More than a decade ago, Agora Inc., ETR’s parent company, decided to test a theory — to see whether the direct-marketing methods they used to run a profitable publishing business offline could be adapted to run one online.

Did the test work?

In fact, the results were remarkable — so much so that the approach they came up with (and still use) is now referred to as the “Agora Model.”

But as successful as it’s proven to be, the approach seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

At the time, it was thought that all you needed to do in order to start marketing online was build a website… and people would visit that website in droves and buy whatever you were selling.

But people don’t do that. Just throwing up a website with details about your products is not going to appeal to your prospects. (Bo-ring!)

Even if you have top-10 search engine placement for all your keywords, you’ll bring in only a small fraction of the sales you could make by using the Agora Model.

The Premise

The Agora Model is based in the idea that online marketing works best when:

  • You have a person’s permission to contact her.
  • You have already established a relationship with that person. She recognizes your name and has a sense that she already knows you (to some extent).
  • You give her something of value beyond what you want her to buy from you.

When you do this, she doesn’t feel that you are trying to sell her something. People like being ” sold to” online about as much as… well, about as much as they like it offline. They don’t!

It All Starts With Your “E-List”

As every direct-response marketer knows, the most important thing in building their business is to grow their “house file” — the names and addresses of people to whom they are able to send their offers.

In the Agora Model, this translates into the “e-list” — the names and e-mail addresses of people who have given you permission to contact them.

You can make a lot of money with conventional direct-response marketing, but marketing via the Internet has some significant advantages. For one thing, it can be expensive to build a house file — not to mention the cost of printing and mailing sales letters. It’s simpler and cheaper to build an e-list, and it costs next to nothing to maintain. Plus, it’s almost free to send e-mails to the names on that list.

But how do you find those people?

That’s the question the folks at Agora asked themselves when they decided to test their theory that what they knew about conventional direct marketing could be translated to marketing online.

The answer they came up with was to offer prospective customers free “e-letters” (online newsletters) — filled with interesting, inspiring, and useful ideas and information — in exchange for their e-mail addresses. By doing that, they would be addressing the three core requirements of the proposed model:

1. They would have their prospects’ permission to contact them.

2. They would be starting to establish a relationship with them.

3. They would be giving their prospects something of value beyond what they wanted them to buy.

The Agora Model in Action

One of the first of the free Agora e-letters was the Daily Reckoning (DR), which gives readers an erudite and contrarian perspective on the financial world. The DR now boasts a readership of around 500,000, and has a profitable customer list that any online (or offline) business would give an arm for.

Another highly successful Agora e-letter has been International Living Postcards, written by a team of roving writers and correspondents. Their readers get a new story every day about their travels in far-flung places around the globe.

And, of course, there’s the e-letter you are reading right now, Early to Rise.

Agora now has many successful online newsletters, all contributing to the almost $290 million in online sales that the companies under the Agora umbrella enjoyed last year.

People sign up for these e-letters and tell their friends about them. Then those people sign up and tell their friends. And all of them are willing recipients of the offers e-mailed by the Agora group of companies every day.

The Agora Model has been successfully applied by countless other online marketers.

But can you do it?

Of course you can!

Study the experts. Copy what they do. And if you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to learn the Agora Model directly from people who use it in their own business, jump on it!

Start small — but start now.

[Ed. Note: One of the best ways to get started online is by becoming a member of ETR’s Internet Money Club. It’s the Agora Model, packaged for beginners.

That’s what PJ McClure did — and today, his online business is booming. As he said in his ETR essay last week, he credits the Internet Money Club with:

  • Making it possible for him to start a business and walk away from a 6-figure job in less than a year
  • Helping him develop a marketing strategy that attracts 1,000s of potential customers
  • Giving him a deeper understanding of running a business than he got with his MBA
    And a lot more.

PJ is just one of hundreds who now look forward to a financially secure future, thanks to the Internet Money Club.

Headed up by Brian Edmondson, an expert on the Agora Model, the Internet Money Club was designed to teach anyone, regardless of past experience (in business or online) how to start and grow their own profitable Internet business. You’ll learn about e-mail list building, product and content creation, joint ventures and affiliate marketing, copywriting, and much more — with hands-on, personalized guidance from Brian himself. Registration for the Internet Money Club is open for only one more day. So don’t wait. Check it out right now.]

Although David hails from Blackpool, England – which is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of England” – he shunned a career in show business and instead followed a meandering career path overflowing with “life’s great experiences,” working or living in over 20 countries along the way. Chef, teacher of Transcendental Meditation, guest presenter on QVC, earthquake relief volunteer, CEO of a web hosting company, marketer at a radio station and all combined with years of direct marketing, PR and sales experience for clients as diverse as health food stores, small charities and right up to multinational public companies. David brought unique talent and experience to his role for six years as Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Publishing Group. Working closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers to test new ideas and marketing campaigns, Agora’s Internet revenues topped $200 million in 2007. David understands and can communicate fluently with creative “right-brain” marketers and analytical “left-brain” IT and software teams, all with equal ease. He has a proven track record for generating results and creative thinking and excels at making trouble to find new ways of making things happen! He lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with his wife Cinda, a veterinarian, and their four children and a menagerie of animals (no more, please!). When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals. Not surprisingly, David is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.