An old mentor of mine – the great Mark Ford – used to wind me up in a debate about subject line open rates.

He said it was pointless analysing open rates.

But, I argued, if you can increase the open rate, you get more people to see the email.

So what, he’d ask?

Well, I’d wonder, getting confused. That would lead to more sales.

So just track the sales, he’d counter. That’s all you need to worry about.

I would think for a moment.

Yeah, I get you. But if you monitor the open rates and improve them, you can increase the sales surely?

He wasn’t moved.

So just worry about how many sales you get, he’d say.

Yes, I’d think.

But no, I’d also think.

For ages I thought this simple line of thinking was a bit silly. I thought I knew best, as all young people do, and worried a lot about minor details.

What I didn’t get at the time was the point Mark was making – the only metric that really matters is how many more sales you make, how many people you get to take action.

Sure, tweaking subject lines can improve things…

Testing different body copy is good too.

Using new and inventive techniques to get a click can help.

But still, it always comes back to the same end result…

What is most important is whether you get the reader to respond, to take action – everything else stems from there.

If you spend too long fussing over the minor details, you can forget this.

In his decades of experience, Mark had boiled down a lot of noise and distraction into a simple, irrefutable observation.

Always focus on that end result.

More and more these days we tend to spend so much time obsessing over minor details or vanity measurements.

We worry about tiny things – likes, shares, opens. We think these represent action – but they don’t really. Sure, they help develop a connection, but they’re not the end result.

We spend a lot of time philosophising about these elements and how to influence them when there is really no right or wrong answer, it is just opinion.

Ultimately, it means we tend to lose sight of our real aim, the motivation behind what we’re really looking to do – to make a strong enough connection to influence the person to take action.

It’s always the connection that counts

In a recent episode of The All Good Copy Podcast, guest Steve Folland reminded me of this thought.

We were talking about people who might be thinking of starting their own podcast and he advised you shouldn’t get too hung up on the listener numbers.

A lot of people would think that’s ALL you should worry about.

But as Steve pointed out – what’s important is the depth of connection you have with the listener, not the number of connections.

He suggested you might need only one or two listeners from an audience of fifty to get a new freelance gig or for some other opportunity to present itself.

So you don’t need thousands of vague listeners…

Just a few well-connected ones.

Once upon a time, I might have argued: yeah, but if you get more listeners you’ve got the chance to have a deeper connection with more people and get them to take action.

But of course, to go back to Mark’s idea…

Thinking like this misses the point.

Truth is, with a typical podcast, you can’t really control how many people listen to it.

Sure, you can market the ass off the thing and try to build the audience.

But that’s a high-rejection, high-cost and high-stress approach.

Think instead of what happens when you focus on the thing you can control.

You can control the connection you have with those people by providing valuable content, engaging them in conversation, inviting direct responses.

If you focus on making a connection with those who are actually listening, those same people will become champions for your work.

Your loyal audience will market it for you far more effectively than you could.

As Mark encouraged me to seek the deeper connection behind tweaking subject lines and to focus on the sale…

And as Steve encourages people to seek the deeper connection behind creating a podcast and focus on your actual listeners…

I would encourage you to always seek the deeper connection behind everything you write and focus on that.

Break free of the noise, conventions and fancy-techniques and just ask…

Will this connect with your reader?


Glenn Fisher is an author, copywriter, podcaster and speaker. After a number of years working in the local council, he left to become a copywriter and founded, a free online resource for direct response copywriters and marketers. For over a decade he worked with The Agora, a multi-million pound international financial publisher before leaving in 2018 to write freelance. His first book, The Art of the Click, has quickly become an Amazon bestseller and was shortlisted for the Business Book Awards. He is the host of the popular All Good Copy Podcast and regularly writes and consults for numerous businesses, brands and ad agencies. He lives happily with his partner Ruth and dog Pablo on the east coast of England.

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