Building and Capitalizing on your own List...

With very, very few exceptions, if you asked any of the Internet Marketing experts what is the one thing they’d want to keep if they lost everything else, the answer would be “my list.” (Or, “Lists.”)

The experts will tell you …

  • If you’re using the GoogleCash approach, you MUST (in their view) have a Landing page between the Adwords Ad and the Merchant site … to collect e-mail addresses.

  • If you’re doing Affiliate Marketing, you MUST be collecting e-mail addresses from your site.

  • If you’re building software-generated Adsense-income sites, you’ll multiply your income many times over if you use the generated pages to also collect e-mail addresses.

  • If you’re selling information products, somewhere on your 1-page sales letter you should be capturing e-mail addresses. And if you sell via Clickbank, then when the buyer lands on a “Thank you” page you should be making sure you get their e-mail address.

  • If you’re selling physical products, you should be capturing e-mail addresses.

In fact, most experts would gladly forgo an immediate sale in order to have the potential buyer’s e-mail address. In line with this, one of the common techniques emerging in the past year has been the “Name Squeeze” approach where some e-mail or ad captures your attention with some attractive benefit, you click … and get taken to a page that basically says “There’s something really valuable behind this door, if you want to know more, give me your e-mail address and I’ll let you through the door!” You KNOW this turns some people off from going to the next stage … but the professional marketers' attitude is, if they won’t give us their e-mail address, we don’t care.

So, what’s so important about this List?

One Direct Marketing fundamental issue is that many people who buy from you, will not buy until after they have had several e-mails from you. Start with the recognition that even on a web site with a decent conversion rate, 98% of the visitors won't buy anything on their visit. Combine this with a recent study, in line with many others, that indicates that more than 81% of purchases are made after the 5th contact. Think about that from a different perspective … if the visitor to your site came, didn’t buy, and moved on, and you didn’t collect his e-mail address and follow up … your sales may be only 1/5th of what they would otherwise be!

A different perspective again: more than 80% of people who buy something, buy it from someone other than the person or company that first brought it to their attention! Why? Some of this is inevitably due to people finding other products they prefer,… but how much do you think is attributable simply to a lack of follow-up? It’s huge.
But this is only the beginning.

Consider this:  if you have a quality list, and manage it effectively, a certain percentage of the people on that list will buy a product you recommend every time you mail to the list. The usual figure quoted by Direct Mail specialists for any list is that 2% is a good-performing list. Well, with a good quality list you’ve built, and serviced well, where the people like you and trust you and feel there is actually a relationship with you … a 5% response is not unusual. 10% happens. Even 15%. There are a few lists where, when the list owner makes a recommendation (which they don't do too often, to be fair), almost 100% of his list will follow the recommendation! Pretty darned rare, of course, but you get the point.

But let’s not be greedy. Say you have a list of 5,000 names, you mail twice a month, in the mailing you provide great reader value in terms of content they really appreciate ... and you also make a recommendation about a certain product for which you are an affiliate and make $40 on a sale. If you recreate these conditions then a 2.5% conversion rate translates into an income of $10,000 a month.

The nearest thing to money on demand?

Having a quality list IS the nearest thing I can think of to being able to make money on demand. Well, almost on demand. If you have a quality list and you don't abuse it, you can literally turn to the list with a decent offer with confidence that the offer will be accepted by many of them; that orders, or affiliate fees, will start rolling in.

Launch New products To A Waiting Audience

Now think about this … if you develop a new product of your own, relevant to your list, and roll it out effectively, the mailing to your own list could bring you far more than a 2.5% conversion rate, AND you get to keep 100% of the selling price. Among the people releasing new products to the Internet Marketing fraternity, which is a very unusual fraternity by the way (and one you should probably not set your aim for … these guys are very, very good and it’s not easy to compete with them), it’s not unusual for a new product launch to net thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands in the first week just from the mailing to a proprietary list. One new product launch just sold several hundred thousand dollars of product in the first 9 minutes!

Can you see the beauty in this? 99% of businesses don’t have enough customers and don’t know where to get them. But with your own list, instead of having to go hunting for customers, you already know exactly who they are! And, they are waiting, even eagerly waiting if you’ve done your job right, for you to contact them and tell them about your new product!

But this is just the beginning.

In a different section, Joint Ventures, I take this a large step further; when you have a list, you can Joint Venture with others to sell their products to your list. You can Joint Venture with others to sell your product to their list. You can do combined mail-outs … you get together with a group of people with lists aiming at the same market (but with products that don’t compete head-on), and agree to create (for example) a 5-part mini-course. Each of you contributes one of the 5 parts … addressing your particular specialty.  The course is sent to each person’s list, and the individual sessions offer an inducement to all the readers to visit the contributor’s site … and be persuaded through good copy and a valuable bribe to join his/her list! So you can multiply the size of your subscribed base overnight!

One very clever list-growing exercise was started by a guy called Mark Hendricks (I mention him in the gurus section). He has a “12 days of Christmas” promotion where he gets a LOT of other Internet Marketing specialists to join him and donate a valuable e-Book, report, mini-course, or software program. Then, each contributor promotes the 12 days of Christmas program to his or her own list.

On the first day of Christmas, people get an e-mail offering them a freebie with a high perceived value. If they are interested, they click and get taken to a page promoting the day 1 freebie (donated by some of the group members). If the visitor wants the freebie, all they have to do is leave their e-mail address, and it will be e-mailed to them (or a link to the download page will be e-mailed to them).

On the 2nd day … 2 freebies. And so on. By the 12th day, if they stick to the formula (in fact they tend to add bonuses, too) there have been 78 give-aways, and potentially 78 marketers (it’s less, because some donate multiple products) have had the chance to have their lists expanded by the other 77 or so marketers promoting the promotion to their lists … sheer brilliance, and also well executed. Hendricks is a pro.

For a time I had more than 50 newsletters arriving regularly from a bunch of marketers, and many came from this promotion! They were delighted, and so was I … I got to learn a lot about a wide range of topics for free, got to observe the experts at work to convert me into a customer, was able to compare styles, see what worked for me and what didn’t and … ultimately … unsubscribe from the lists of people with the least value to me in their newsletters.

How Do You Go About Building a List?

Ok, the 12 Days of Christmas was clever, but for most of us, starting from scratch … how do you go about building a list?

Well, you don’t actually have to have a full web site to gather names; if you are willing to spend money to get your list you can simply place Adword ads and direct people to a name-squeeze page. You pay Google 5 cents a click, and hope that your subscription percentage plus the eventual value of the list itself will prove to be more than the cost of the advertising.

And if you are willing to pay, and looking for speed, there’s also an approach called co-registration; you can pay to be an add-on (the “co” bit) to someone else’s registration (“click here if you also want to receive …”). This way you can get a LOT of names, very quickly … but they are from people who did not explicitly ask to be e-mailed by you, so they might not be a very responsive list. And, many of the people receiving an e-mail from you may consider your e-mail Spam and report you … which can have some unpleasant side-effects. There ARE ways around these problems, and some Internet Marketers swear by the Co-Registration route, and certainly profit from it.

But most often you will be looking to grow a high quality list for free (or close to it), and the starting point is to have a website.

Bribery is a Good Thing When You're Building a List!

Now, if you want people to give you their e-mail address, especially in these days of growing distrust because of the dislike of Spam and concerns over security, you have to give them some strong inducement to hand their e-mail address over.

There are many ways to get people’s e-mail addresses, but by far the most common way is to offer a free newsletter that is clearly of value to the prospective subscriber. Offering a valuable newsletter on a topic that clearly interests people has some advantages over saying "give me your e-mail address so I can pitch to you over and over again." But it's sometimes not enough; so to take it a step further, it's common to offer a valuable free download of some kind, too - a special report or white paper or mini-course, for example - as an even stronger inducement.

And having persuaded them to subscribe, you want to keep them.

Unfortunately, the newsletter route has become so common that many newsletters are of really poor quality … I read somewhere that more than 70% of all internet users have unsubscribed from something, some time. In fact, I just saw recently that you can get software that will machine-generate a newsletter for you! I can see this being of some use if you have some low quality lists that you don't want to pay much attention to, basically you're just aiming to milk them ... but that would be suicide with a good list.

If you want the newsletter route to work, you must make sure that your newsletter offers a clear and compelling value. This might take the shape of industry news, or resource guides, special tips, special “subscriber only” deals, and so on. All of which mean understanding your market very well. And putting some time into the newsletter.

I can tell you from experience at the receiving end, there are some newsletters that, when they arrive, I’ll stop almost anything I’m doing to read them that instant. Others that I’ll move into a “read soon” section. And some that just never get read. You want to be one of the "stop everything to read this" authors!

Take this even further; take the business of getting subscribers to your List so seriously that you’ll build a full-page sales letter to back-up your offer (your bribe), selling it as passionately as you’d sell a purchased product. And on your web pages (ideally every one) you need to offer the subscription opportunity, with an option to subscribe there and then or else a “teaser” copy to induce them to go to your one-page sales letter for the subscription.

Where you place the subscription offer is important, too, of course. Sticking it at the top left or top right will naturally get you a lot more subscribers than having it at the end of a long page.

Many (most) Internet marketers also use a pop-up type mechanism to get you to subscribe to a news letter or mini-course or to download a free report. They almost push the offer into your face! Now, everybody HATES pop-ups … except the marketers who can prove to you that they work like a hot damn, regardless of people’s opinions. And there are ways to do pop-ups (or pop-unders or pop-overs or slide-ins or hover-ins) that don’t get blocked by the pop-up blockers, by the way.

Your device to get people's e-mails doesn’t have to be a newsletter, of course. You could just offer an article or free report in exchange for their e-mail address and the right to e-mail to them. I mentioned a multi-part mini-course as an option, earlier; this is very powerful, because it gets them into the habit of receiving something valuable from you.

AutoResponders Become Your Best Friend

Autoresponders are beautiful. An autoresponder set-up means that when someone subscribes, their name is automatically added to your List, and an e-mail is automatically sent to them ... perhaps just acknowledging their subscription. In some systems the e-mail asks them to confirm they've opted-in to your list. As soon as they click on the confirmation link, another e-mail is sent to them, this time including the newsletter, or perhaps the first lesson in a mini-course, or instructions on where and how to download the free report they signed-up for, or how to access back-issues of your newsletter, or ... you get the picture, I'm sure.

All while you're asleep, or on vacation, or playing in the park with your kids. Autoresponders are in many ways your passport to being able to have a life; you can use them to automate a LOT of your business, if you're wise. For example, your e-mail that explains where to go to download the bribe can have a line that says something like "If you have problems downloading this, send an e-mail to" and when they do it simply triggers another autoresponder that sends an e-mail with a list of tips (such as, "make sure your computer is plugged in," or the like).

If they elected to receive the mini-course, again this should all be automatic with autoresponders; the autoresponder is pre-programmed to send the first lesson out immediately, the next one perhaps 2 days later, and so on.

You’ll find a lot of free information on List Building if you search under “List Building” and “Opt-in list” in a search engine.

But if you’re serious about this, the professionals (naturally) have some valuable information.

If you're looking at the whole Internet Marketing topic, with List Building being just one element, you’ll also find there are sections on List Building in many “General” Internet Marketing Courses. When I first started, I bought the excellent Insider Secrets by Corey Rudl, which covers pretty much every aspect of basic Internet Marketing to an incredible depth, and the two hefty 3-ring binders of material plus CDs with resource information have proved to be an absolute resource goldmine.

In fact, despite already being deeply involved in Internet Marketing by this point, I paid a chunk of money to update to the current version on a special deal, simply because I knew that whatever the updates were, they were valuable to me. There are few better ways to go from newbie to know-how than Insider Secrets.

The point is that there are a few chapters in there dedicated to the topic of getting people to give you their names, and what to do when you’ve got them. Remember, these books were written by a guy who took his business to more than $8MM a year starting with a simple book on cars, so Rudl knew what he was talking about; and Derek Gehl, who took over the business when Corey Rudl died in a car crash in 2005, has been deeply involved for years, too.

But there are a few specialist places I’d recommend, too.

First I have to say that probably the best value on the Internet is a monthly subscription to something called List and Traffic by Jimmy D. Brown. I still can't believe he only charges $10 a month; he gives you some of the most valuable, practical information you'll find, and a LOT of it is stuff I've never found anywhere else. He just has a way of looking at things that is extremely valuable.

An interesting chap called Joel Christopher has been a “consultant to the consultants” in terms of list building. He usually offers an 11-part mini-course subscription on a site where he sells an audio eBook called Master List Builder. The eBook is inexpensive and you'd learn a lot, but his site is worth visiting just to subscribe to his mini-course (and see how he uses autoresponders; he's doing to you as you want to learn to do with others!).

In an interview I read by Jim Edwards, he offered the “key” to an effective mini-course; give away the need (in the mini course), but sell the solution. I don’t know whether that’s Jim Edwards’s own, or whether he learned it from someone else, but it’s extremely valuable and you’ll see it in action all the time with the professionals. So bear this in mind when you subscribe to any mini-course from the professionals.

Joel also offers a massive course on the topic that he sells for US$1,000 or so, with the (continuing) threat of a price increase to US$2,500. Essentially he's captured, on CDs and DVDs, an entire conference where a host of the top experts in Internet Marketing, pretty much a who's who of the industry, talk about their List Building strategies to practitioners who paid $3,000 a shot. If you're new to this game (why else would you be reading this? Doh!) I'd recommend this as something to consider when you’re fully involved in List building, and already making money and can see from a much better perspective what the value is of improving your List Building and management skills. (Think about this; if you have customers with a lifetime value of $50, which is very low, and add 1000 new subscribers thanks to the techniques you’ll learn, which is trivial … a 2% conversion rate pays for the course.) 

I'm mentioning this just to make a point ... the know-how is so valuable that people will pay 2 grand for a 2-day conference, and Christopher can charge $1000 for the videos.

But if you ARE considering getting into Lists, there is one course I recommend even for a newbie, despite it's price tag. As I mention in the Tools of the Trade, the gold standard for this topic is a course called List Profit Secrets by Craig Perrine. I recommend it because it takes you by the hand, step by step, starting with an assumption that you know bugger-all.

Craig claims that List Building is THE most valuable skill. Funnily enough, the copywriting guys claim copywriting is ... but reality is, the combination is the killer. Great copy to a lousy list gets poor results. Average copy to a good list will get decent results. But good copy to a good list gets you explosive results. And that’s what you want. And when the whole thing is powered by a Traffic generating engine .. that’s a happy place to be. But even if the traffic engine failed ... even a small but correctly-established list can generate income for month after month after month.

List Profit Secrets doesn’t assume you have a single subscriber to begin with (although if you have, that’s great, of course). Craig Perrine then walks you through all the key steps, building you to the point where you have subscribers joining while you’re asleep or on holiday; where you have subscribers actually waiting for your e-mails; and taking the exact action you want when they read it. Routinely.

The bit I like most is the option of being able to go to the list in an emergency; you get hit with a tax bill, or a medical emergency, or simply decide you fancy that new convertible ... your list is a readily available source of very quick income, IF you’ve done it right. “Money on Command” is a phrase with a fine ring to it!
Definitely worth taking a look at the sales page.

As for the tools of the trade … you’ll find you can get a lot of free autoresponders, just do a search. However, most of them carry advertising on every mail-out, or limit you in terms of the number of autoresponders, or both.
One that does neither is Free Autobot. It’s a free service, no limitations, no ads appearing on your e-mails. Works as advertised. Sweet.

Incidentally, some professionals use it, too … but most use it for some clever twists and turns purposes, not to manage their own autoresponses.

Corey Rudl’s company sells software called Mailloop that handles everything to do with lists and autoresponders incredibly well, it’s a superb piece of software (I own it and use it) but there are a few problems with the concept for a newbie with a home business.

First of all, your ISP can get very unhappy when you start e-mailing some hefty volumes of e-mails. And, when your PC takes an unscheduled nap for any of a variety of reasons (can you say "Microsoft?"), you are s.o.l in terms of a fast autoresponse. You don’t want to have a product selling at a steady 2 or more sales a day, perhaps making you $100+ a day, and discover on your return that your PC went down the day you left for that 2 week vacation. Also, the harsh reality is that the abundance of Spam means a LOT of e-mails don't get delivered, and Mailloop has no defence against this. And a bigger problem ... even with a list where people have double-opted-in, inevitably some subscribers forget, see your e-mails as Spam, and complain to your ISP, or send your name to one of the several "blacklist" lists out there. This means you can suddenly find that ALL e-mail from your domain fails to get delivered in many places. This is not fun. This, in my opinion, makes it essential to use a professional autoresponder service.

The pros have their favourites, but chief among them are AWeber, at $19.95 a month; their direct competitor GetResponse, starting at $17.95, and 1ShoppingCart that starts at $29.99 a month.

Now, you can compare AWeber and GetResponse head-on-head; they are genuinely direct competitors, both have passionate followers, and if you wander along to their websites you’ll get a sense of just how much they offer. Theirs is a world focused on effective capturing of information, effective delivery (no small task with all the spam filters out there that kill Opt-In mail as easily as Spam), and ease-of-use. These guys (AWeber in particular has this reputation) maintain relationships with ISPs that make them immune from unjustified blacklisting, so these guys get a much higher e-mail deliverability than almost anyone else.

There is no simple apples and apples comparison between either of these and 1shoppingcart, though.  1shoppingcart is an integrated Internet Marketing system that includes the sign-up capture and follow-up, but also offers shopping cart software, tracking, integration with merchant accounts, download e-Book management, and etc … many sub-systems that all work beautifully together.

My suggestion: Google for "aweber or getresponse," and for "aweber or 1shoppingcart," "aweber vs getresponse," and for "aweber vs 1shoppingcart" and take your time looking through the discussions you'll find in various forums. You'll learn a lot. Then you get to choose!

OK, some final comments.

  • You’ll find lots of opinions on issues of newsletters or EZines or mini-courses … but one thing that’s essential is to recognize that in order for your list to become a goldmine, you have to work at establishing a relationship with your subscribers. They have to respect your opinion, and preferably actually like you. You want them to look forward to your mailings.

  • I mentioned that at one time I had newsletters and EZines coming in from more than 50 “experts.” Naturally, I deliberately kept track and in short order was able to see just how many simply e-mailed me “buy this” offers each time. While others – and I mention these folk in my “Pros to follow” section – gave me valuable information, useful tips and pointers, guided me to valuable free resources, gave away useful software bits and pieces and eBooks, some just plain and simply entertained me! … and in return I have spent money with almost all of them. And those I haven’t, I will … I actually feel guilty at having taken so much and not bought their products! Can you see the value of that relationship?

    Your e-mail, whatever the format, should aim for something like a 75% content to 25% promotion ratio. Some will argue 2/3 to 1/3, others 90% to 10%. People aren’t stupid, they know you’re in business, they will give you the right to push a product if you’re delivering value in the rest of the message … but if you get lazy, or greedy, you’ll see your “unsubscribes” climb like a rocket.

  • There is a myth about the size of the list … the assumption being that bigger is better. In fact, the quality of the list is a much more important factor; there are marketers who make a fortune from lists of only a few thousand names, while others, with lists in the tens of thousands, do nowhere near as well.

  • The one golden rule in this business is that if you want to have a legitimate business then never, never, never, never Spam. Do NOT send unsolicited mail. In addition to the legal issues that will befall you unless you are confident enough that you can beat the best trackers-down in the world, the grief that comes from Spamming will shut your business down … or at least cause a lot of damage. Recipients will send floods of complaints to your ISP, who may well shut you down. Your domain will be listed on blacklists, which means your e-mails – even legitimate ones – will be trashed before your prospect or customer ever sees them.

    This makes it timely to go a bit deeper into the issue of Opt-in and Double Opt-in, which remains the subject of some heated debate.

  • Opt-In means, someone subscribes, you add them to your database and send them e-mails. Double Opt-in means, someone subscribes, you e-mail them to ask them to confirm they have indeed subscribed and do indeed want to receive your newsletters or e-mails, and only on confirmation (usually it means clicking an e-mail) are they added to your database and considered appropriate recipients for your newsletters or e-mails.

  • The problem with Double Opt-In is that you lose some of the people who indicated they were interested. But the benefit is, that when someone forgets they subscribed (and many do) and sends a complaint to your ISP claiming Spam or abuse ( and many will) … you have absolute proof that they did indeed ASK to be on your list. And as many ISP’s get very sensitive to claims of Spam originating with their clients, this is very, very important. (In fact,  the pros will also tell you that if they didn’t Opt-In the 2nd time, they never really were a subscriber anyway. There’s some truth to this.)

It’s hard to separate the List Building opportunity from the topic of Joint Ventures, and Newsletters, but I decided it made sense to do so. So click on the links if you want to pursue these areas of interest.

Summary of Resources I mention on this page

Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet, by the late, great, Cory Rudl.

List and Traffic - A fantastic source of information on List building and getting traffic, often not found anywhere else

Master List Builder - an inexpensive audio eBook by an expert on the subject of List Building

List Profit Secrets - probably the single best course in the world if you want to build a List and make money from it

Free Autobot - free autoresponder that doesn't put adverts on every e-mail

AWeber - considered by many the best autoresponder service, period

GetResponse - considered by it's fans to be the best autoresponder service

1ShoppingCart - an integrated service, including autoresponders and much more, used by many Profesionals who offer products for download, need to accept credit cards, etc.