The inbox is still an “in” place for marketers to reach customers. Access to a group of people that have expressed an active interest in your brand is an amazing opportunity to build loyalty and increase sales. But before you can develop a strategy to leverage email marketing you have to have a list. Starting from zero can seem like a daunting task but the payoff is worth the effort and a steady measured approach will yield ongoing results that will be effective and sustainable in the long run.
Should I Buy an Email List?
When I talk to business owners who are interested in email marketing but that have no valid list, their first inclination is to buy a list. This harkens back to the days of snail mail marketing when organizations would regularly buy a list of postal addresses to blanket a demographic or geographic area with their promotion. Email marketing is totally different and buying a list of email addresses is never a good idea. It seems like a quick fix but the reality is that the end result will not advance your efforts and may actually set you back further. Here’s why: They haven’t opted-in with you. Companies that wholesale lists gather them under the auspices of a blanket opt-in. They are usually legitimate because the seller can provide evidence when required that the names they are selling have opted-in to receive marketing materials. The problem is they have not opted-in with you. The first time you send them a promotional email they may mark it as spam or instantly unsubscribe because they don’t know your brand. It’s a wasted effort and a black eye for your brand.
Build an Email List the Right Way
Building a an email list from scratch is a slow process but the long term rewards make it well worth the effort. There are two basic areas that you need to address as you begin the process.
Providing value is simply the reason people would want to follow you. It sounds obvious but it’s the underlying reason that most list building efforts fail. People opt-in to email lists to receive some sort of value. It may be special offers, or valuable niche information, but whatever it is you need to have a strategy and system in place to provide that value. Content Marketing is a great way to keep a continuous stream of customer focused information flowing through your site and it is perfect for distribution through email. Also a regular schedule of deals helps you plan out your email campaigns.
Make It Easy to Sign Up
Once your have started generating content and offers you can focus on how people will sign-up. The key is to put opportunities to to subscribe in places that are convenient and that are located near the content they want to receive. You will first need to choose a bulk email vendor like Mail Chimp, iContact or one of the many others. They all have slightly different systems and pricing so find the one that works best for your business. Once your account is set up you can begin deploying tools to start collecting email addresses. Opt-in forms on your site are a necessity but they should be located in strategic places to capture subscribers after they have experiences the value you provide. Sidebars and footers are good locations for forms, but dropping a very small sign-up mid article via a shortcode can also hook readers at a key point. Experiment and see what works best on your site. Also social media platforms like Facebook are well suited for list building. Mail Chimp and other bulk email systems have built nice plugins that allow for easy integration into Facebook. You can then run an affordable native advertising campaign featuring some of your valuable content to acquire new subscribers. Don’t forget the real world. If you operate a business that relies on walk-in customers, use incentives to get people to sign-up in person. You should also consider adding language to any paper forms that provides a check box for people to opt-in to your email list.
A Consistent, Planned Approach Provides the Best List
By following this simple approach, the seemingly insurmountable task of building an email list can be overcome. With a solid system in place, list growth will take on a life of its own and before you know it you will have a healthy, growing list of people who are waiting to hear from you.