Wow, you are going to kill me, but I have to say it:
It doesn’t matter how good your website is, if people don’t come back often. Your website gets them interested; your ongoing relationship with them gets them to buy.
The real key to e-commerce is building a mailing list of people who are interested in the topics you write, speak and teach about. On a good day, you might get 10 percent of your website visitors to buy. But what about the other 90 percent? Are you just going to ignore them and their needs?
The internet is a distracting place and a visitor may only come to your website once. A mailing list member can be told about new articles, new offerings and new resources on your site each month, thereby increasing your traffic and your sales.
I’m not talking about creating huge lists of people who will remove themselves as soon as they get your freebie. What’s the point in that? I’m talking about a sustainable list of people who like the products and services you offer, who have an ongoing relationship with you, and are likely to purchase from you again and again.
I can think of 20 or 30 different things you can do to grow your mailing list. Let’s look at the 10 techniques I like to use:
- From Your Website. It should come as a great surprise that you should ask people to sign up for your mailing list from your website. But these days, people are overwhelmed with emails and email newsletters, so you have to offer them something more. A good suggestion is offering a free e-book or e-course. These are easy to deliver and don’t take any of your time because they’re automated. You’ll need to have a mailing list system or autoresponder system set up to accept email addresses and automatically deliver the e-book or e-course information. There are many email systems to choose from, like MailChimp, Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, etc. Note that whichever service you use, it must have both an email list manager and an autoresponder feature.
- Outgoing Emails. On every outgoing email, in your signature line, you should be inviting people to join your mailing list. Just make sure you tell them HOW to join your list via email or give them a link to the sign-up page. By the way, it’s considered rude and bad etiquette to automatically sign people up for your mailing list. Just because they’ve emailed you, or met you at a meeting, doesn’t give you the right to automatically add them. Instead, send them an invitation and let them decide if they want to be on your list.
- At Speeches. Meetings and conferences are a great way to get recognized quickly and to gather names for your list. Have a sign-up sheet on a clipboard ready, and pass it around while you’re giving your speech. Better yet, give away something for free and have them sign up for the freebie and your newsletter at the same time. Or, ask the participants to take out their business card and write “giveaway” on it, and pass it up to you. Note: if you ask people to give you their business card, there is a good chance that the business card has the wrong email address on it. Ask them to check it and correct it before passing it up to you.
- In Your Newsletter Itself. Lots of people like to forward your newsletter to their friends and colleagues. But once someone else reads your newsletter, they don’t know how to subscribe to it. Make sure you give instructions in each newsletter so that new people know what to do.
- On Business Cards. Lots of people have business cards with blank backs. Instead, use the back of your business card as a mini-billboard, and offer your freebie and sign-up instructions right on the back of the card.
- About The Author Text. When you write articles, you should be including an “about the author” paragraph at the end, especially if you are submitting those articles to other websites. In the About The Author paragraph, make your offer and give instructions for your newsletter.
- Thank You Emails. When someone purchases from you, you should be sending them a Thank You For Your Order email. In that email, ask them if they’d like to get your newsletter. It might be a good idea to offer a coupon or discount to customers in the Thank You email, as an incentive to sign-up for your newsletter.
- Online Classified Ad. Use a service like www.craigslist.org to place an online classified ad for your free giveaway and newsletter subscription offer.
- On Your Voicemail. When recording your outgoing voicemail message, always offer your newsletter, and tell them the website where they can sign-up.
- In Interviews. Whether you are interviewed on the radio or in print, always mention your email newsletter and your freebie.
Good mailing list tips. I think that concentrating on website content is #1, and then once you find that you have a readership a mailing list is the next logic step. All of these ideas are good, although I’ll point out that when talking to customers over the phone I offer to sign them up myself for the mailing list, if they give me their email. They usually enjoy not having to inconvenience themselves with the sign-up process, and it’s a good way to end a sale or business discussion.
I have a similar process in my voicemail, which you mention as one of your ten ways. I have an advanced 800 number through gotvmail with a number of extensions, but I always include a note about the newsletter somewhere in the client’s “call” flow. Often times they’ll leave their email address on my voicemail, and again I sign them up on my own (as long as it’s intelligible!).
One thing you don’t mention is making sure a mailing list is secure. You don’t know how many times I’ve signed up for a newsletter only to discover that the webmaster accidentally lost all his or her subscriber info. I keep a number of spreadsheets in various locations for backup, just in case anything unfortunate should occur.
Your website has an average of about 3 seconds to capture interest… your ‘voice’ (whether through blog posts or email communication) is what keeps them coming back (and hopefully buying).
Thanks for the 1ShoppingCart mention!
These are some really great tips, and I found a related article that suggests some useful online tools for promotion. Having a unique presence in a virtual world like Second Life or a social network can easily translated into publicity and new traffic, all of which has the potential for exploitation.
I’ve added a link to the article proper, if you don’t mind: