An email list can be your most valuable asset when it comes to online business. When it comes to this, I’m still learning. I have the head knowledge, which I’ll share with you here, but when it comes to implementing, well, I’ve done some with it, but I’m still working on building an email list to be proud of.
Why do you need an email list? As I’ve mentioned in other posts, having your business only on other people’s platforms, such as facebook, Twitter, Etsy, and CafePress, is extremely risky. You need to have your own website in order to own your brand, and it needs to collect the email addresses of people who are interested in what you have to offer.
That makes it possible to contact your customers, and it makes it far easier to present your offers to them, when you have an offer to make. You shouldn’t flood your email list subscribers with sales pitches, though. Instead, share news and tips with them, and occasionally feature a product you have for sale. Some experts recommend a ratio of 10:1 of helpful information to sales pitches; others say 20:1.
What if you don’t have a list?
There are plenty of opportunities to buy lists. I don’t recommend it, because you risk being labeled as a spammer, and that comes with hefty consequences. Your webhost could close your account, and your internet service provider might ban you from accessing the internet. Either of those would be catastrophic. Start with people you know. Let them know what you’re doing, and ask them to sign up for your email list and share anything they want to with their friends. Some of their friends may sign up. Article marketing is another way to get in front of readers who may click through to your site and sign up to receive your emails. Putting your incentive (the free offer you give to entice people to sign up) in your signature line on your emails and forums where you post is another way to attract interested people. Building an email list takes time, but the more active you are in places where your audience might be, the better.
Autoresponders for email list management
An autoresponder is a service that sends out your emails for you. You write the emails ahead of time, and schedule when each one should go out. Then they’re sent automatically, and only to the people you’ve selected. If you have an introductory, “thank you for subscribing” email, you can set it to be sent immediately after someone signs up to receive your emails, for example. You might set another one—say the first in your free tip series—to go out the day after they sign up, and one a week after that.
There’s a wide variety of possibilities, and you’re in control of when they are sent. Using an autoresponder can save you hundreds of hours a year, and you don’t have to keep track of whether or not you sent that email to that person. The system handles it for you.
There are two main email autoresponders: Aweber and MailChimp. I’ve had accounts with both, and I prefer Aweber, if only because I have more experience with it. We used Aweber for a couple of now-defunct websites (rememeber, sometimes we learn best by failing forward). I currently have MailChimp on this blog, but will be switching back to Aweber by August 2014.
More than one email list
Aweber offers the ability to segment your lists in various ways. This feature is beneficial to me, as I offer different product lines and the people who buy one are not necessarily interested in the others. For example, buyers of my business-writing course are not always the same people who buy my Writer Program: Nitty Gritty, which is tailored to individuals who write or want to write. Small-business owners and homeschooling moms obviously have different needs. If I had to send the same emails out to both groups, I might lose subscribers quickly.
Aweber currently costs $19/mo. MailChimp has a pay-as-you-go option, and has averaged me $3/mo. so far. So why would I want to switch back to Aweber? Familiarity means functionality in this case. Because I’m not comfortable using MailChimp, I haven’t put it to good use. I’ve been reluctant to recruit people to sign up for my email list lately, because it’s not as easy for me to manage as an Aweber account is. Your mileage may vary. Both are worth checking into.
What if you can’t afford an autoresponder?
You can gather emails manually, one at a time, if you’re starting on “less than a shoestring,” but it’s a lot more convenient to use an autoresponder. If you focus on getting sales, it could be paying for itself in no time. Just one of my products sold each month covers the Aweber fee. Not bad at all, right?
What’s the craziest or oddest offer you’ve received in your email? Did you notice if it was sent from an Aweber, MailChimp, or other account? If you don’t already notice which autoresponder the emails you receive come from, you probably will now. Share some of the offers you’ve seen below.