If someone asked me if I could choose just one way to market online, 9 times out of 10 I would say ’email’. On the tenth time, I would hesitate, just about say ‘search engine optimisation’, and then say ’email’.

If you’re serious about marketing your business online, concentrate on email first. Don’t even think about creating a Facebook landing page or a blog unless you’re already collecting email addresses and sending a regular email newsletter (think about it – how is anybody going to know about your Facebook landing page or your blog unless you tell them all about it? and what better, faster, cheaper way than by email?)

So, do we agree that email marketing is an extremely effective way to market your products and services? If you’re not doing it, you’re seriously missing a trick.

(if you’re still in the age of paper, you can read all about the enormous benefits of email marketing here).

Whichever way you look at it, a business’s email list is gold. It is a huge asset. Done properly, an email address represents a mutually beneficial relationship between you and a client, prospect, or brand advocate.

To understand the value of each email address, you need to ask yourself, what would be the long-term cost to my business if I lost my email list? You might have 5,000 email addresses. And if each of those people bought, on average only $10 worth of stuff from you each year on the strength of your newsletters alone, and if you stopped sending regular email newsletters and offers to this list, your business would be $50,000 worse off per year. This is just the business you would lose in referrals and direct sales.

In our experience, people typically stay on an email list for at least ten years (top tip: hardly anyone ever unsubscribes).

So over a 10 year period, that 5,000-strong email list would represent $500,000 of business. So each email address has a lifetime value of at least $100.

In this (very conservative) case, if you collect 5 email addresses a day, you’re adding $500 to the value of your business every day. Wow, what a no-brainer!

So what are you doing to collect email addresses?

First of all, you should have a newsletter signup form on your website. And your blog. And your Facebook page.

Before they sign up, tell users what they will get in the newsletter – show them a preview if possible.

Reward them for signing up – you will attract a lot more signups if there is an incentive (e.g. a gift voucher, free consultation, e-book of tips)

If you’re offering a download, ask for their email address. This need not be compulsory, e.g. Apple’s iTunes download page asks for your email address when you download iTunes. You don’t actually need to provide it, but I bet most people would fill it in.

Keep sign-up forms short and simple (another top tip: no-one likes filling in forms)

Should you add everyone who ever contacts you on to your email list? No. You should always ask if someone wants to receive your email newsletter. If you haven’t come across the concept of permission marketing, I suggest you read Seth Godin now.

Give the reader an expectation of what they will receive. Show them a preview of your newsletter (or last month’s copy), show them the benefits they can expect by receiving it.

Offline, you can ask people at:

  • trade shows
  • networking groups
  • point-of-sale

As a rule of thumb, every time someone gives you their business card, ask them if they would like to join your newsletter list (after you’ve told them what a great source of information it is, of course). Put the subscribers in one pocket and the non-subscribers in another pocket, or your bag. Chances are, everyone will say yes, anyway.

Here’s some food for thought… Facebook has 600 million users. That means 600 million email addresses. If they are worth only $10 each, that means Facebook’s email list alone is worth $6 billion. Mwah hahaha…

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