Why Adventurers need an Email List

Why don’t you have an email list running already?

If you do run an email newsletter and you are in the outdoor adventure space, pitch us your content in a comment and add your sign-up link. 

Your answer is probably one of the following:

  • Email is dead!!
  • Isn’t social media good enough?
  • It's just for people with product to flog! 
  • What would I say?

The no. 1 statement said by every person ever who started an email list is: why didn’t I do this sooner?

I cringe remembering how many people have passed through my life, people interested in what I do, and they have vanished because I made no effort to lasso their email information. Lists build over time, and by starting now, your future adventure you will be grateful. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t obstacles. This post is not about the detail of how to do it - the web is awash with information. This is about why you need to do it. 

But email is dead!!! 

In 2017, 269 billion emails a day are racing round the globe, used by3.7 billion people, and usage will grow at well over 4% a year. So says the Radicati Email Statistics Report, 2017-2021. If you are actively audience-building (and you should be, if you are taking your adventure career seriously) you need to offer an email option to those who use it. 

 Isn’t social media good enough?

Social media has two big drawbacks compared to an email list.

1. You don’t own the space or the followers - any social media platform can close down your account and/or change the algorithm so your followers don’t see your posts. 

2. Even if you are getting the best exposure allowed by the algorithm, social media feeds are a fast flowing river. Your post is swept away in minutes. 

Your email newsletter is sent to them personally and sits in their inbox waiting for them to take action. 

It's just for people with product to flog! 

You may not be selling now but you will be in the future. And when you are, you need a way to reconnect with all your past followers and well-wishers. The episodic nature of adventure makes it even more vital to find ways to stay in touch between projects. 

Remember too that email list subscribers are a superior class of follower. If you are use double opt-in sign-up procedures, rather than just adding email addresses to your newsletter list (which is in breach of data protection laws), you may get rather fewer addresses but the people who sign up really want to be on your list! 

It’s much more of a commitment than liking a Facebook page or clicking follow on Twitter or Instagram. 

Let's look at how email lists can help with some of our adventure funding streams:

1. Social Influence - it’s another metric of your reach, and a particularly valuable one - because it is more commitment to sign up for an email list and your access is personalised direct to their email inbox. 

2. Brand Ambassador - as above - a valuable metric showing your reach and influence, another audience who can be told about your brand partnership. 

3. Project Sponsorship - again, shows your reach, and has practical benefits.

  •  you can direct your followers to sign up for the project social media feeds
  • you can encourage your followers to share news of your new adventure
  • you can bring followers on from previous projects into your new one

4. Crowdfunding - whether you are encouraging your fans to give to charity in support of your adventure, asking directly for support for a film / book / expedition Kickstarter, or encouraging Patreon-style micro-payments, an email list is the best way to make a targeted ask for support, and then to follow up and remind them! 

I find sending an email gets a better response than social media initially. Most people need to be reminded 3 or 4 times before they actually take action. So keep asking!
- Bex Currie, on how to raise charity donations from adventures

5. Speaking - lets people know that you are giving a speech in their area or embarking on a speaking tour. 

6. Writing articles, publishing photos, making adventure films - direct your followers to the publication and encourage them to share. Let the publication see that you have fans who love your output.

7. Selling books

  • if you are looking for an agent and/or publisher, your list shows that you have a built-in audience of buyers who are invested in your adventures.
  • if you are selling self-published books directly, an email list is your best source of buyers, but also of the kind of committed fans who will leave reviews for you and share the word about the book with friends. 
I started the blog, I post very infrequently (compared to many) and don’t get huge traffic, but it’s fun and it did help me get about 1,200 email addresses from people who were interested in this topic and to whom I could later market the book.
- James Durston, talking about producing his self-published book Why Editors Don't Reply

and one bonus advantage - networking

"Everyone from athletes to editors, pr-people, travel-people. It's just cool to connect, to hear what everyone is reading... I always saw newsletters as megaphone, a tool for sharing your words and links. But it's more a conversation now."
- Abigail Wise talks about what she's gained from her Sticks and Stones newsletter - read our interview with her here.
jumping girl orange.jpg

What will I say?

You don’t have to say anything - you can just promise occasional updates and keep quiet until you next big announcement. But it’s not a good idea. 

Email lists go stale. If you email an announcement and get a lot of bounce-backs  (address no longer active), that impacts your reliability in the eyes of your list provider. In addition, people forget they signed up with you - if you get a lot of unsubscribes in response to a mailing, that also has a negative impact.

You’ve also missed a big opportunity to build friendship and familiarity - people seldom respond well to a long silence followed by a hard sell. 

Contact your list at a minimum once a quarter. Whatever your interval, try to be consistent - once a month / fortnight / week.

Yes but I still don't know what to say! 

The obvious theme would seem to be your exciting adventure life!! 

But anyone who is actually doing it knows much of that life is spent in front of a computer and/or doing normal life chores. Some people can make all that admin sound exciting but most of us can’t. 

“Prat!!! Do you really think people have time to read such crap?
God knows who you could motivate, having read that
feedback from one reader of Al Humphreys' newsletter, quoted on his email newsletter sign-up page

There is a reason The Business of Adventure email newsletter successfully goes out weekly, but the newsletter from my personal website is much more episodic. I feel paralysed by not having anything sufficiently interesting to say, or I procrastinate as I try to get possible content to attain an impossible level of perfection. 

Because The Business of Adventure relies largely on curating and sharing interesting content that is not personal to me, it is much easier to produce. 

Your simplest solution - pick a theme associated with your adventure brand, curate great content for your normal newsletter send, and add personal news of your life and your adventures when appropriate. 

Read our interview with Abigail Wise, soon-to-be Managing Editor at Outside Magazine and general rad outdoor woman. She runs a successful content-curated weekly newsletter, Sticks and Stones, with no fuss and no associated website. 

How to do it?

Don’t be crushed by the volume of advice on the internet. Pick one of the top 10 providers, someone that will let you build for free to start with. Find your rhythm with a posting schedule, find your voice with your content, collect email addresses as you go - and then upgrade the whole thing in the future if you need to. 

The Business of Adventure newsletter runs on MailChimp - because they advertised on podcasts way back when before podcasts became a thing, and I like podcasts. Abigail Wise choose TinyLetter because that’s what her feminist hero uses. 

Finally - know what average numbers are for a newsletter. Don’t expect anything like 100% engagement.

  •  Opening (as in they open your newsletter to look at it) 20 - 23%
  • Click-through (they click on a link in your newsletter) 2 - 3.5%
  • Unsubscribe (they've broken up with you) 0.1 - 0.3%

American coach Mario Fraoli @mariofraioli writes a weekly newsletter offering "insightful commentary on running, writing, media and other worthwhile topics." He offers monthly sponsorship and has a to-the-point explanation of his offer on his site. It's worth looking at how he does it. 

In his Oct 10 2017 newsletter, he shared an insight into his numbers. 

"Last year, the 50th issue of this newsletter went out to 2,085 subscribers. As of this morning, [100th issue, 50 weeks later] that number has more than doubled, with over 4,800 of you receiving this hundredth edition in your inbox. I have a somewhat sizable marketing team, i.e., you, my supportive readers, to thank here.... 

On average, 65 percent of you open this email each week, while over 19 percent of you click on at least one of the links. These last two statistics have remained remarkably consistent week over week and year over year, and both are far above industry averages related to engagement."

If you produce an email newsletter in the outdoor/adventure space and/or you subscribe to such newsletters, take our short survey. We'll share the most interesting examples in a future post. 

And don't forget to sign up for the weekly The Business of Adventure newsletter, landing in your inbox every Monday. See below.