What If Your Entire Business Were Opt-In?

For the past year, I’ve been involved with a new venture called Ministry of Awesome (MoA). This nonprofit exists to water the seeds of awesome in our local community: bringing people together and providing inspiration and support to turn awesome ideas into reality.

Our Facebook strategy has been simple. We post links to things we think are awesome (in our local area and around the world), as well as relevant updates or notices from MoA. We try to post reasonably regularly, but only when we actually have something to share that we feel good about

We haven’t invited a single one of our friends or colleagues to “Like” our page. If we did, they would, of course, but mixed among those who are genuinely interested in our work would be those who just want to be nice to us. The latter group would be unlikely to engage with us on an ongoing basis, and their lack of engagement would be a sign to Facebook that our stories aren’t very interesting.

As a result, our Facebook numbers have grown slowly (we’re at 430 Likes as of now), but our engagement numbers remain high, and so does our viewership as a percentage of total Likes.

Similarly, we only send out emails when there’s something specific we need to share; it’s not based on any kind of timeframe. As I get more and more emails I become less and less tolerant of those that only exist to keep the sending organization on the radar. Trust me: If you’re on my radar because you’re sending me irrelevant emails, it’s not a good thing.

Most essential, though, is the fact that our organizational activities are also entirely opt-in. Take the MoA Epic Caffeine Adventure. Five of us parked in a café for a day. We set out 20-minute time slots and invited people to come talk to us about whatever they’re working on. We were fully booked: 19 meetings in a single day.

We considered the Epic Caffeine Adventure a success. But the whole thing was an experiment. If nobody showed up, we would still consider it a success, because we would have learned that this type of service, in this incarnation, isn’t considered useful in our community.

The only reason to do something like the Adventure is because people want it. If they don’t want it, the solution isn’t to market it better or more. It’s to revisit what we’re doing, and why. It’s to question whether we are being useful and serving a purpose, whether we are responding to an actual need or merely to our own need to push our offerings.

A fully opt-in business model is scary. It means accepting that people might not like what you’re doing. It means accepting that you might have to let go of your idea, that your idea might not be what the world is after. It requires deep introspection, self-awareness, and empathy.

But just imagine if every company operated on that basis. Imagine what kind of world we would live in.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure opt into it.

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2 comments about "What If Your Entire Business Were Opt-In? ".
  1. George Linzer from Potomac River Media , November 30, 2012 at 1:26 p.m.
    Sometimes it's good to let the product speak for itself when the time is right and not according to some arbitrary schedule. It takes courage, as you point out. But the reward is immeasurable when you succeed. Congratulations.
  2. Kaila Colbin from Missing Link , December 3, 2012 at 9:44 p.m.
    Thanks, George!