No matter what your online business model is, building a mailing list should be part of it.
For all of the online business ventures that I’ve been a part of, email marketing has always stood out as the most profitable traffic source. I personally created a long-lasting, full time income, seeded from a small mailing list of just a few hundred subscribers and none of my businesses would be nearly as profitable as they are today, without email marketing.
In this post, you’ll learn exactly why it’s time to start building a mailing list and you’ll discover the two factors that separate awesome mailing lists from weak ones.
We’ve covered some of the technical aspects of email marketing in a previous post. In this post, let’s look at why and how to make use of email marketing, starting with the top reasons to begin building a mailing list right now:
The core of successful email marketing is permission: every subscriber is a subscriber because they want to be one. On the flip-side, the minute someone no longer wants to be a subscriber, they can opt out.
Every one of your subscribers should know why they are receiving emails from you, know what to expect and know that they can opt out at any time. Ideally, your subscribers actually look forward to your emails, so that you have not just permission, but enthusiastic permission to send your messages.
This permission is a very important aspect of email marketing, because it turns a subscriber- or customer-list into an asset unlike any other. Most online business assets are very fickle: your Google rankings can change from one moment to the next, AdWords, Facebook and other advertising platforms keep changing their rules and banning accounts and a website that’s valuable today can be worthless tomorrow.
Permission, on the other hand, is between you and each individual subscriber you have. Permission can be withdrawn by each individual subscriber, but it can’t be collectively wiped out by some third-party service.
In short: a mailing list is the most valuable and the longest-lasting online business asset you can own.
You may notice that on IM Impact, the RSS feed is not very prominently promoted. And neither are my twitter, facebook and Google+ profiles. In fact, for a very long time, I didn’t advertise my RSS feed at all, even though that’s usually a standard thing to do on a blog. Instead, I strongly advertise the signup forms that lead to my mailing list.
The reason is simple: while it’s nice to have RSS subscribers, twitter followers etc., I’d much rather have a few more email subscribers. Email subscribers are massively more responsive than followers on any other channel. The social channels are always busy with loads of other messages and in social media, it’s normal and expected to ignore most of the noise. How many tweets from your twitter feed do you read and how many do you miss?
Email, on the other hand, is much more rarely ignored. With email, it’s possible to get 30% or more of your subscribers to click through on a link you send. Of course, this can also be a lot worse, depending on the size of your list, the nature of your messages, your subject line and many other factors. However, even a relatively low response rate on an email list will still be far better than an average response rate on social media channels.
Nothing has “on tap traffic” potential like a good mailing list.
Emails can lead to many clicks, but what happens after the click is even more important and that’s where email marketing truly shines. As an example, my subscriber-exclusive weekly updates usually only receive traffic from my mailing list, yet they often receive dozens of comments (there are even some with more than 100 comments). On the other hand, there are posts on this blog that receive a continuous stream of traffic from Google, but virtually no new comments are ever made.
A few hundred visitors from a mailing list easily interact with your site more than thousands of visitors from Google ever will.
The same is also true for sales. I have products for which the conversion rate from emails is more than 10x the conversion rate from organic search traffic. Same product, same sales-page, same price. The only difference is in the traffic source.
You can send almost anything you want, via email. Do you want to send long, detailed articles, sharing loads of content? No problem.
Or would you rather just drop a quick note and add a link or two? Also no problem.
With email, you can send a simple text message or a professionally styled newsletter with images and all sorts of fancy elements and you can link to your blog, affiliate products, landing pages or anything else you want.
Compare that to twitter, facebook & co, where you are very limited in both message format and message length. On social platforms, your message needs to fit third party requirements. With email marketing, you can tailor your message for optimal conversion rates, without having to worry about too many limitations.
Through my various products, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing many email promotions by many different affiliates. When it comes to affiliates, the Pareto principle applies: 80% of your sales will be generated by 20% of your affiliates. And the interesting thing is that often, those strongest 20% of affiliates are not the ones with the biggest names or the biggest mailing lists.
What matters is not the size of a mailing list, but the amount of subscriber attention a marketer has. What can you do to make sure that your own mailing list will be among the strong ones, rather than the weak ones?
The first and most obvious step is not to abuse your subscribers. Don’t write emails that you would not be happy to receive yourself. So far, so simple. Beyond that, there are three elements that will make your mailing list super responsive.
Both of them are often misunderstood and both are not nearly as difficult to implement as most people think.
Does that mean you have to be an expert in your field and you have to be able to produce a constant stream of incredible content? No, not at all.
Providing your own, high quality expert content is just one of many options and it’s not the only way to provide value to your subscribers. For example, take AppSumo or any of the other countless “daily deal” type sites. AppSumo is an email marketing based company. They only send emails about new offers. They don’t have to come up with innovative new content ideas. They don’t have to write expert opinion pieces. They don’t have to worry about finding a balance between sending promotional and non-promotional emails. All they do is send promotions for special deals, because that’s exactly what their subscribers want.
Similarly, you can provide value by sending coupons, links to special offers, or links to some of the best content in your niche (even if it’s created by other people and even if it’s non-promotional). For original content, you can do interviews and “borrow” other people’s expertise.
There are countless easy ways to provide value to your subscribers. All you need to do is make it clear what it is that you will be offering, before people sign up and then keep providing what you promised.
AppSumo is a good example for another reason as well: even though all they do is promote products, they do so in a unique way. Their emails are typically written in a very casual and entertaining style; a style that is unique to them.
Just like any business, if you want to take your email marketing to the next level, you need some form of USP. There needs to be a reason for people to be subscribed to your newsletter, instead of any other newsletter in your niche.
My way of doing this is tied closely to the work I do with online video. I frequently post videos of myself, usually talking very frankly and informally about what I’m up to, about lessons I’ve learned during my online ventures and about anything else that I feel is highly useful for my subscribers to hear about.
As the AppSumo example shows, creating personal videos like that is not the only way to have a unique voice (it just happens to be the way I personally prefer). When you write your emails, record your interviews or create your videos, don’t filter yourself. Don’t be formal and don’t try to conform to the kind of things other marketers are doing. Dare to be different. Some people will be put off by it, but the others will love you for it.
And it’s always better to have a small group of fans than to have a large group of lukewarm subscribers.
The third element is automation. When a new subscriber signs up, they shouldn’t just receive whichever email you happen to send next. Instead, you should send them a few automated welcome emails. Any autoresponder service will make it easy for you to create an schedule emails like that, which will be automatically sent at specific intervals, after a new subscriber has signed up.
On a very basic level, you can simply send a few emails introducing yourself and your site or your products or whatever else you have to offer. Once the welcome emails have run their course, the new subscribers will receive your regular email broadcasts, just like everyone else. I’ve tested welcome sequences extensively and they can more than double the responsiveness of your subscribers, compared to just dropping them into the pool of your regular subscribers, right away.
You can take this concept even further by creating very long series of automated emails. In fact, you can completely automate your email marketing, using follow-up sequences. Write out all of your mails (promotional and non-promotional), put them all in an automated sequence and every new subscriber will follow the same “story”, at the same pace.
I guarantee you that that’s what at least 50% of the people reading this are thinking, right now.
Everyone who knows anything about online marketing knows that email marketing is hugely profitable. Everyone knows that if you have a mailing list with thousands of loyal fans, you never have to worry about your income. Everyone knows that the closest thing you can get to click-of-a-button money is having an awesome mailing list.
And still, most Internet marketers never even attempt email marketing. Because it’s “too difficult” and because it’s “too time consuming”.
And that’s a good thing, for you. Just like online video, email marketing is something that seems difficult until you actually start doing it and discover that it’s not nearly as complicated as you thought. But most people never get to that point. Most people make excuses and give up before taking the first step.
If you start building a mailing list, you’re immediately unique and you immediately leave many competitors behind. If you add video to the mix, you’re immediately in a tiny, elite minority. And if you also treat your subscribers well, offer them value and have a unique voice… well, then you’re one in a million!
Remember: obstacles are there to keep your competition back.
In just a few days, I’ll be revealing a tool that I’ve spent a lot of time developing and that I specifically created to help me build my list faster and more effectively. If you aren’t on my mailing list yet, make sure to subscribe using the form below, to receive an early announcement and special offer for this upcoming product.
But regardless of whether you are a subscriber of mine or not and of whether you’re interested in my upcoming product or not: now is the time to start building your mailing list and getting into email marketing.
P.S.: If you have any questions about email marketing, please ask by leaving a comment below! And if you liked this post, I’d appreciate it if you’d share it on twitter, facebook or G+!
I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.
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