Mailing lists. You’ve heard you need one, but why?
Here’s why: email is one of the least expensive, most direct ways to communicate with your prospects. You can build a relationship with them by offering valuable information over time, and giving them a peek into your working process.
When they’re ready to make a purchase, your business will be the first one they think of.
But where do you get started? And how can you build your list?
It’s hard to feel enthusiastic about writing an email newsletter for 27 people, right?
Don’t worry. Anyone with a decent-sized list has started at “mailing list zero.” My first email newsletter went out to eight family members, including me!
Introducing two crucial list-building tools
To build your mailing list, you need to get two things right, and we’re going to cover them both in this post.
The first is to create a high-converting opt-in form, and the second is to make a gift you can give in exchange for an email address. It’s the holiday season, so it’s a perfect time to think about what you can give to your prospects, and I have nine ideas to share.
Your opt-in form: Don’t ask for too much information
The first thing you need if you don’t have a mailing list at all is an email marketing company. I use and recommend AWeber, but you can read my review of the three main email marketing companies here.
Once you’ve signed yourself up with a company, you’ll be able to create an opt-in form like the one you see in the upper right corner of this site. When you do, keep these two things in mind:
- Ask for an email address only. Unless you have a very compelling reason to request a name, address, company name, etc., you should stick to requesting only the information absolutely necessary to deliver your gift: an email address. The less information you request, the more sign ups you’ll get.
- Make it pop (but not pop over). Your email opt-in form is a conversion touch point on your site. It’s a place on your web page where you’re asking visitors to take an action. To make it stand out and not get lost among everything else on your page, use an accent color. Make it brighter and bolder than your two main colors so it stands out and draws people’s eyes to your opt-in form. Unless you want to really annoy some people, avoid those “pop over” sign up boxes.
Now, make an appealing gift
What can you do to entice people to share their email address? First, let me tell you what not to do.
Don’t just say “Sign up for our newsletter!”
This may have worked ten years ago when email newsletters were a novelty, but nowadays, no one thinks they need more email in their inbox. People are swimming in too much email, and reading, sorting and replying to it takes a big chunk of their day.
If you want them to share their email address with you, you’ve got to entice them with a gift they’ll find irresistible. And you should offer it using the language your market uses to describe their problem.
But what can you offer? This was one of the most popular questions on the now-famous “Hello” post.
Nine ways to entice your prospect to share an email address
Here are nine ideas for gifts you can make and offer on your opt-in form to get more subscribers to your email list. Make sure anything you create is branded with your business contact information so people know where to find you.
Pick one, work on it this month, and prepare to grow your mailing list in 2012.
- Buyer’s Guide: What information does a buyer need to know in order to make an informed buying choice of the service or product you offer? Create a report that details this basic information.
- Checklist: How will a prospect know they have everything needed to correctly use your product, or get the most out of your service? Give them a checklist so they can do a self test.
- Tips List: What inside information can you share that will make your prospect’s life easier?
- Excerpt from a longer piece: Do you have a comprehensive report or PDF Ebook — perhaps one you sell — that you can offer a popular chapter from? Pick a chapter with broad appeal, and be sure to include information on how they can order the full publication.
- Answers/solutions to tough problems: What sticky, bothersome problem does your prospect encounter every day? This should be related to the solution your business provides.
- Recipes (they’re not just for food): Concoct “success recipes” for the service you offer. Combine your product with others for a unique solution. Share these “recipes” in a report.
- Best of: Write a “best of” list for your industry. Devise the “ultimate” solution and share it.
- Resource Guide: Write a glossary of terms prospects should understand about your field of expertise, or share links or contact information for websites or companies that will help solve their challenges.
- Manifesto: Share a rant about the state of your industry. This idea works best if you’re already someone people are interested in listening to.
How to assemble your gift
When you’ve chosen your topic, you’ll need to assemble it into an Ebook, which should be a PDF document. Any word processing program will create PDFs.
How about you? Are you working on creating a “gift” for your prospects to get them on your mailing list? Let me know if you want brainstorming help: I’m happy to talk about it in the comments.
Do you know someone who’s working on building a mailing list? Click one of the share buttons and give them the gift of nine ideas for inspiration!
Thanks to Thomas Hawk on Flickr for the gift photo.