Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Your First List

If you're going to make money online, you need someone to sell to. I've found that the most effective way to handle that is to build my list.

There are other opinions.

Some marketers prefer to stay behind the scenes and use SEO and PPC strategies to drive traffic. I know some guys making huge bucks doing this.

However- and stay with me here- the people I know who are best at this either got their start selling vacuum cleaners door to door, or they're math nerds.

I've never done a (successful) cold-call in my life, and am math challenged.

I do like words, though. I love the magic of them. With words, I can take you with me to a sunny beach, where we can wiggle our toes in the sand, watch the light play on the water, and listen to the seagulls call to each other as they float on the breeze.
Or, you can join me in the Plaza at my favorite coffee shop in Erfurt Germany. We can look behind us at the huge cathedral, which was built in 700 AD. Big, gray and gothic, it is. It casts a shadow of the plaza, where the kids are riding their bikes and skateboards. Old women carry their groceries home, walking down the stone sidewalk, dodging the bikes and skateboards. Steam rises from the strong, black coffee and euro-disco is playing a little too loudly...
Words. They're magic.

When I think about marketing, the one thing that I keep forefront in my mind is that people buy from people they know, like and trust.

As effective as SEO and PPC can be, if you're using those techniques to drive traffic to your site, you're selling to strangers. You're making cold calls.

The cool thing about building your list is that it gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with your list. Over time, you can introduce yourself to your list and let them get to know you. The ones that stay on your list will come to like and trust you. Selling to people who know, like and trust you is much easier than selling to strangers. The added benefit is that you can get to know them, too- and find out what they want.

Offering your reader something they actually want- especially after you've built a relationship with that reader- is what turns readers into buyers.

Contrast that with trying to sell a random ClickBank product to a total stranger.

The group project my coaching students just completed is based around traditional internet marketing list-building.

In this model, you offer something of value for free to the reader in exchange for their email address and name.

The techniques for relationship building we're discussing here can also be used to get your twitter subscribers and Facebook friends to know, like and trust you, too.

The mechanics behind list-building were something I've been doing so long now, that I had forgotten how foreign it was the first time I tried it. If you really want to learn something, teach it. I was amazed at how often I had to zip over to 1shoppingcart and look to see what the menu items were. And, this is a program I use several times a day.

You've seen the opt-in boxes. There's one at the top of this page.

Well, when you put in your email address and name, that information goes into a database. When you're dealing with professional Internet Marketers- and specifically, with me and my coaching students- that database is held securely by an autoresponder service. There are only two of them that I trust, and I use both of them.

Professional autoresponder companies ensure that every email we send conforms to the CanSpam act. They also have staff members who deal with the spam police.

Now, from the beginning marketer's point of view, let's say that you're part of the group project and you get some names on your list during the project.

What do you do next?

First, let's talk about the "auto" part of the autoresponder.

You want to set up an email to go out "0″ days from the sign-up, that thanks the reader for opting in, tells them where they can get their freebie, and lets them know that you'll be emailing them valuable information and more freebies. If you've got a blog, you should also put a link to that in the first email.

Write every email that you send to your list as if you were writing to one person. I tend to visualize one of my less brilliant friends after a couple of beers, and try to write in a way that would keep them interested- and write so simply that they can understand what I'm explaining.

Some people will opt-in to your list, snag their freebie, and then opt-out. It happens.

Most will stick around. Especially if you've crafted that first email in a friendly, conversational fashion that talks directly to them.

Remember- the loop playing in everybody's head at all times is "what's in it for me?" That's not a bad thing. Since you know that, all you have to do to keep them reading is answer the question.

Then, you can set up an email to go out 3 days later. Another 5 days after the first. The cycle starts new for each subscriber. I have one friend who sends 365 "happy thought of the day" emails a year to her subscribers. You can use these emails to introduce yourself, talk about things that might be useful for your reader, and- occasionally- offer them a product or service.

Several of my coaching students have wondered, "what do I write about?"

There is no one right answer to that question. It depends on your long-range marketing plans, your personality, your style... and what amuses you.

There are two things you must accomplish.

1. Build the relationship with the reader.

2. Sell stuff.

If you do #1 well, #2 is a breeze.

So, how, specifically, do you build a relationship with a total stranger via email?

I asked Dr. Joe Vitale that very question about five years ago. I noticed that lot of Internet Marketers dropped into some weird "marketingspeak" when they wrote. And when they talked. If we were talking about the weather, or a football game, or a beer- they sounded perfectly human. The minute the conversation turned to Internet Marketing they turned into robo-geeks and started slinging terminology and NLP and crap at me.

I asked Joe, "do I have to write like that?"

He said, "No. Write in your own voice."

And that, friends, was the best advice ever given on the subject of relationship marketing.

The point to remember is that you don't want to convince the reader that you're the smartest person in the room. You want to let them know that you're human, that you care about them, and that you're there to help them.

That covers "how" to talk to your readers. It still doesn't answer "what" to talk about.

Over the years I've developed some tricks. I'll share a few.

The phrase "Today my Portable Empire took me to..." has served me well. When I started my Internet Marketing business, I was still a touring musician. I used this to my advantage. I took lots of pictures. More importantly, I took my list with me wherever I went.

I've blogged from castles in Germany. Dungeons. Cathedrals. Coffee shops in Holland. Beaches in Texas. Rodeo Drive. The desert. Judge Roy Bean's "Law West of the Pecos" park. Seminars. Restaurants.

Even my home town can sound interesting to someone who doesn't live in a picturesque tourist trap in the Texas Hill Country.

I don't tour any more, but LaRoja and I love to travel. We've been to the Pueblo in Taos. Georgia O'Keefe's house. An alien convention in Roswell, NM. Lately, we've spent a lot of time at my off-the-grid cabin in the desert near Big Bend National Park.

Every trip, I write a blog post that starts out "Today my Portable Empire took me to:" and then talk about where we went. What we saw. I take lots of pictures, and post those on my blog. (Just scroll down). I shoot a lot of video, post it to YouTube and embed that in my blog. Then, I email my list and tell them about it.

Occasionally, I'll ask my readers what they want or need. Then, I'll do a blog post like this one, that teaches how to do something. I know my coaching students want to know about relationship marketing. You might want to know, too. So, coming up with this topic was pretty easy.

You'll figure it out. The important thing is to start writing.

The next question is "how do you monetize that list?" How do you sell stuff?

Well, I think the best answer is "how do you like to be sold?"

Imagine two scenarios:

1. A total stranger walks up to you, holds up a book, and asks you to buy it.

2. You're in a social setting, and someone you just met starts talking about an amazing new book they just read. As they talk, you can feel their excitement. They describe the plot, and it sounds just like something you'd enjoy reading. They describe the emotions they felt as they read it- how they couldn't put it down and stayed up all night reading that book, laughing out loud occasionally. Then they mention where they bought it, so that you can get a copy, too.

Which scenario appeals to you?

I like #2.

But, I like this one even better- Someone you've known for a while, and respect, mentions a book they really like. You know them. They know you. They know your taste in books, and can honestly say that not only is the book good, but YOU would enjoy it. You trust them. They've recommended things in the past that turned out to be exactly what they said they would be, and they've earned your trust.

I know this works, because Joe- who is a person I know, like and trust- reads a lot of books. When he finds one he thinks I'll like (or that he thinks I need to read) he tells me about it. I immediately log onto and buy it. I don't need any more information. That's the kind of relationship you want with your readers.

And most importantly, have fun with it. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of Internet Marketing, and forget that you're on this planet to enjoy being on the planet.

Start writing. Get to know your readers. Let them get to know you. It's a blast!