“The great thing is the start — to see an opportunity for service, and to start doing it, even though in the beginning you serve but a single customer — and him for nothing.” – Robert Collier

Online marketing works best when you e-mail to people who already know you. Therefore, successful online marketers build their “house files” or “e-lists” (lists of prospects and their e-mail addresses) by using the process outlined below — and then sell to those people via continual e-mail marketing:

First, build a website that positions you or your organization as an expert, guru, or leader in your field or industry. This is the “base of operations” for your online marketing campaign.

Next, write a short special report or white paper relating to the problem your product or service addresses and make it available to people who visit your site. They can download it free — but, in exchange, they have to register and give you their e-mail addresses (and any other information you want to capture).

Consider also offering a monthly online newsletter or “e-zine.” People who visit your site can subscribe free if they register and give you their e-mail addresses. You may want to give each visitor the option of checking a box that reads “I give you and other companies that you select permission to send me e-mail about products, services, news, and offers that may be of interest to me.”

Now, your mission is to drive traffic to your site (where you get people to sign up for either your free report or free e-zine). Once they register, you have their e-mail addresses and can now market to them via e-mail as often as you like at no extra cost.

How do you drive people to your site? There are about a half-dozen methods that work, including using free publicity, e-mail marketing, postcards, banner advertising, co-registrations, affiliate marketing, search-engine optimization, direct mail, and online ads in other people’s e-zines. The key to success is to try a lot of different tactics in small and inexpensive tests, throw out the ones that don’t work, and do more of the ones that are effective.

And now for the big secret …

The bulk of your online leads, sales, and profits will come from repeat e-mail marketing to this “house” e-list of prospects. Acquiring new customers by sending e-mails to rented opt-in lists — as most marketers do — almost never works. Therefore, your goal is to build a large e-list of qualified prospects as quickly and inexpensively as you can. Once you have built your in-house e-list, you have an incredibly valuable asset: a database of online prospects you can market to, as often as you like, for almost zero cost … and who will be highly responsive to your offers.

These twin virtues — high response and low/no cost — make your house e-list a goldmine of profits for your business.

Continually send them e-mail promotions — new messages, new products, and new offers. You almost can’t e-mail this list too much. (If you do, you’ll notice an increase in the “opt-out” rate — the percentage who “unsubscribe.”)

One of our colleagues, for example, publishes financial newsletters, primarily online. He offered his online customers a hardcover investment guide that he sells for $100. (His printing cost is just $2 a book.) He told us he sold 4,000 copies — and that all the sales were generated by sending e-mails to his house file. That’s an extra $400,000 in gross sales, with zero printing, postage, or mailing costs.

By the way, this is the ONLY model that has been successful in online marketing. Had our colleague rented an expensive outside e-mail list, his response would have been virtually nil — and it would have cost him a small fortune to reach the same number of people he did with his free house list.

We know, because others have tried this repeatedly and always failed.

You can learn how to apply this proven online marketing model to your own business — or to start a successful Web business using it — in Michael Masterson’s new course, “ETR’s Fast Track to Starting and Running Your Own Million-Dollar Direct-Response Business.” For more information about the program, send an e-mail to support@earlytorise.com.

(Editor’s note: Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing.” He can be reached at http://www.bly.com or via e-mail at rwbly@bly.com.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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