Almost Famous

My son Evan is famous. Here’s what happened…

About a month ago, Evan and three of his 15-year-old friends got together on a Saturday afternoon and decided to make a movie. Using a digital video camera and thankfully not my basement, they spent most of the weekend making a 55 second epic.

That Sunday evening around 7pm (prime time for high school freshman computer users), they posted it on Evan’s Facebook page. Within minutes, they had several comments, and, according to Evan, many more the next day at school.

And so the following weekend, they made another movie (“Suburban Disturbance“). This one was longer, more technically complicated and shot in more than one location. Sunday evening at 7pm, they posted again. More buzz, more interest.

Last weekend they took it up another notch entirely, with the release of “My Date,” adding costumes, fire, a moving vehicle, cross-dressing (don’t ask) and even a plot. This time, on Sunday at 7pm, kids were waiting by their computers. That Monday afternoon at school, the buzz had grown so large that the boys had to be escorted out of the building by two uniformed police officers.

Okay, I totally made that last part up. But you get the picture… lots of interest in the student body.

Some (actual) highlights from the past 30 days:

  • Over 100 kids from Evan’s class have posted comments about the videos on his Facebook page. Many are now clamoring to appear in future episodes.
  • Several people in town have gone out of their way to mention the videos to my wife Linda and me, some of whom don’t even have kids in high school.
  • The teacher who runs the film program at the high school got wind of the videos, sought out the boys, and wants them to enter a local film competition.

“So what?”, you ask. So this. What’s happened to Evan and his friends over the past month has everything to do with your E-Newsletter. Because when you look at the impact they’ve had, you’ll notice two important things:

  1. You can’t force a following. They didn’t promote the videos, they just started posting them. Kids found them, liked them, and told other kids.

    Here in E-Newsletter Land, people are always asking me the same question: “How do we grow the size of our subscriber list?” My answer is always the same: “Who let you into my office?”

    Ha, ha! I am kidding. My answer is always: “Write something that your target audience wants to read and word will spread.”

    The Evan Boys aren’t creating their videos as a means to an end, they’re just trying to create great videos. See if you can approach your E-Newsletter in the same way.

  1. List size doesn’t matter; talking to the right people does. 100 kids doesn’t sound like a very big number. Until you realize that those 100 kids represent 40% of the entire Hopkinton, Massachusetts freshman class. In terms of getting the attention of the right audience (for them), these four boys are airing the SuperBowl every Sunday night.

    Now look at your newsletter. Are readers eagerly awaiting your next issue? Are they telling other people about it? Are they sending you feedback, making suggestions, clamoring to be included in future editions?

    Until these kinds of things are happening with your newsletter, don’t bother trying to grow your list. It doesn’t matter. What you need are fans… not politely tolerant recipients. Because when it comes to generating actual clients for your actual business who will pay you actual money, ten of the former will outperform ten thousand of the latter.

    Before you worry about making your list larger, figure out which narrow slice of the universe you’re trying to influence. Then provide content that those people will anticipate, read and pass along. Fans.

Here’s the bottom line. When it comes to your E-Newsletter, see if you can approach it more like a bunch of high school kids trying to stand out on Monday morning, and less like a marketer trying to sneak into someone’s in-box. I know you want to grow your business, but until you can crack the code on what your readers want to read, you’ll remain invisible.

As for The Evan Boys and their video fame, I have no idea how long it will last. I’m just glad they’ve felt what it’s like to touch a nerve and develop a following. Once you’ve experienced that – whether in growing a business or simply growing a high school reputation – there’s no settling for anything less.

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