If you were building a house, you’d likely do some research about where you’re going to build, what materials you’re going to use and how you’re going to schedule the work. Wouldn’t you? It could go horribly wrong if you didn’t do that kind of research.
In the same way it pays to do a little research before building your email list.
Every business wants a big list. And that isn’t hard if you have a big budget or plenty of time. However a big list of people who care nothing for your product or service is worse than no list. What we really want is a list of engaged subscribers who look forward to hearing from your business. To achieve that you need to ask yourself the following questions before you start growing your list:-
1. Who are you targeting?
It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people take the ‘anybody’ approach. This comes from a fear of possibly missing out on business if they narrow their focus to any particular group. Time and again it’s been shown that businesses that specialise and cater for a particular audience, get better quality business (more satisfying and more profitable). So sit down and have a long hard think about which group perfectly fits with your product or service. You might find it useful to do a Target Profile Interview to help with this one.
2. What are the concerns and aspirations of this group?
The Target Profile, mentioned above, can really help nail the answer to this question. It will reveal the particular things about your business offerings that appeal to this group. For a tourist attraction it might be obvious things like location, price, seasonality but other things may be revealed that you hadn’t thought about, like entertaining visiting relatives, for instance. Once you have a sense of who is in this group, you need to find them.
3. Where do they hang out (online, in person, print)?
Sure you can advertise your list on every social media platform available but take some time to also find the groups on those social media platforms where your target audience hang out. So for instance, if you are in tourism, sharing to your county tourism social media pages will give you far more reach.
Don’t over look capturing customer data from those who visit your premises. You can devise fun incentives for people to leave their email addresses. If you have online ticket booking, ensure you give customers the chance to opt in for your sales emails or e-news when they book.
For business to business, LinkedIn groups and publishing on LinkedIn are a great way to raise your profile and invite people to your sign up form. Don’t forget trade publications and guest blogging. Most on and offline publications are desperate for good content.
Once you start seeing results through these free but time consuming methods then you’re ready to do some targeting advertising. At this point it is worth attending to the form your content might take.
4. How do they prefer to consume information (audio, video, image, article)?
If for instance you are targeting business professionals then well-written articles may fit the bill, but it depends what sector you are in. While a well-crafted article can be persuasive in most industries, there is no doubt it is competing with video, image quotes, podcasts and giffs to grab attention. So you might want to think about using a combination of media to first grab attention and then deliver your message. This brings us to the content.
5. What content can you create?
Working out how to create a regular supply of engaging content can prove a headache when you sit down with a blank piece of paper and try to come up with topics. Forget this approach. Spend some time out and about taking a walk in your customers shoes, either literally or in your mind.
As you connect more with where they are at and what they are looking for, you’ll begin to realise what sort of content will attract and intrigue them. It may be ‘how to’ articles or videos. It might be ‘behind the scenes’ video clips or blog posts, it could be photo stories of attractions and events in your area.
The scope is endless. The main thing is that you feel inspired and confident in this area and have something to say. The medium you use will depend on what you know about and what interests you eg. writing, video, graphics, photography or what you are interested in learning about. Once you have some idea of content, then it’s best to make a schedule.
6. How will you make that a regular feature?
The longer I do this work, the less I realise you can cite any rules as absolute. So while I’m inclined to say a regular schedule of content delivery is important, I know plenty of businesses who get on just fine with a far more ad hoc approach. The important thing is to manage expectations. If delivery will be at random, then say so.
However, if you are just starting out with this, for your own sense of satisfaction and to be able to better measure results, then a schedule could be good. Again this is best done with a healthy balance of hope and realism. You may think you can create and deliver four articles a week but perhaps start with two a month and see how you get on. If that works well, you could increase to weekly. Taking some time to research and master a good delivery method is a good investment.
7. How will you get it in front of your audience?
For small lists, under 2000 subscribers, MailChimp is my preferred favourite email content delivery method. (Disclaimer: I am a MailChimp expert and offer online live tuition via Google Hangout). It is a lovely programme but worth investing time to learn how it works and how to get the best from it. Your content may be great and you may have found where your potential subscribers are hanging out. How do you get them to actually subscribe?
8. What can you offer as a sweetener?
A sweetener or a thank you for subscribing is always nice to offer. Depending on your business it might be a free pdf with useful tips, or a free quiz e.g. A personality quiz with some illuminating insights from the results. A local guide to the area for tourism businesses, free audios for coaching businesses. You get the idea.
You might be thinking, isn’t it easier to just buy a huge list and work on the basis you’ll get some interest even if the majority unsubscribe or hit junk? Absolutely not a good idea. For a start you very rarely see a return on investment from purchasing lists if you are a small business.They are far too general to be useful.
Second, if a large number of people hit junk, companies like MailChimp may well suspend your account. So this kind of short cut won’t help in the long run.
So just as you wouldn’t just start piling bricks one on top of the other, wily nily when building a house, so don’t dive headlong into building your email list without first doing some preparation work.
If you’d like to book a one off or regular sessions with me, Juliet Fay to help develop your e-marketing, do get in touch.