Why Building An Email List Is Critical For Your Business, Even In Today’s World of Social Media

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The concept of “building a list” may seem like an old school tactic in today's world of social media and paid marketing strategies, however if you're not using this technique in your business then not only are you missing out on making us of a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, you're putting your business at risk.

Now, that may sound a little dramatic, but consider this…

You have no control over Social Media, the Ad Networks or any of the other platforms that you might be marketing on today. And even if you're not paying for advertising on the likes of Facebook, Twitter or other platforms, and just using them to generate free traffic, they could make a change today that kills your traffic tomorrow.

Take Facebook for example, they are constantly tweaking their algorithm and relatively recently made a decision to change how prominent business page content would be in people's feeds, for no other reason than they thought it was a good idea (I believe they trotted out something about personal connection).

Person sitting in front of a laptop looking frustrated and holding their head in their hands

For some businesses who were generating a ton of exposure through the reach their posts were getting, this was a disaster. It resulted in the number of people (who may have liked or followed their page) seeing their content being dramatically reduced, leading to a ton of frustration and agony for business owners.

Granted there are always techniques and new methods for dealing with these types of changes, but it can sometimes feel like you are chasing your tale when it comes to keeping up with who's changing what about their platform and how it will affect you.

Why is an email list so effective?

Well, for starters it's yours, you own the information on that list, it's an asset for your business.

Unlike the social media sites and other platforms, who own all of their user data and can choose how you or anyone else gets to make use of it, once you have added someone to your list (with their consent of course), you are able to market to them pretty much anyway you see fit.

It's also a direct method of communication; when you send an email to someone it goes to their inbox in the same way as if you'd sent them a letter. This is far more effective than content appearing in their social media news feeds, which is akin to seeing a billboard while driving around town (regardless of how personalised it is).

Email as a tool is also far more necessary in the modern world, it's a lot harder to go for days or weeks without checking your email and you're a lot less likely to read a bunch of “I quit email for 30 days” articles. Whereas people are starting to recognise that taking a break from social media is actually a good idea now and then, which is not great for you if that's the only place you're trying to get their attention.

Lastly, email is highly customisable and can be extremely targeted, even more so than other advertising methods. Using segmentation and automation can allow you to create highly personalised messaging to your list, not to forget you can do some awesome things with the emails themselves.

How you can use a list to build your business

Let's face it, people have short memories and even if we have a great experience with your business, the next time it comes to buying a product or service like yours, we're not always the best at loyally returning for more. Especially in a when there are usually multiple suppliers offering the same thing for varying prices, half the time I'll just do a new search for whatever it is I want and off I'll go.

But, there are a few situations when this isn't the case and it's mainly because those businesses remain in my consciousness over the long term by making use of the fact I am on their email list. Here are a few examples:

  • Dominos Pizza: I get an email from Dominos every day, and while that may seem like it'd be very annoying, they do a great job of keeping their emails fun and making sure there's something in it for me. There have definitely been a few times when I've changed my dinner plans off the back of their latest offer, so it's safe to say that it works.
  • Supercheap Auto: I also get an email pretty regularly from Supercheap, not as often as Dominos and it seems to be less regular at the moment, but then we're outside the Christmas/New Year season as I write this… although I'm sure there'll be an Easter offer. The thing about Supercheap is, there's a Repco (a direct competitor) much closer to me, but whenever I think about needing something of this nature, Supercheap are the ones that spring to mind… the power of building awareness through email.
  • Burger King: I'll be completely honest, I'm a Wendys fan through and through, with McDonalds being my next option (based on proximity), but Burger King do a much better job at their email marketing than Wendys, by a long shot. So while I know I'll enjoy going to Wendys more, I'm still tempted every time Burger King sends me their latest offer (this extends to their app too).

So, sending out regular updates (about your latest blog posts or what's been happening) is a great way to be reminding your customers (and prospects) that you exist and when the time is right, you will ideally be at the forefront of their minds when it comes to making a purchase.

Graphic showing an email marketing process from original sales, through follow up emails and more sales

Of course, beyond the regular updates, you can also share specific offers, take action when a customer performs a particular action (like putting an item in their cart but not purchasing anything), and even make recommendations about other relevant products that will compliment their original purchase (if they made one).

And remember it is far easier to get an existing customer to purchase additional products or services from you (and less expensive) than it is to constantly find new customers to add into your sales funnel. Having an email list allows you to continue to “sell” to your customers over the long term, increasing your average customer value.

What do you need to start building your list?

Building your own email list doesn't have to be complicated and it certainly doesn't have to be expensive. In face, you're probably already in a position to kick start your list, assuming you're already in business and have a list of customers (if not you can skip step 2 below).

Step 1: Find yourself an email marketing service provider

There are a ton of email service providers out there today, many with similar features ranging from the simple to the very complicated, so choosing one is likely to come down to personal preference and which one in particular resonates with you and your business.

It doesn't have to be expensive however, as many providers have “free forever” plans that allow you to store a certain number of contacts in their database and have access to most of their features, albeit you're likely to need to display their logo in your emails (but that's a small sacrifice).

Here's an initial list of providers you can choose from:

  • MailChimp
  • MailerLite
  • Aweber
  • GetResponse
  • Active Campaign

Step 2: Import existing customer details into your list

If you already have a customer list, then there's a decent chance you've collected email address for these customers while doing business with them, so why not start there. Most CRM systems will allow you to export this information and in some cases you can connect your software directly to your chosen email marketing service (which saves plenty of time and effort).

If you do decide to build your list this way, then it's probably wise to ensure the first emails you send to these customers is designed to re-engage with them and let them know your plans for using their email details. This will allow them to unsubscribe if they decide they don't want to hear from you in this manner (don't be surprised if this happens, and don't take it personally).

Step 3: Integrate sign-up forms into your blog (or start a blog if you don't have one)

If you're already creating content on a regular basis and posting it to your blog, then make sure you create a sign-up form on your blog so that people reading and enjoying your content can sign up for future updates. You can place forms in your sidebar (if you have one), at the end of each post or create a popup that appears before people leave your blog.

The idea here is to start adding new prospects to your list so that you can target them with personalised emails and offers, with the aim of turning them into a customer in the future. And one of the best ways to do that is to make it quick and easy to sign up after they've had a positive interaction with your brand, in this case via your blog.

Step 4: Craft an enticing lead magnet

No matter how good your content may be, some people are not prepared to provide you with personal details without having something in it for them, which is fair enough. So your goal with a lead magnet is to create an enticing offer that someone will be prepared to exchange their information for e.g. a discount off their next purchase, a free report or book that will help their business etc.

Make it a no-brainer for someone to want to provider their details in exchange for your offer, the more benefits you can provide to someone with minimal commitment the more likely they will sign up. On the flip side, when you are collecting subscriber details, it's not always best to only ask for an email, as this can lead to lower quality leads who have less intention of buying your products or using your service.

Step 5: Add new customers to your list when they purchase

Make sure you capture an email address as part of your sales process (pretty standard these days) and add new customers to your list so that you can keep in touch with them in the future. Better still, send out some “getting started with…” emails to new buyers (if that's feasible) and engage with them about the product or service.

Remember that existing customers are more likely to purchase from you in the future, so strike while the iron is hot with relevant cross or up-sells for other products or services that are relevant to what they've just bought. If you can entice the customer early on with a quick additional purchase, then you can reinforce your relationship, hopefully ensuring more sales in the future.

Step 6: List maintenance

Keeping your list of subscribers up to date and engaged is key to ensuring you get the most out of your list going forward, so take the time to remove subscribers that are not engaged or never open your content (or take them through a re-engagement process). By doing this you are less likely to get complaints or run into problems with your email marketing provider (things like removing bounced emails should be done automatically).

In conclusion

In this article I've talked about why your email list is so vital to the success of your business, how you can use it to build your business and a the few steps required to set your list up. I hope that you have found this information useful and can see why your business should invest in nurturing an email list in the future.

By being in control of your customer and prospect data you are not at the whim of the social or advertising networks, and the chances of your traffic source disappearing overnight is greatly reduced. Building an email list is a very important tool in your digital marketing arsenal, do it right and it will pay massive dividends over time.

And of course, if you're interested in discussing how you can get your own list set up then you can get in touch with my be booking a call, I'll be happy to discuss your situation and work out the best way I can help.

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