Marketing has seen a lot of changes over the last 15 years – mostly due to the influence of the Internet. While much has changed, one old technique – the use of mailing lists – still has a very strong impact when used properly.
Marketing to a mailing list is becoming a lost art within many companies and while most have some kind of email/address list that they use for direct marketing they most often are not mining these lists properly. A list is worth far more than most people realize – It’s like a little stack of gold just waiting to be counted.
The Most Important Qualities of a List
The two most important aspects of a mailing list are the list quality and the list activity. A quality list is an accurate list. The names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, demographics… anything that you’re tracking needs to be accurate and up to date. Keeping an accurate list takes effort. People change phone numbers, they move, their households get larger – these are all things that impact the quality of a list. A 29 year old single man may very well be interested in motorcycles, but that same man just 18 months later who is now married and with a young child is likely to have much different interests and needs. List activity is equally important – it’s a measurement of how engaged your contacts are with your offerings. Do they take action when you send home a mailer or email? Having an active list is not just about buying. Most people take multiple steps – or actions – prior to making a purchase. What you need in your list are people that move forward towards goals that you are setting. The young man in our example above may take an interest in a free catalog selling baby cribs or home monitoring devices. Getting him to click a link for more information is a quantifiable action. It can be measured and assigned a value as it’s getting him one step closer to making that purchase.
Starting Your List
Obviously, the easiest place to start is to make an enticing offering to your existing customers. This usually involves making a trade. You provide something of value to your customer and he or she gives you their accurate contact information. It’s hardwired into our human psyche. Everyone would do well to read more about the rules of Reciprocity. As an example, we were working with a local Chicago restaurant and set up an offering where customers could register and would receive a free meal on their birthday. We put the birthday club registration forms at the front counter and on each table. Entire families would fill out the contact form. This was ideal since if mom ate free and dad and two children paid – they made out well. They then used this list to send direct mail coupons and special offerings on a regular basis. They continued to build relationships with their customers. It’s win-win.
Contests and drawings are another very popular way to build quality lists. We know of a successful dental marketer that attends conferences and has a drawing for two iPads. He once mentioned that his signup rate increased by 60% when he added the second iPad. People felt they had a better chance to win so they gave their information. Once again, we see the rule of reciprocity automatically kicking in – it’s almost not fair. If you have a contest it’s vital that you do two things:
- Let everyone in the contest know who won. This helps build transparency and trust. If you can get the winners to leave a testimony or say something nice about your business or contest even if it’s just to say, “I wasn’t sure that it was a real contest. Ha! Jim’s a great guy”. This will strengthen how much the people in your list trusts you. Remember, you’re building a relationship and that, is always, a two-way street.
- Give everyone who signed up for your contest something. If you’re selling products, give them a special discount – only for them. Make it a big discount. If you provide a service – give them something for free or at least make them a very good offer.
If you get creative you can build up a tremendous list that you own! You can market to this list often if you keep their trust and always offer them something special. Another tip for building lists came from an office supply company. They would buy lists from direct mail companies (you don’t actually get the list, but you purchase the right to use the list) and make an amazing offer to this brokered list. Even if the office supply company just barely made any money – they were building their own list with their own relationships. Here is a free tool that allows you to build a custom mailing list while displaying the number of contacts and the cost to use the list.
Using a list broker or direct mail company only gives you the right to send mail to those people. It’s up to you to make a compelling offer that will convert those people into your customers. You can’t buy a quality list. If someone is willing to sell you a list of direct contacts or email addresses you can be sure that list has been sold and resold dozens of times and those people are not going to want more spam or junk mail from anyone – including you.
Keeping Your List in Shape
Now that you have a list you need to make sure that you keep it in shape. That means strengthening and improving the two most important aspects – quality and activity. The most important thing you can do is to stay in touch with your list. When you ignore your list it’s amazing how complacent people become towards your product or service. They may have been excited about the discount they received 6 months ago, but now – they have forgotten you. For this reason it’s critical that you reach out to them even if you have nothing to promote. At the least – let them know about some kind of promotion that you know they would be interested in – even if it’s not yours. Obviously, don’t pick a direct competitor, but if you’re offering dental marketing services and you’re too busy to take in new business (a wonderful problem for sure) – send them business tips like how to set up custom phone numbers so they can track where each call originated from. Think outside the box and provide value to your list. They will remember you and appreciate you. Don’t fear trying something new and try to touch your contacts at least once a month.
Another tip for keeping your list in shape is to make sure you are sending something that doesn’t take much effort for your contacts to make a first step. Make sure your offering is easy to understand and has a simple call to action. You want them to click or take an action. Any action. When they do something in response to your communication it’s one more step in building trust.
Also, if you’re sending emails use the same subject line or at least use your company name first in the subject. Something like, Your Company – here is another great offering! This helps them remember who you are, that they have seen you before and they trust you – you’re safe. It can’t be overstated how important this is for your list. If you are sending direct mail – make sure your logo or something prominent stays the same on each mailing. You should be split testing your campaigns in order to increase your response rate, but make sure you keep the contact anchored to you.
Remember, this is your list. It’s your way to help control your traffic and give your sales a bump when needed. You can break free from the ups and downs of Google traffic and the incredible costs of exploratory marketing.
Joe Bennett is a lead generation and conversion optimization expert in the Chicago area.