Old School Principles to Build your Email List

Sammy ChangEmail, Guides, Marketing1 Comment

old school tactics for email list building

When was the last time you put your business card into the box for the chance at a free lunch? Sure, we know the idea here – keep people coming back, get their names, see where they are from, create regular customers.  This is basic grassroots marketing. Connecting to the people and getting them to opt-in for value, in this case an opportunity for free food.  It works.  It is good marketing.

Restaurants have been using these type of win-win promotions successfully for years.  My other favourite restaurant promo that drives great revenue are loss leaders like “Wing Wednesdays.”  While the wings are cheap, everything else is regular price.  The likelihood you’ll have nothing to drink with your wings?  Or add an entree? The restaurant is gambling that the odds are low you’ll just have wings. I only know one person who beats those odds and just has water with his wings. This simple loss leader strategy is a great compliment to the “enter to win a free lunch” contest box. Both of these tactics provide value for both the restaurant and its customers.

The result?

Customer: Hearing your name included in the greeting at a restaurant is a really nice feeling, a very personal touch. A good deal.

Restaurant: A customer eats at your restaurant more frequently which helps your business.  All for the cost of one meal, once per week or once per month. A good deal.

Same Principle… for Email

Let’s take this very effective traditional marketing technique, to create great email marketing campaigns.  Something that clearly benefits both the sender and recipients of the emails.  List building becomes easier when you are confident of your messaging and perceived value.

Have a good reason for people to opt-in: Much like the free lunch example, the recipient of your emails needs to justify why your email is important enough to open.  Give ample reasons, not just one.  Being on the “preferred” or “vip” list doesn’t cut it anymore.  Getting that status just from disclosing information doesn’t work anymore.  If that VIP status comes with on-going perks, then the value is apparent.  Early registration, first opportunities, customer feedback or focus groups…. there are many ways.  Pick something that works for your business and your audience.

Follow through on those promises: If you’re going to be VIP and get all these wonderful things, give them out.  Take the time to plan out the how, when and budget accordingly.  Can you afford to give a 10% discount, no matter the purchase?  Would you ever actually do a customer survey for your email subscribers?  Will anyone feel like a very important person?

Create expectations for your Email Subscribers: Let them know up front what to expect with the content in the emails and how often you will be sending them.  I recently subscribed to two different real estate blogs with a world of difference.  One just said “sign up for news” and I now receive 2 emails per day from them.  The other asked me “how often would I like to receive article updates” and “what topics are your favorite?” which really impressed me.  The second actually publishes less content per day, but understands that I want quality not quantity of articles.  After being subscribed to both, I can tell you that for the first one I look like a dormant subscriber, while the second I look perfectly active.  I enjoy reading the second one more because I don’t have to sift through daily content to find something to read.

Set goals for list building: Treat email marketing like any other marketing channel, set your goals and expectations.  This may not take a heavy amount of financial investment, but don’t underestimate the potential returns. Understand that your time is valuable and if you will be spending time to plan and deliver this strategy, you need to see some return.

What does that look like to you?

  • Better reputation online?
  • Larger list of subscribers?
  • Higher revenue?
  • More social sharing?
  • More regular customers?

These are all good things!

Let your email marketing evolve: Get really friendly with the data that is available through most email programs.  Take the time to figure out what is working and how to change it for the better.  The evolution of your email marketing will be noticed by your following and the results will show.  Most people don’t know what they want, but when they finally see what they want the response is tremendous.  Make changes based on the data, it is what your customers want.

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.  –Steve Jobs

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

Finally, to avoid mentioning what’s been pressing in the news regarding email would be strange considering the topic of this article.  The talk this year about email lists and spam, particularly with the new Canadian Anti-Spam Laws was front page news for much of 2014.  Some companies have to drastically re-think how they do business through email as they are fearful of the penalties.

Have you ever heard of a dead list?  The most concerning reality is that many businesses fear their current email subscribers won’t opt back in.  Like our muscles in our body, if you don’t use them, you will lose them.  An email list is the same way.  If you don’t use it, your subscribers won’t remember you.  Or if you are using your email list incorrectly, your emails could be ignored, ending up in the junk or being deleted.

Simply put, people won’t opt back in if you never had their engagement.

The opportunity that is presented because of this new legislation should be capitalized on. But take your time to do it right.  Having a strategy that works for your business will create a strong lead generation and communication tool. The general public now understands that there needs to be value in the emails they receive.  This is fantastic for people who take the time to do it right.  It will probably lead to increasingly better metrics; lower bounce rates, higher open rates and hopefully (with good content) lead to higher click-though rates.

Plan an email marketing strategy and start list building.  Make it easy for new people to subscribe.  Keep your value real and easy to understand.

Let’s get back to basics so the sender and recipient are both getting A good deal.
Thanks to @ThaiHouse for the article inspiration and the awesome lunch.


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