The (Second) Biggest Marketing Mistake You Could Be Making (And How To Fix It)

By February 1, 2012 Email Marketing
The (Second) Biggest Marketing Mistake You Could Be Making (And How To Fix It)

You may recall the Biggest Marketing Mistake I mentioned only a few days ago.

Well, no sooner had I clicked “publish” on that one than I had a conversation with a friend who conveyed interest in doing some email marketing. I thought this was a great idea, and offered to help. But there were a few problems; namely, my friend didn’t have an email list. No, it seemed she barely had the email addresses of the clients she did work with. Worse, she’d given lectures, attended networking events and even done some phone-call prospecting without a single email address to show for it.

I almost regretted publishing the Biggest Marketing Mistake, thinking that this new infraction was truly the worst way to conduct business. So I’ve given the number 2 spot to this mistake: failing to build your email list at every opportunity.

Why Email Matters

Email still holds one of the top spots for ROI. That means, dollar for dollar, email is one of the least expensive marketing tools and returns one of the highest yields on your investment. Email is relatively easy to create, ridiculously easy to send and if you’re using a good email campaign management program you can measure a ton of useful statistics to track your progress and success.

But you can’t send an email unless you’ve got an email address to send it to. Preferably a lot of email addresses.

Think about it: you’re going to put the effort into designing, composing, creating and setting up your email campaigns (or you’re about to pay a professional to do it for you). Whether you send the email to 10 or 10,000 people, the effort is the same. So wouldn’t you rather have 10,000?

This article isn’t about how to send emails or what to say when you do. It’s simply about how to collect those precious email addresses so that when you’re ready to put in the effort, it’s worth your time and money.

Some Simple Ideas For Building Your Email List

If you’re consistent in your efforts and pay attention to opportunities, there’s no reason you couldn’t exponentially grow your email list almost immediately.

Ask Your Clients

If this sounds obvious to you, I breathe a sigh of relief. But it’s not so obvious to many people (just ask my friend). You should be collecting and storing your clients’ email addresses for more than one good reason, but for now let’s just say that every one of your clients should be on your email marketing list.

They can always unsubscribe if they don’t want to get your brilliant and charming newsletter, so be sure to maintain a contact list outside of your campaign management program so you can effectively manage both campaign and non-campaign emails.

Ask Your Prospects

Surely you’ve been to at least one meeting, lunch or coffee with a potential customer. They may not hire you but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to market to them so that one day when they’re ready to hire someone like you, you’re the one they think of. Heck, they may never hire you. But maybe they have a friend or colleague who asks for a recommendation. Guess who’s name will be top-of-mind?

Sometime during every prospecting meeting, preferably close to the end after you’ve proven how intelligent and witty you really are, ask your prospect if you can add her name to your mailing list (most people won’t say no) and promise you’ll never share, sell or spam.

Ask Your Friends

Maybe you don’t like to mix business and pleasure. It sure can be awkward doing business with a friend, especially if one of you is short on time and the other is short on budget…

But that doesn’t mean your friends couldn’t be a networking and referral system for you. Your friends may not hire you but your friends have other friends and jobs with colleagues who may. Again, it’s about being top-of-mind, and the person who your friend thinks of when her boss asks if she knows someone who can do what you do.

Add A Subscribe Box To Your Website, Blog And Facebook Page

The awesome thing about a Subscribe box is that you can entice perfect strangers who you may otherwise never have met to join your list (and either become customers or another part of your referral network). The trick is how you sell it.

It’s not altogether likely that someone will subscribe to the corporate newsletter of some arbitrary company (snore) but they may if you offer something more. That may come in the form of something other than a newsletter, such as tips or helpful information. You can also entice subscribers with a free-something. Offer an eBook, coupon, special video, discount or other incentive that you only release once someone subscribes.

The next trick is letting people know about your Subscribe box and offer. For that, you’ve got to do some more smart marketing and tweet it, post it, advertise it, blog about it and generally let people know that there’s a really great deal if they sign up.

Ask At Your Next Networking Meeting

Whether you attend a formal networking meeting or show up at a business card exchange, you should walk away with a stack of new subscribers. What do you plan to do with all those business cards, anyway? Paper your walls? Fill up your wallet? Make a series of time-consuming phone calls? Or, more likely, forget about them until they show up in your junk drawer six months later and you can’t remember who the person was anyway?

You cannot assume that just because someone hands you a business card that he or she wants to be on your mailing list. But you can ask. Especially if you’ve got good content or a good deal, this shouldn’t be a hard sell. Remember to lead with “here’s what you get” and end with “and you can unsubscribe anytime”. Somewhere in the middle promise not to share that email address with anyone else.

This can be as simple as marking the business cards of people who agree so you can later enter them into your email program, or as efficient as walking in with an iPad and having people subscribe on the spot. People don’t magically show up on your email list – you’ve got to ask!

Keep a Signup Sheet At Your Place of Business

If you have an office or store, invite people to sign up as they walk in. Have them add their names to a regular old notebook page, or let them drop cards with their email addresses into a box if privacy is a concern. You’ve probably seen this done at restaurants. If you drop your business card into a fishbowl, you get on their mailing list and a chance to win a free lunch. Sounds like a win-win.

Ask At Your Next Trade Show, Event Or Seminar

Any time you’re in a room full of people you can be building your email list. If you attend an event, course or lecture, you’re probably mingling and connecting with other attendees. Use the opportunity to ask them to join your list. You’ve got to use your judgment here. You don’t want to be the annoying person running around collecting emails. But if you strike up a rapport with someone, there’s no harm in asking. They can always say no.

If you’re presenting at an event or teaching a course you should absolutely be asking for email addresses! I am shocked at the number of people who give their time away in the form of lectures, demonstrations and presentations and walk out without a single contact. I’m more shocked that it never occurred to them to ask.

How To Build Your Email List The Wrong Way

In the quest for numbers, it can be tempting to think that numbers matter. While they do matter to an extent – the more people on your list, the more opportunities you have to market – the number is not the goal. You’d be better served with 100 qualified people on your list than 1,000 people who hit the delete key every time they see your name.

Don’t buy your email lists. For starters, nobody likes their email address to be bought and sold. How do you feel every time you get an unsolicited bit of junk mail because some company sold your email address because the fine print said they could? Someone who gets your email unexpectedly may resent it and that can create a bad impression that’s not worth the numbers. Secondly, if you buy email addresses, you may not be getting a list of qualified prospects. Building a good list is partly about building relationships, so make yours count.

Don’t scrape email addresses from the web. Just because someone is your “friend” on Facebook and his email address is listed in his profile, you don’t have the right to send him your newsletter. You can ask – but you can’t take. You also don’t get to take email addresses from blogs or forums where people have posted or commented.

And no, you don’t even get to take your colleague’s email list. You can capitalize creatively, perhaps by asking your colleague to send an email requesting that her list join yours, but sharing is bad form.

The Single Best Thing You Can Do To Grow Your List

Free. How powerful is that word? How many times have you signed up for an offer just because it was free? I can’t tell you how many granola bars, packets of laundry detergent and shampoo samples I have because someone offered them to me free. I don’t even like granola bars. But here’s the thing: my mother does. You may wonder what that has to do with anything, and I’ll tell you. I give her the granola bars. And she likes them. And she buys them. New customer and everyone’s happy!

The point is that if you offer something free just for joining your email list, you’ll get a lot more responses than if you just offered… well, the honor of joining. You can also be reasonably certain that you’re getting qualified subscribers, because unlike granola bars, your content or coupon is specifically relevant to your list. Someone is not going to sign up to receive your 10 Secrets To Peeling Potatoes unless they really want to know how to peel a potato.  (Unless you’re running a cooking site, I hope you never tell me how to peel a potato.)

So offer something free. A webinar. An eBook with ideas and tips that can’t be found anywhere else on your site or blog. An exclusive discount on your product or service. That little enticement is a big selling point.

Remember, email marketing is your friend. You can reach people all over the globe for a fraction of a fraction of what it would cost to send them a bit of mail or take out an ad. You should constantly be in list-building mode. Even if you grab one person a day, that’s one more person who may hire you or buy from you… or share your granola bar with someone else who will.