The Power of a List: Part 1

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 14, 2010 in: Business Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Tips in 10

I always attempt in my Tips In Ten articles to show you how to really master something in ten minutes. However, in some of Tips In Ten articles I outline something you absolutely must know in your business and when that happens, I try to give you the cliff notes version (you know, taking out all the fluff and getting down to the core principles) condensed in an email that will only take you ten minutes to read).

That being said, this article of Tips in Ten is the first in a three part series where I talk about the power of a list and why it’s crucial for your business. When I say “a list”, I’m talking about building a growing list of names and contact information of people who are interested in what you have to say. They may start out as (for example) newsletter subscribers but they are among the most likely to buy from you (“Why,” you may ask? Because they are the ones who have opted-in, meaning they gave you the A-OK to distribute information to them!).

If you already have a list, don’t skip these Tips In Ten articles! I’m going to give you some tips and ideas that can help you generate more business from your list. If you don’t have a list, read every word of these issues and make list-building a priority in your business.

The most basic list that marketers talk about is usually just a list of names and email addresses. This is the simplest and fastest to build. However, there are many other pieces of information you could collect (after all, the concept of the list stretches far back before email so you might also end up collecting their postal address to send them “snail mail”). In today’s world, though, it’s typically names and email addresses (or Twitter names if you are really cutting edge!) and that’s what I’m going to refer to throughout these issues.

Also, I should clarify: I’m not talking about a list that you buy from a list house or list rental company. I’m talking about the list of people who have “opted in” to hear from you. They’ve signed up for a newsletter or report or ebook or free whatever because they want to hear what you have to say. Ultimately, it’s a group of people who have traded information about themselves in order to get something for free from you. What information they give and what they get in exchange can differ from one business to the next, but the principle of exchanging contact info for something in return is the underlying factor.

Okay, I just want to get those details out of the way and make sure we’re on the same page before I continue.

So, why am I devoting 3 entire articles to a list? Because a list is so important to your business and it ties together many of the other Tips In Ten articles that you’ve read in the past. (You’ll see what I’m talking about shortly). It’s a business growth strategy that many businesses swear by (and recently I heard one well-known internet marketer point out that every top-level internet marketer uses a list; they couldn’t think of a single one who didn’t).

So, why do you want a list? Why is it so important? And, why do internet marketers (and, before them, direct marketers) swear by a list?

A list is not just a random group of names and emails. These are people who have expressed an interest in hearing from you. They are a group of interested audience members, warm leads, hot prospects, and happy customers. In other words, they are people who want to hear from you, people who are interested in buying from you, and people who have bought from you.

Your list is a list of people who are listening to you.

In the world of excessive marketing, that’s huge. Every single day, people are exposed to thousands of brands and marketing messages – from the moment they press snooze on their Sanyo alarm clock then get up and pour themselves some Folgers coffee, through the ride to work where they pass billboards and hear radio commercials, to their work day where they read sales messages, and finally at home to watch television (including commercials) – people are inundated with marketing.

As a result, most marketers spend their entire days trying to be heard above the “noise”. A list is a group of people who are listening to you. By adding their name to the list, they have raised their hand to tell you that they want to hear what you have to say and they are giving you a free pass to the front of the line to hear what you have to say.

A list of listeners is invaluable.

1.    People have grown weary and even blind to marketing messages. But with a list, you are able to accelerate past the marketing messages that your list is hearing and actually communicate with them… because they are watching for communication from you.
2.    With a group of dedicated listeners, you can position yourself and your business far more easily because you’re no longer competing for their attention. You have their attention, now you can show them your stuff!
3.    For the exchange of their contact information, you can proactively add value to their lives as a preemptive way to make yourself indispensable to them. (And, if done correctly, when it comes time to sell to them, they won’t think of buying from someone else).
4.    It also serves as your sounding board! You can listen closely to what they have to say (or watch their responses to emails by viewing what content is read or forwarded and what content is ignored) and, in this way, you can develop a good idea of what they would be willing to buy from you.
5.    And, of course, you can (carefully) market and sell to them. (I say “carefully” because you can sometimes position products or services in front of them directly but you sometimes need to be more subtle about it. I’ll show you how).
6.    Once you’ve sold to them, you can (carefully) market and sell to them again and again.

A list is gold! A carefully cultivated list will become one of the most valuable assets your business will own and it will become the item you rush into a burning building to get.

Here’s what you’ll want to do with your list:

First, you will want to create something to build your list with. I’ll show you how to do this in the next issue. Then, you’ll want to grow your list with intentional effort in everything you do.

Now here’s what really separates the novices from the pros:

Think of your list as part of your sales pipeline. Instead of just making it a convenient way for people to hear from you or get your blog in their inbox instead of having to view it in their browser, use your list as a way to nurture a relationship and slowly turn prospects into customers.

An even more advanced strategy that really good pros do is to know exactly what every name on their list is worth. In the early days, while you are still getting set up, you might not know. But make it a goal to get to the point where you know what each name is worth.

For example, let’s say you figure out that 1 person out of every 100 names on your list will buy something from you when you offer something, and that person will typically spend up to $500 at a time. Therefore, the average name on your list is worth $5.

This is very helpful for you:

  • If you spend $1.00 in AdWords to get one qualified lead to sign up to your list, you know that you can still make $4 profit on a per lead basis (or, to better sum it up, if you spend $100 getting 100 qualified leads, you know you are going to be able to make $400 profit on at least one sale out of the 100 leads).
  • You can also forecast more effectively. If you have a list of 1,000 people, you know that every offer will result in 10 sales of $500 each, or $5,000. That’s your starting point and you can estimate expected returns on email marketing campaigns and plan accordingly.

Your homework
If you don’t have a list, start brainstorming about ways to build one. I’ll give you some ideas and tips in the next issue but you should be prepared with a few ideas of your own that you can refine. Think about who your prospects and customers are, what free information they would be interested in getting from you, and how you might present it to them.

If you do have a list, look at some of the advanced “pro-level” tips I’ve just mentioned. Are you nurturing a relationship with them? Do you know what each person on your list is worth?

Watch for the next article to read about how to build your list.

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