Since you’re a reader of Smart Digital Assets, you know that having a big, juicy email list is one of the most important things you can do for your business.
But time and again, I hear marketers complaining about how their list – as big as it may be – just isn’t generating any income.
They send emails, information, offers and request attention and action again and again and again – but nothing doing!
This is brutal; after hearing for most of your online life that “the money’s in the list”, having a list with no money is as confusing as it is frustrating.
It really doesn’t have to be that way.
A smart marketer can keep their list warm, engaged, interested and purchasing on a regular basis – to say nothing of helping to spread the word about the business!
That’s what you want to see in a list and probably what you expected when you spent so much time building it…
So what’s the deal? Why isn’t it working?
It’s a List of People – Not a Bank!
Many people treat their list as just a list; a resource that you increase over time through a set of actions with more or less predictable outcomes.
Once the list reaches a certain size it can be squeezed for sales, promotion, research and other valuable assets. How nifty! They were right when they said that the money is in the list! Look at all of that value you get out of it!
What these people forget is that an email list is filled with people who have interests and needs. You know – real people with other things to do than read your emails and follow through on your CTAs!
This is something that happens to even big, established online marketers: they treat their email list as something to extract value from rather than something to nurture and provide value for.
Without providing real value and plenty of it, your list will dry up faster than you’d believe.
You May Not Be Offering Enough
All of the people on your list want something, and by subscribing to your list, they hope you can provide it.
You need to deliver not just once, but again and again.
Providing semi-regular blog updates and news about your latest project is NOT providing real value. It’s practically insulting.
Remember: the people on your list have no reason to care about you or what you’re doing unless you give them one.
There is a principle of attraction called reciprocity, where if someone does something for you, you have an inclination to return the favour. When someone provides you with some value, you WANT to return the favour.
So give as much as you can! Tools, information, resources, recommendations – whatever can be of real use to your subscriber. If you make this your habit, then when you do occasionally send an offer for sale or request for interaction, more people will be over the moon to help you out.
It’s called a relationship. And when it’s going well, it can be not only financially rewarding, but tremendously personally satisfying.
Starting the Relationship Right
This relationship with your subscribers starts from your very first impression with them: your landing page.
You know that a landing page has far better conversions that a regular blog page, and that an attractive offer will do better than a boring one, but just popping an eBook in the email doesn’t cut it anymore, because it’s what everyone does. It’s the bare minimum you need to do to be taken seriously.
To become a trusted resource, you need to go a few steps further, and solve a real problem with your opt-in incentive and then follow up to see how it went for them. Then ask if you can do anything else for them. Provide supplemental resources, or recommendations of other great places they can find more info. Be as helpful as possible every time you reach out to your list.
Following up in such a way sets an amazing tone for your relationship.
Of course, not every person will go out of their way to tell you that the tips on page 17 worked really well, but some will – and the more of those types you can have, the better things are going to go for you and for them.
Some people are also going to be highly annoyed that you send them so much email, and are constantly asking for feedback and other ways to be of use.
This is good. It means you’re doing this right.
Let them – no – encourage them to unsubscribe.
Explain to your subscribers what you expect from the relationship, in terms of their attention and interest, and what you intend to provide. Frame the relationship as you want it to go: with you providing tons of useful value to them, and them responding when they can.
Those who aren’t willing to accept that are better off far, far away from you and your business, so let them go with no hard feelings.
Getting Things Rolling
What we’re talking about here is the cycle of commitment and reward.
You ask a subscriber (or would-be subscriber!) for a small commitment, like signing up to your mailing list, and then you reward them with tons of fantastic value – far more than they expected.
Once they’ve had time to enjoy the rewards, offer them another chance to commit to something small – maybe tweeting one of your blog posts – and reward them again with thanks and more great content and offers of help.
This gets your list into the habit of responding positively when you offer something.
It works like a charm, IF you’re genuine and sincere in your desire to be of use. People have an uncanny ability to sniff out insincerity, and will not hesitate to ignore you completely if they sense it on you. Start small, start carefully, and always provide more than you ask for.
This is a skill that takes practice like any other, and no list is exactly the same as another, but before long, you’ll have a keen sense of exactly what inspires the most devotion from yours.
Keep the Cycles Coming
Now, it’s great to have an active, engaged list, but eventually you really do need them to buy something from you!
You’re not in this for charity! (Unless you’re running a charity, in which case – replace “sale” with “donation” for the rest of this section!)
Gradually, as you notice that a good portion of your list (20-30% is good) is responding positively to your “small asks” for engagement, ramp things up a little. Start to offer bigger things like products, services or consultation in exchange for larger actions – like attending live events or signing up for special interest lists.
Reward them according to the principles we’ve discussed already, and repeat with a bigger ask: one that involves them taking out their wallet and paying you.
There will always be people who won’t; paying for things is a real limit for some people. But if you’ve done a good job proving your value, and demonstrating that you have an earnest desire to provide good, useful service, more people will be happy to pay you than you might expect.
Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).