Email List Building Tips
Why is there so much talk about email list building?
It's simple... whether you're a solo-entrepreneur just trying to get started or a seasoned marketer, you now that your email list is your life blood.
If you don’t have an opt-in email list right now, the task of building one may seem daunting. There is a lot of conflicting information about how to build a list and, frankly, much of what you’ll find is outdated or dead wrong.
The reason to build a list is quite simple. Marketing to reach new prospects and convert them into customers is expensive and getting more so. Worse, the marketplace and our day to day lives are getting more saturated with ads, and information overload is at epidemic proportions.
When you build an opt-in email list correctly, you've got a captive audience to communicate with. If you've built a solid relationship with your subscribers, then when you press ‘send’ on an email campaign you can create sales on demand.
In practice, however, that can be easier said than done because of all the bad advice out there.
One of the perennial desires of email marketers is to have a ‘huge list,’ and the assumption is that the greater the number of subscribers, the greater the potential sales. This is misleading, at best.
The reality is that small targeted lists can inexplicably outperform massive lists many times the size. While counter intuitive, this is the result of the passive nature of email. Your audience is only ‘captive’ in the sense that you can email them at will. There is, however, nothing that obligates anyone to open your email.
It stands to reason that a large responsive list is preferable to a small responsive list, so the objective is to determine what it takes to build a responsive list. It turns out that the key to a responsive list starts with how you attract subscribers in the first place.
Before we get to the specific steps of how to build a list...
Let’s review the elements of what makes an email list responsive:
- No matter how many people you have on your list, they are all individuals. This glaringly obvious observation is more consequential than may be apparent at first glance. The mistake many email marketers make is to forget this truism and treat their list like a collection of email addresses and wallets. Inevitably, lists that are treated in that manner burn out and become unresponsive.
- With that firmly in mind, email as a medium is inherently personal. You are able to reach people in their inbox. This could be on their phone, their web browser, at work, at home, or now, even on a plane. But they are reading it, and unlike a T.V. or radio, email appears in their inbox at all times day and night.While they could ‘turn it off’, that is unrealistic in today’s fast paced society so people develop a love hate relationship with their inbox. Over time, they can become rather ruthless about what email they will accept and it is critical to become a sender that is held in high regard if you want to have a profitable list.
The opportunity presented by email marketing is tremendous, but it is imperative to realize that your subscriber relationship is like all others: it starts with a first impression.
You've got to offer real perceived value for someone to opt in.
To do that, you've got to know what your target market wants and therefore perceive as valuable.
The initial effort you put in, to become very clear about what your subscriber wants, will pay dividends each time you click ‘send’ on a campaign. If you start off on the right foot with each new subscriber, not only will you grow your list faster, you’ll have higher conversions and list retention.
If you have an avatar of your target customer, so much the better. Who are they? Get granular. How old are they? Are they married? Do they have kids? What do they do for work? In terms of your business, what solutions are they looking for? What keeps them up at night? What breaks their hearts? What are their dreams? What do they love? What do they want from a product like yours? How would it make their life easier, more fun, or just plain better?
In that process, discover what frustrates your prospect about your industry. In the weight loss niche, for example, it is almost a cliché that diets don’t work. The industry is famous for big claims and small results after much frustration. While there can be initial weigh loss with many methods, keeping the weight off is another story. Exercise equipment goes unused, gym memberships are ignored, and most diets are unpleasant in one way or another.
That’s a down and dirty summary of the weight loss industry. If you wanted to build a list of people for your weight loss program, you’d have to offer something of perceived value to address those hopes and frustrations. In the process, you’d have to offer a compelling promise while overcoming objections and building trust.
The advantage of building an opt-in list is that you can offer something free to entice someone to subscribe. Because you don’t have to ask for the sale, you simply have to build enough interest to persuade your prospect to trust you with their email address. While that is not as easy as it was years ago when people were far more ‘opt-in happy’, it is still easier than asking for the sale in most cases.
Your opportunity, then, is to deliver real perceived value after the opt-in and build a solid relationship thereafter that leads to ongoing sales, ideally.
With that foundation, let’s look at the key elements of the opt-in process. It bears repeating that if you get the foundation right, the actual list building process is pretty easy.
Here’s a basic opt in process:
Step 1: Identify what your target subscriber wants. We've covered this already, but once you know what they want, you will have a list of many things in most cases. Pick a hot button desire and create a report, video, audio, or sample of your product to give away in exchange for the opt-in.
Step 2: Create a simple opt-in page. This is also known as a squeeze page, landing page, or email capture page. In its simplest form, an opt-in page will have a headline, a brief description of the offer, and an opt-in form. You can also add a video to this page and you may want to test how much you describe the freebie you are giving away.
Study what your competitors are doing and to start, mimic what is already working by modeling your own opt in page after theirs. Of course, don’t copy it exactly and use your own logo and design elements, just mimic the general format and function. If your top competitor is using video on their page, you could test using video, and so forth.
Step 3: Set up your subscription form to go on the opt-in page. This is a relatively simple process where you create a list inside your email program and generate the opt-in form code within the program to put on your page.
When subscribers enter in their email address, it will be added to that list and you can control what happens after they are added to the list. Because people have gotten wise to the ‘free offer’ for email dynamic, a common problem is that they’ll enter a bogus or unused email address, get the free offer, and then they’ll never see your follow up emails. One way to address this is to let them know the freebie will be emailed to the email address they provide. Also, you can add a confirmation process where the new subscriber has to check their email address, click on a ‘confirmation link’ in your email, and then they’ll be directed to a page where they can collect the freebie.
This is smart for several reasons, especially because a subscriber who confirms their intention to opt-in is of higher value than one who will not. Also, this confirmation process helps to protect you from any spam complaints because anyone on your list will have had to jump through this hoop to become a subscriber.
Step 4: Post your opt-in page and test it. This is an important step because if you drive traffic to your opt-in page and it doesn’t work then the traffic will have been wasted. So set up the page, go to it yourself and enter in your email address and test to see if the process works as intended. Aside from the mechanics of the opt-in process, it is imperative to make sure that the free offer is delivered correctly and provides a good first impression.
Go through the whole process, right to the point of claiming the free offer and making sure everything is in order. If you are giving away a video or audio, make sure it plays properly in all of the major web browsers.
If you are offering a PDF download for a free report, make sure the file is formatted correctly and works. It’s also smart to include instructions for your new subscriber on how to get the free Adobe Reader in case they don’t have it so they can read your PDF. Make sure that your new subscriber can reach your support department in case they have any questions or feedback for you.
Step 5: Drive some test traffic and track your conversions and feedback. Getting traffic is beyond the scope of this report, but in general you only want to test traffic that is targeted to the offer you are making. Evaluate how many clicked through from your ad to how many people opted-in. How many actually landed on the page to claim the free offer?
Once you have those opt-in stats, if you are also including an offer to buy after they opt in or thereafter in a follow up email sequence, track how many sales you received per new subscriber. Once you know these numbers, you will know how much you can afford to spend to acquire a new subscriber.
Those are the core mechanics of building a list. The most important part, ultimately, is that whatever you offered your new subscriber, deliver a high value experience. If you deliver on your promise, even in a niche as competitive and challenging as weight loss, you can build a solid and mutually beneficial relationship with new subscribers.
Thereafter, stay in touch with your list because if you have long gaps in between your emails to your list, you’ll risk becoming ‘out of sight out of mind’. Follow best practices and only mail your list things that are congruent with your relationship with them. And of course, continue to offer value. That can be in the form of new information, opinion pieces, current events, interesting developments, personal stories,entertainment, special offers, tips, tricks, and updates on products.
Building a profitable email list all starts with that first impression. Make it count.
Author: Heather Seitz
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