How Much Should I Put into Building a List?
Questions like this always boil down to one factor: How much is your mailing list worth to your business. Each industry has its own use for a mailing list, and not all of them will gain subscribers the same way. Lets go through a few different industries, how they use a mailing list, and the best way for them to gain subscribers. Let’s start with a group that relies very little on online marketing. High priced products…let’s say some sort of manufacturing equipment. We’ll even boil that down to conveyers and conveyor systems.
Mailing Lists and High Priced Items (Business to Business)
A factory manager might consider buying a new conveyor system for years before actually making a decision. During that time, companies rely heavily on the continued efforts of their salespeople. So they put very little consideration into online marketing and mailing lists Some would say that this industry is very under-developed in the way of e-commerce. And a mailing list could have a lot of potential…mainly because so few companies use them. I t’s true that the salesperson will still have to sell themselves before finalizing anything. But the client also needs to perceive the company on a whole as trustworthy. No matter how great a job the salesperson does, if the client doesn’t see the company as a professional and competent backdrop, the sale will not go through. A newsletter creates and strengthens this image…as long as the newsletter delivers information that’s important to the subscribers.
If the newsletter is full of junk (or ads) that’s how the prospect will see the company. So each subscriber could turn into a very profitable sale, and the newsletter could (if properly executed) substantially increase the salesperson’s chances for the sale. I would say that such subscribers are pretty valuable. Be ready to pay for them. Offer a physical gift to subscribers…how expensive the gift will depend on how much your product costs…but offer something. This way you’ll get an actual address (so you know you’re mailings or emails go to an actual person), and the subscribers will remember who you are when they see your newsletter.
Mailing Lists and Low Priced Items (Business to Consumer)
The business to consumer industries, however, use a very different approach. Especially when the product line is less expensive. They make more direct sales from their mailing lists than high priced products. But then again, they make less money on each sale. Statistics show that web surfers are NOT loyal customers. In fact, more of them fall under the ‘impulsive buyers’ label. They need a constant reminder that you’re there and that you have new products that they can’t live without. If you send it too frequently, it’s quickly recognized as spam. If you don’t send it often enough, they have no idea who you are. Two or three times a month is usually sufficient. But how do you get subscribers to your mailing list? The first place to start is with your customers. Have you been offering them a subscription to your mailing list when they buy products? Have you offered a subscription or gift certificate for their subscription? If not, then you should send an email to every customer within the past two years inviting them to your mailing list. After that, try advertising in someone else’s newsletter. A small gift for subscription is sometimes appropriate…depending on your profit margins. A street address to go along with the email is something you can use if you decide to go with direct mail.
Mailing Lists and Affiliates
Affiliate marketing is much different, and can make much more money from a mailing list…provided there are enough subscribers. Unlike product sales, affiliate markets don’t always rely on conversions. For this reason, you want your mailing list subscribers to receive your newsletter in HTML format. That way, your click through rate will come directly from the newsletter. Otherwise, they would have to take two steps (first going to your site and then clicking on your links) before you begin to earn anything. Again, affiliate marketing relies heavily on numbers. Big mailings mean big profits in small increments. And the key to this is networking. Swap advertisements with other affiliate marketers. Both on their websites and in their mailings. Most affiliate sites offer a free informational gift or some other kind of download in exchange for mailing list subscribers. The profit you make from each subscriber is small and doesn’t warrant a physical gift. It’s much easier to automate a download. On a side note, affiliate sites have a big reputation for spam. So it’s best to break away from the ‘affiliate look’. Stay away from Google ads when sending something to your mailing list.
Mailing Lists and Service Providers
A service provider has a much harder time measuring the effectiveness of their mailing lists. You wouldn’t use it to make a direct sale, but to strengthen your image as an expert in your field. For example, an e-commerce consultant might give weekly tips for website administration. A plumber might give DIY tips for taking care of common drainage problems. The focus is on reinforcing the subscriber’s idea of them as the go-to man in that particular industry. Obviously, the first place to find subscribers is through clients. Referrals can go a long way. You might offer a percentage off your services to anyone who refers ten or more subscribers. You aren’t as reliant on mass mailings, so there’s nothing wrong with refining your list and weeding out some of the email addresses. Actually, many service providers build mailing lists by limiting the number of subscribers. If people think that only a selected few will be allowed to receive your newsletter, they’d be more inclined to subscribe. It’s even more inviting when they realize that you only accept referrals (the same way gmail is beginning to take over yahoo’s email monopoly).
Mailing Lists and Information Sellers
If you sell information, you have a unique advantage when trying to gain subscribers to your mailing list. The very thing you’re selling is easy to give in portions. If you’re selling an ebook, you attract subscribers with a ‘free report’…just a condensed version of the book. Like affiliate marketers, you’ll benefit most from networking. You’ll need to find people in related (but not competing) industries. Offer to swap articles and ads with them.
As you work through different mailing list strategies, take note of what works and what doesn’t. No need to beat a dead horse. Concentrate on whatever brings the highest return. And remember not to abuse your mailing list. Allow people to easily unsubscribe, and never sell (or lend) their addresses to anyone.