Building A List To Build Your Business
One of the most essential tools for small businesses and non-profits alike is “the list.”
“The list” is a database of your contacts, their names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, the works. This targeted list is made up of not just your customers, but also your prospects, your vendors, your partners, and just about everyone else with whom you and your staff have come in contact over the years.
When done right, your list segments your contacts—by geography, industry, gender, job title, income level, interests—or whatever is important to your business so that you can deliver relevant messages to the right people at the right time.
While some businesses buy lists—either to jumpstart their nascent contact database or because they regularly churn through so many customers—the best lists are homegrown. Nurture and protect your list with the ferocity of a mother bear and it will take care of you in return.
Why You Want/Need a List
While most people see the obvious benefits to a list, that’s not universal. People in the mental health field as well as other service professionals have told me over the years that they’re not interested in building a list.
Holy missed opportunity, Batman!
My dad, a well-known psychologist, author and speaker, started building his list with an opt-in email newsletter years ago, and now he has thousands of interested people he can email every time a new book comes out. No matter what you plans are now, you never know what the opportunities may be five or even ten years down the road.
Creating a knowledge-based product (like a book, ebook, webinar or even an app) is within the reach of just about every living creature on the planet…or will be soon enough. By building your list now—and not waiting—you’re cultivating a group of people who want to hear and learn more from you.
How to Build Your List
The best place to build your list is at your website. You can do so by creating a landing or “squeeze” page, which often eschews traditional navigation and puts the focus on the contact form, works to alleviate any privacy concerns, and is clear on the benefit to the visitor.
You’ll need to offer your visitor something of worth in exchange for their contact information. What that enticement is will depend on your industry and your audience. Examples include:
- A report or white paper, such as 10 Questions to Ask Before Setting Up a Website,
- Access to a free webinar that your audience would be interested in, or
- Entry in a raffle or giveaway, such as Red Sox tickets, or the ubiquitous online offer, the iPad.
Your contact form should be as short as possible, requiring the least amount of effort on the visitor’s part, but gathering enough information for you to follow up with them. If you need people to provide a lot of personal information, you’ll need a really big carrot. The bigger the form, the bigger the carrot.
There are several ways to lead people to a squeeze page. If they’re already at your website, you can publicize the free download as a link, maybe with a snazzy graphic.
With Google Adwords you may want to do a bit of keyword analysis first to determine which keyword phrases might be attractive your target audience. Make sure you send people who click on your ads to your squeeze page, not to your home page, to increase the chance of conversion.
With ads on Facebook or LinkedIn, you’ll be able to filter who sees your ad based on geography, interests, gender, age, job title and industry, depending on the platform. Again, direct people to your squeeze page.
If you’ve built up a following on any of the popular social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, you can also leverage your clout here to drive people to your squeeze page. Just remember to be transparent; you can only soil your reputation once. Unless you’re a celebrity. Then anything goes.
How to Manage Your List
You can manage your list in something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or tie it into a CRM (customer relationship management) service like Salesforce or Netsuite. At flyte we use Highrise, a web-based CRM that allows all of our crew to add or update contacts through any web browser or smart phone.
You can email your list (or segments of it) from some CRMs, while other CRMs allow you to export into your favorite email programs. Use the filtering tools built into most CRMs to send out targeted emails to specified segments of contacts, reducing the chances of opt-outs and increasing the chances of making that sale.
Keep in mind that having a CRM is different than having an email newsletter. Just because someone downloaded a free report doesn’t mean they want you emailing them every week with a new offer, unless you were clear about that when they signed up. Best practice also dictates that you give people the option of opting-out, allowing them to stop receiving your marketing messages when they no longer wish to receive them.
Of course, there are more than squeeze pages for collecting contact information. You can also collect information from people who buy from your online store, who you meet at networking events, who drop their card in your bowl for a drawing at a trade show, and so on. Just always be above board; the quickest way to tarnish your reputation and ruin the relationship is to start spamming someone…and spamming, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
- Be sure to add opportunities and enticements to your website where visitors can leave their contact information.
- Use outside traffic sources like Adwords and ads at Facebook and LinkedIn if your site doesn’t generate much traffic…yet.
- Send targeted messages for select segments of your list for maximum results.
- Treat the people on your list as you wish to be treated. A big list doesn’t give you the right to ignore the Golden Rule.
If you have any questions on how to build your own list using your website and web marketing, please contact flyte today.
About the Author: Rich Brooks is president of flyte new media, a Web site design and Internet marketing company in Portland, Maine. Flyte works with small businesses to build professional Web sites that often include e-commerce, Flash and content management systems. They promote their clients' sites through search engine optimization, e-mail marketing, business blogs and social media. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/therichbrooks.