Build Your Business by Building Your Contact List

“I think the American Dream says that anything can happen if you work hard enough at it and are persistent, and have some ability. The sky is the limit to what you can build, and what can happen to you and your family.” – Sanford I. Weill

As you may already know, reading ETR can be an indispensable part of your business-growth process. It certainly has been for me. And with what I learned at ETR’s Info-Marketing Bootcamp, I’m going to help my business continue to grow.

Out of all the good information presented during the Bootcamp, what really paid for the conference for me was the panel discussion with marketing experts Andrew Palmer, Sandy Franks, and John Phillips.

One point they stressed was the importance of measuring your company’s “vital signs.” That includes metrics like dollars per e-mail name on your contact list; the number of qualified, active visitors to your website; the number of conversions (when visitors become paying customers); and the number of visitors who leave your site without buying (and where they go when they do).

They also stressed the importance of maintaining regular, personal contact with the buyers and potential buyers on your list. You want your website to be the resource they look to – not only for products but also for information on ways to help fulfill their needs and solve problems they may have. So you want to provide them with more than just another e-mail ad.

Here’s some of what I learned from them that can help you do that:

1. Get the Names of Customers and Cherish Them

Build a database of meaningful, actionable information about your customers. You don’t want only their names and addresses. You want to know what they like and don’t like. When did they first visit your site? When did they sign up? What products, if any, have they purchased?

Make it your personal mission to get to know more and more about your customers and their preferences. That way, you can start to tailor your e-mail messages to their needs. The more relevant information you have about them, the more you’ll be able fulfill their needs.

Another way to create more meaningful communication with your customers is to observe their interests. What kind of information did they originally request from you? If you have a product or service that is closely related to that original request, let them know about it. They are very likely to respond favorably and order it.

Today’s e-mail programs allow you to create smaller segments within a larger e-mail list based on a customer’s interests, either expressed (“Send me information on this”) or implied (by the type of information they click on at your website or in your e-mails). You can, for example, segment out customers who are interested in Chilean wine vs. those interested in sparkling wine from California. Then you can direct specific promotions to each group.

Increasing the level of personalization and customization in your communications with your customers enhances the value you provide to them and builds loyalty … which, in turn, strengthens your contact list.

2. Provide Unique, Compelling Content in Your E-Mail Messages

The e-mail magazine you send to your customers should answer questions, solve problems, and provide them with helpful information they can’t easily find elsewhere.

Use your creativity to make the information more interesting – maybe by providing some of it via audio and video. You can do much more with video than you ever could with mere words on a page. For example, you can show how your products work and let customers see new uses for them.

Since I offer professional speaking services, using audio and video is a natural way for me to reach potential customers. It also creates a strong bond with potential buyers and shows them that they are dealing with a real person.

There are always new technologies available – but just because they’re new doesn’t mean they are relevant to your customers. So examine the mix of options available to you and test various ways to get your message across. ETR, for example, uses mainly e-mail, Web, and print and gets great results. Find the combination that works best for you, and continue to explore new possibilities as technological changes make options more affordable and easier to deliver. (But before you utilize a new technology, make sure the majority of your customers will be able to access those messages.)

Remember that your customers and potential customers don’t just need more information. With the Internet, we all have WAY too much information already. What they need and want is solid, practical, timely, profit-making advice from respected, expert sources. Pay the price by becoming an expert yourself. Build your customer list with people who want the information you can uniquely contribute.

3. Bring in People Who Want to Be There

Not only is it illegal (under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003) to send your e-mails to people who don’t want them, it doesn’t make any marketing sense. If they’re not interested in what you’re offering, don’t send it in the first place.

Keep building your list with people who want to be there by providing information that’s relevant to your target market. And make it easy for those who don’t want to be there to unsubscribe (opt out of receiving your messages).

The right people (potential buyers) will be attracted to your site and your business. Focus on providing them with quality service and value.

4. Focus on Buyers

Not everyone is going to like what you have to offer. That’s not a problem. There are plenty who will. Your job as an entrepreneur is to focus on those who are willing to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for your products and services. It is to your benefit to filter out those who are not good customers for you.

One of the beauties of doing business on the Internet is that you can market to large groups of people and, at the same time, learn who your smaller, motivated customers are within that larger list.. You can then concentrate your efforts on those who have demonstrated the willingness to purchase from you.

5. Measure Your Responses

Marketing decisions no longer have to be made by “gut feelings.” As with standard direct mail, response to the information you send out via e-mail is measurable. Use tools like Google Analytics to track how much of what you’re sending is (likely) being read.

Think of your market as a bucket of water with a hole in it. Depending on the size of the hole in the bottom of that bucket, you will have to keep adding a certain amount of new water (new customers) to keep on growing your customer list.. Provide both new and old customers with relevant, timely content in your e-mail messages and the leak will become practically nonexistent … and the capacity of your bucket will keep on growing.

[Ed. Note: Terry Brock has a background in speaking, journalism, radio, “techno-gadgetry,” and marketing. This article was adapted from a column he wrote for the BizJournals e-zine.

Interested in ETR’s top 10 ways to build your Email list? Want to know how one guy sold $450,000 worth of product in 3 days (using toilet paper!)? If so, order a copy of ETR’s Info Marketing Bootcamp DVD Library so you can easily start “The Best Business In The World” from your living room or office.]