The Power of a List: Part 2

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 15, 2010 in: Business Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Tips in 10

In the previous article of Tips In Ten, I told you about one of the most important assets that most top businesses have – a list. This list of people who have exchanged contact information for the chance to hear from you has the potential to become a dedicated group of buyers. These contacts have chosen to listen to you, which makes them a valuable group of people that you can (carefully) position and sell to. It’s no wonder, then, that top internet marketers covet their list above most other assets in their business and would be able to start over from scratch and rise quickly to success as long as they had that list of names.

In this article of Tips In Ten, I want to talk about how to get your list: How to start it and how to build it up.

How to start your list
People will exchange their contact information for free information that they feel is helpful and relevant to them. Your job is to create the content and show them why it’s valuable and then make it easy for them to sign up.

The first thing you’ll want to do is think about who your prospects and customers are and consider what they want to know. You likely serve a specific niche and this niche has some problem or need that you fulfill.

While you might have products or services that they pay you for, think about whether there is information they might want for free. What can you give them that they will willingly exchange their contact information for? The most common information delivery methods for your list include:

  • An ezine (aka newsletter) or autoresponder
  • An ebook
  • A whitepaper or report
  • Access to an “insiders’ site”

(NOTE: Ezines are fresh issues of content each week and subscribers get whichever one is next when they subscribe, while an autoresponder is a set of emails sent out in a pre-determined order and subscribers always start at #1. You may recall that I cover ezines and autoresponders in previous Tips In Ten issues. What you read there will apply here so check your archives).

Don’t hesitate to get creative here. You don’t have to stick to the ‘norms’. Here are some industry specific ideas:

  • Website Designers: Giving away free themes to wWrdpress, or a free plug-in for their site, or a custom code/script for a neat feature/widget to put on their sidebar.
  • Salons & Spas: Free Manicure or Pedicure (i.e. gift certificate etc.), Free ‘how to’ do something ebook or white paper – i.e. How to make your own mud mask.
  • Author: Free sneak peak at the first chapter of their book (via digital download).

This list of the most common information delivery methods can be mixed and matched to create a really useful, meaningful free offering to people, which will compel them to subscribe.

  • The ezine is the most basic form and it’s the easiest to start because you really only need one issue to get going.
  • An ebook or report by itself is not a bad idea because it has an attractive amount of information, but it’s just a one-time download. You should think about combining the whitepaper report or ebook with an ongoing form of communication so your list doesn’t forget about you. A whitepaper or report followed by an ezine or autoresponder is a good combination. People sign up for the whitepaper (perhaps a “tell all” report on something your niche is dying to read about) and then you just continue talking to them with an ezine or autoresponder.
  • An autoresponder is pretty structured (because it has a pre-determined order). In some ways it’s very useful because you’re always using the content you have written. However, it’s hard to stay timely and relevant that way since one subscriber might get the issue at one point in the year and another will get it later in the year. So if you want to go with a slightly more connected-to-now approach where you can reference the news or a current situation, an ezine might be more appropriate. However, ezine content is used once and then forgotten. Some markets do well with autoresponders (because their content is timeless) while other markets do well with ezines (because their content is very time-sensitive).
  • A website that requires someone to sign-up is a good way to build up a list but I’d recommend that you continue to email them something anyway because you want to continue communicating with them and you don’t want to leave it up to them to take the initiative to view the website.

While you are thinking about how you want to deliver your content, think about some type of information that they might want to read. It should be…

  • Relate to what you do.
  • Valuable to subscribers.
  • Something you know or can easily access (while list-building is good, you don’t want to take away too much time from the deliverables you get paid for by doing research on something you don’t know enough about).
  • Something other than free versions of the products or services you sell (otherwise, why would they ever buy from you?).
  • Something different than what your competitors are offering
  • Easily distributed (i.e. via email).

Brainstorm some ideas and, if it contains all six of these qualities, you’ve got a potential winner. If you’ll forgive me talking about myself for a moment, I’ll use these Tips In Ten issues as an illustration: They are related to what I do (business-building productivity), they are of value to subscribers (because they save people time and contain useful information), the topics are things I know (because I never recommend something I don’t already practice), it’s not just a free version of what I do (my coaching is much more in-depth), it’s something different than what my competitors are offering, and it is distributed through email.

Building some critical mass
Once you’ve come up with some ideas, my recommendation is to try and write a few issues of your ezine or try writing your ebook or report. I’ve seen a lot of people who wanted to build a list but they just don’t have the time to write their ezine each week. They invested a lot up-front and then discovered that they didn’t have the time on the back end to continue.

I’d suggest writing a few issues (say, one or two month’s worth) to make sure you have a feel for the workload. This is also helpful to clarify the purpose of your freebie. After writing, you might discover that you need to alter the point of the freebie because it’s too close to what you get paid to do or because it doesn’t differ enough from what your competitor is doing.

It’s also helpful to write a bit just so that you have some critical mass in place early on. You might be working out the kinks of your whole list-building system and you might not have the time to add more content right away.

The technical details
Once you’ve decided on what the freebie is you want to offer to build your list, it’s time to put the details in place. The “big picture” steps are…

1.    Set aside the page on your website (or buy a domain if you want it on a separate page).
2.    Add content giving your potential subscribers a reason to subscribe.
3.    Go to an email marketing provider like Aweber.com or ConstantContact.com or 1ShoppingCart.com to sign up.
4.    You’ll get a snippet of code you can add to your site and this will embed the sign-up form on your website that your users need to enter their name and email address.
5.    Upload your written content (your ezine or your autoresponder) into the email marketing provider’s interface and schedule them according to how you want them to be distributed.

(Again, you can get more details from the previous Tips In Ten articles on autoresponders and ezines if you’re not sure of the difference or want more details about how to do the steps above).

Reducing your workload
These steps will take more than ten minutes to implement but the point of this Tips In Ten is to show you something quickly that will have a dramatic impact on your business. If you’re busy (and I know you are), consider delegating or outsourcing some of the work and dividing up the steps above into ten minute tasks over a week or two.

In the next article of Tips In Ten, I’ll talk about some do’s and don’ts for building your list and I’ll help you to make your list even more effective and responsive to you.

Heather Recommends:

Running a business can be busy, challenging work. I can help you become more productive and successful. Find out how.

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