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Building a list of people who want to hear from you is a crucial part of your online marketing campaign, second only to building your Web site. Never abuse the trust your subscribers are handing to you along with their email address. Always reward them with useful info.

Go to: Taking Scalps | Making Them Click | What To Do With The "Scalps"


If you've promoted your site properly, you should be getting plenty of visitors. Now it's time to consider the next step: selling to them. Your Web site is your store front and you're sitting there waiting for someone to approach you and buy something.

Have you ever updated your site or added a new product and wished that you could tell everybody who'd visited your site in the past about it? These people were interested in your product otherwise they wouldn't have been there in the first place, but they came and then left again like ghosts, leaving no trace. If you'd got their email addresses while they were on your site, you'd now be able to send them a note, and they'd be 1,000% more likely to buy something than a first-time visitor.


Taking Scalps

The most obvious method of getting an email address is to put an email link on your home page inviting people to send you a message. This is something you've already done, of course, but it takes a lot of effort for somebody to email you, and they have no reason to unless they want to buy something on the spot.

Let me tell you a few things about your visitors:

  1. They're always in a hurry.
  2. If they see a grey button, they're itching to click it but they're worried about the consequences.
  3. They love getting something free, no matter how trivial.
  4. They like to make their opinions known.
  5. They like to stay in control.

Exploiting these wants and needs is the key to building your list of addresses and, ultimately, making sales. Now I'm going to tell you how to do it:

The Path Of Least Resistance

In order to get an address, your visitor must take some kind of action, you cannot "capture" their address without their knowledge or consent. The trick is to make that action as quick and simple as possible for them. The most simple action is one mouse click.

So, let's kill two birds with one stone. Let's have a grey button that only requires one click, looks appealing and sends you their email address along with their name (if they've set up their browser properly).

Here's the code:

<CENTER>
<FORM METHOD="post" ACTION="mailto:yourname@domain.com?subject=Button Click">
<INPUT TYPE="submit" VALUE="Click Me!">
</FORM>
</CENTER>

This code requires no kind of special CGI script on your server. It'll work straight away on your page by simply replacing yourname@domain.com with your own email address. You can also change the text on the button and the subject of the message that you'll receive.

This is what it looks like:




Note: with some browsers, notably MS Internet Explorer (yuck!), a mail window will open when the user clicks, meaning they have to click again to send it, but they will click to get rid of the window, and possibly send you a note with it.


Making Them Click

OK, so far so good, you've made it easy for them to click and they might just go ahead and do it because it's there. However, they still have no real reason to do it and they may be worried about the consequences (will their mailbox be full of spam every day...?)

First, you can ease their worries by telling them what you're going to do with their email address. The most basic solution is to say:

"Please click here to be told about updates. Your address will be kept strictly private."

That would take care of needs 1 and 2 but why not go for the throat and satisfy 3, 4 and even 5?

Offer Something Free

You may be able to offer them something like a free catalogue by snail mail or a sample of your product. If so, you'll get a very high response rate. For example:

"Click the button to request your free sample."

The alternative is to offer free information. Don't underestimate this because information is what most people are searching the Web for. Here are some examples:

Subscribe to my newsletter/mailing list

This is a fantastic method because if they click, it means they're specifically asking you to contact them. This is the next best thing to them actually buying something. They're saying to you "I don't want to buy anything right now, but I want to keep in touch with you in case you have something to offer in the future".

If you're going to run a newsletter, you must be confident that you can drum up some new info on a regular basis.

Join my discussion group

Ever heard of Usenet newsgroups? Why not run your own private discussion group? It's much more cosy than the Usenet and you can plug your own product to your heart's content! Not only that, but you'll hopefully know the names and preferences of your subscribers. You'll have your own little "kingdom".

With either of these methods, you can go all the way to Step 5 by giving them the option to automatically unsubscribe themselves from your list, giving them complete control. More about this later!

Ask Their Opinion

There are two ways of doing this: a) a yes/no question or b) a request for input.

Yes/No

Use a slightly more advanced variation on the "Click Me!" button.

Code:

<CENTER><TABLE><TR>

<TD>
<FORM METHOD="post" ACTION="mailto:yourname@domain.com?subject=Yes">
<INPUT TYPE="submit" VALUE="YES">
</FORM>
</TD>

<TD>
<FORM METHOD="post" ACTION="mailto:yourname@domain.com?subject=No">
<INPUT TYPE="submit" VALUE="NO">
</FORM>
</TD>

</TR></TABLE></CENTER>

Looks like this:

But what do you ask them? Well, there's an extra benefit with this one. You can actually use this info to improve your Web site. Perhaps you're wondering if your users enjoy using your frames, or whether you should break your pages up into smaller sections... now is the time to ask.

Take part in my survey

You'll need to use a "real" form script for this. This isn't an HTML tutorial so you'll have to find out how to set up a form for yourself, but there are some points to consider...

It will involve some effort by the user, it's not a "one click" tactic. Therefore, there must be something in it for them. In other words, they want to know the results. Always send them the results of the survey and tell them what date the results will arrive in their mailbox.

Here's an excellent resource on the subject of surveys: John Jensen's analysis.net


What To Do With The "Scalps"

Right, so now you've got your list of addresses, but two questions remain:

  1. What to do with them.
  2. How to manage your mailing list easily and how to offer an 'unsubscribe' option (this part has started to seem rather complicated up to now, am I right?)

What kind of info to send to your subscribers

You already have a few ideas about this. You can run a discussion group or periodic newsletter on your specialised topic. In fact, this may be enough in itself, you could base your Web site around the mailing list itself, perhaps even have paid subscriptions if it's worthwhile to people. Or you could use your list to keep people informed about new developments on your site or products. Special offers are a sure-fire winner, especially if you make it clear that the offer is only available to your subscribers and not the general public.

It's a very good idea to contact your subscribers regularly. This shows that you're genuinely interested in them and it reminds them that you exist. After a while they'll get to know and trust you, then one day you'll have something new to sell and you'll have a potential customer base ready and waiting!

Now, I'm going to tell you the most important marketing secret I've ever learned:

Be a GIVER, not a taker.

Every time you send a message to your subscribers, go out of your way and take great pains to give or tell them something that's useful to them, or that they want to hear. It can be very difficult, but the greatest efforts reap the greatest rewards. It'll be appreciated and when it comes to the time for you to offer something for sale, that's when you get your payback. If you can't think of anything useful to say, then don't send any email.

Managing your list

There are various ways to automate the collecting/sending process, here are some ideas:

Good PointsBad Points
ListbotIt's FREE. It's server-based so you don't have to be online while messages are sent. Interface looks quite professional, although it's fixed.Makes it very difficult to subscribe - the user has to jump through all sorts of hoops to subscribe to your list and many people won't bother. No message customisation (you can't say "Dear {firstname}...")
Mail KingMore flexibility. You can use the "one click" method described above, making it easy for people to join your list; no hurdles = more subscribers. You can insert database fields into your messages (eg. "Dear {firstname}...")You'll have to import the addresses into your list, probably by hand. A good text editor will help you do this. You have to stay online to send messages, since it's PC-based.
Custom SolutionYou can hire me to set up a server-side system with all the bells and whistles: database-driven; scheduling, full customisation; you-name-it. Email paradise! You can see a basic example of the subscriber side of it here.I don't come cheap :-).


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