be regularly scheduled sessions, irregular events that happen every so often, or, if your schedule is too overwhelming, just pop up when you have a little downtime, like travel blogger Kate McCulley, founder of Adventurous Kate, did on Facebook one time she got stuck in traffic.
Check out the video !
And a little public service announcement before we close: It goes beyond saying that you shouldn’t risk your life to answer audience questions.
McCulley did this live Facebook Q&A as the passenger in the car, not the driver. We all want to be there for our audience as much as possible, but please make sure you’re there for them long term by not trying to go live while you’re driving.
You Don’t Have to Answer Every Email or Call Yourself to Keep the Relationship with Your Audience Alive (But Make Sure Somebody Does)
Even if you feel guilty at first, understand that it’s OK to get help with emails, calls and comments, so you can grow into the visionary that drives the business forward and makes a bigger impact on the world. You can’t do that if you do everything yourself.
But that doesn’t mean you forget that the bond with your audience and your customers is what brought you here, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them as much as you once did.
As you can see, growing and fully-scaled business owners everywhere are getting creative about how they keep building that special bond with the audience, while having other team members in the background, making sure as many audience members as possible receive a personal response.
So even though you can no longer serve each one of your people personally yourself, you can keep the magic, as Iny calls it, alive.
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