I was talking with Tara Jacobsen from Marketing Artfully (one of my favorite things to do) and she was saying how everything she does leads people back to her website and (hopefully) onto her email list.
I can talk about your author’s platform all day long, but the most important plank of your platform—if you’re not an instantly recognizable celebrity (yet)—is your mailing list. Building your mailing list is pretty much why you do everything else.
Your mailing list is your direct connection to your followers. You can post on a social media site, but you don’t know if a specific follower is going to see that post, or even if any single one of your followers is going to see that post. Granted, most people don’t open every email from you, but they will at least see it hit their mailbox and they’ll glance at the subject line. You’re on their radar, even if you’re not in their hearts and minds at the moment.
The Art of the Opt-In Offer
How do you get people on your email list? The best known way is to use what used to be called an ethical bribe or a variation of that, the content upgrade.
What’s an ethical bribe? That is something of value, almost always downloadable unless you have an actual marketing budget, that you will give people in return for their name and email address. For instance, one of my ethical bribes is a three video course on how to start writing your book. I also have some other free downloads and trainings scattered throughout the site.
Here’s the thing: Your ethical bribe has to be more enticing than “Sign up for my newsletter.” Most of our followers are coming to us because they want information on a specific topic. Yes, your freebie might be a newsletter, but how about saying, “Sign up for my weekly/monthly roundup of the latest hacks to increase your bottom line.” A little more enticing? Yes. Want it more enticing? “10 Things You’re Doing Now that KILL Your Bottom Line – Get It Now.” And in the copy you can add that they’ll get a roundup of hacks every week or month.
A variation of the ethical bribe is a content upgrade. That’s an offer, usually from your blog post or podcast episode, that says, “Hey, if you’d like more in-depth information on this particular topic, click here for xx.” You can offer a free report, a checklist, a mindmap, whatever. They click the link, they’re brought to an opt-in box, their name and email address is added to your list and they get their goodie. Win/Win.
Autoresponders for Your Mailing List
“Wait!” you say, “How do I get those names onto a list?”
You use an autoresponder service. The first autoresponders just replied to emails with an automated message. “Sorry, I’m out of the office this week. If you have an emergency, contact Marge at extension 2345.” They grew into sophisticated email tools that allowed people to maintain an email list, segment those lists according to source or interest, send out an automated series of emails, and send out broadcast or “one-off” emails. Most have a double opt-in function. When someone signs up for your list, they are sent an email asking that they confirm their permission to be put on a list. That keeps your hysterically-funny friends from signing you up for all sorts of bizarre emails lists and it helps to ensure that marketers aren’t just spamming people. (That’s the theory, anyway.)
Once on your list, you should use a nurture sequence welcoming them to your sphere, giving them more information, encouraging them to come back to your site for more information, and what to expect as far as amount of emails they might receive from you on a regular basis. No one wants their inbox flooded with an avalanche of useless stuff. There are some marketers who encourage you to send emails daily, some two or three times a day, some two or three times a week, etc. I send out a link to my blog post once a week and occasional emails when something is going on. If you sign up for one of my free trainings, there’s usually a 4-7 email series that follows up. Personally, the people who email me every day get their emails deleted unless there’s a really compelling subject line. So think about the balance between giving your followers pertinent, interesting, and useful information and being too in-their-face.
Should you buy a list? Can you even buy an email list?
I buy mailing lists for offline (snail mail) marketing for a specific business of mine. Can you buy an email list? Yes, you can. But you shouldn’t for two reasons. First, in my experience, most email lists have very old, out-dated, non-targeted names. How do I know this? Because I am still getting biz op and other irrelevant spam at email addresses I haven’t used for over 10 years. Second, you’re spamming people. All you’re going to do is get yourself in trouble or at minimum, annoy people. It’s not worth the doing. Especially since there are better ways to build your list such as doing joint ventures, guest posting and being a guest on podcasts, running online ads, and using text opt ins at speaking engagements among other avenues.
I have said more than once that social media “likes” do not translate to sales or even real followers. Clicking “like” on a page or a post is very low commitment. Clicking “Buy” on your site or on Amazon is a financial commitment. It’s a jump. Your free opt-in or content upgrade moves people to a slightly larger, non-financial commitment. Instead of just “liking” something, they have to go through the process of entering their name and email address. Yes, it’s easy but it’s an extra step, an extra commitment that they consciously agree to. They are upping their relationship with you. It’s an indication that they are more than mildly interested in what you have to say.
If you don’t have a mailing list and you’re not already famous, start now. Find an autoresponder you like (I use GetResponse* but many people start with a free service such as MailChimp), put an opt-in on your website, and start building your list. It’s the most important and direct point of contact you will have with your followers.
* Yep, an affiliate link!