Is list-building worth the effort for your business?
We hear so many mixed things from every marketer about list-building for businesses. About five years ago that’s all anyone would talk about – the importance of your list.
Nowadays, many other options for connection exist. Online groups, live conversations, messenger, instant chats on your website with apps like Drift and Intercom are interesting alternatives for capturing the attention of prospects.
It’s important to know when building a list is important, when it’s not and how to decide whether or not to focus on it in this phase of your growth.
But first, I’ll share with you my own experience with my “list”.
I started writing a “newsletter” in 2009 when I first launched my business as a life coach. I’d done them before with my previous job so this seemed fairly natural. I put everyone I knew on it – a practice that’s no longer legit. And off I went. I had some great feedback and enjoyed writing monthly.
As time went on I learned about so many different approaches. For the first few years, I constantly heard that I had to send out one per week, which I did sporadically. And then I got more focused on automation – creating sales sequences for various lead magnets.
Having a big list always seemed like the unobtainable goal … until I realized that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a goal that I should be fixated on. Why? Because I didn’t really sell to my list. Right.
So that’s really the question anyone should be asking themselves. What are you doing with your list?
The purpose of list-building
Deciding what you are planning to do with it needs to happen well in advance of actively growing it. Here’s why:
Prospects are the most engaged when they first sign up for your list. That’s when they’re most likely to take the next step to buy, connect and try your free offer.
So if you don’t know what you’re going to do with them, then maybe you don’t need to spend the time and money trying to get them there. List-building is very expensive. It needs to bring in customers. Your whole system of attraction and conversion has to work before you spend money on it.
So why might you do it? Here are a few reasons:
- Selling a product or program
- Growing a following for an impending launch (campaign)
- Nurturing active prospects
1) List-building for immediate sales
For companies who have products or evergreen programs, every single person who visits your site is a potential buyer. Even if they don’t buy immediately, you have something they can purchase right away. Capturing their name and email in your system gives you access. You can encourage the sale after they’ve moved onto something else.
Without a lead capture, they may forget about you and there’s nothing you can do about that.
This is when having a strong automated sequence become critical. If it’s not converting you might want to keep working on it until you see results.
2) Growing a following for future launches
Many businesses have replaced the weekly or bi-weekly email to their list with campaigns. Campaigns designed to build up brand awareness, then convert some of those leads into prospects and sell to a few of those. It’s a well curated cycle that repeats as much as the business can support it. Some businesses launch their program once per year, others do it as much as every month.
The lead generation phase of this cycle doesn’t occur everyday of the year. It’s an isolated event over a pre-determined period of time. The list becomes almost a temporary one based on the interest is this course or that specific offer. The businesses often use the email to send out many emails in a row leading up to and during a “cart open” period of about 7-10 days.
This is a powerful email tactic for service-based businesses who launch big programs. It also works for product businesses who want to highlight a certain focus in their business. They might run several campaigns throughout the year to feature sub-sets of products i.e. mens, womens or kids products or shoes, vacation-ware or outdoor gear, and so on.
The goal is to get uber focused on bringing in the type of prospect who’s going to be primed to buy when that particular event happens.
Your list makes it a lot easier to sell to them than to try to find them in the first place once the event has started.
3) Attracting active prospects to your list
The most passive and economical way to use list-building is to nurture your active leads. If people have landed on your website to check you out, they are likely to sign-up for your free offer to get a better feel for you. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure that what you give them and continue to give them over the next few weeks demonstrates your value to them.
All this requires is having an offer (course, PDF, training etc.) that brings them one step closer to working with you. You might give them something addresses a problem they have that might prevent them from hiring you. Then you use your nurturing sequence to further educate them in the area they are seeking help – the very same zone of genius you are in. This is how I approach mine.
My list mostly exists to create a deeper relationship with those who are already considering working with me.
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None of these list-building tactics are arbitrary. They all have a purpose and a focus. It’s easy to know whether they are successful or not because there’s an end result that can be evaluated. The new lead either takes the next step … or not. You don’t have to do list-building if your business model doesn’t support it.
All marketing programs should be evaluated that way so you know it’s worth the money spent. Pause all activity until you’ve fixed what’s broken in the funnel.
What to do with your list once you have it
Whatever your approach to list-building, if you’ve done it, you still have it. And that’s when you’ll want to have a plan for engaging with it … once in a while. And I really do mean once in a while.
As I mentioned earlier, gone are the days of weekly emails sent out on schedule. What I am seeing more and more – and doing myself – is sending out emails to my list when I really have something interesting to share.
Often a month will go by before I send one out and then I may send several in a row. It REALLY depends on what’s going on and what I want people to know.
Inboxes are too full these days to send out 52 emails in a year so consider this rule:
Send updates when you have something REALLY INTERESTING to share or when you are SELLING SOMETHING.
And that’s it. You’ll likely get way more engagement than any other way. Don’t forget that people on your list expect to be sold to.
Alternatives to list-building
So if you’ve read all this and decided that list-building doesn’t make sense for you right now, but you still need to capture leads, here are some other ways to do it.
1) Messaging through social media
If you are an avid social media engager, you have a huge platform to develop a following. Relationships are developed on social media and it’s an excellent tool for reaching out. FB messenger, Instagram messages and Twitter Direct messages (and many more) are all excellent places to engage.
2) Networking locally
Never underestimate your local community or industry network. When you get out of the house and meet people live, it’s a different experience. You are much more likely to make an impression that’s not easily forgotten. Because people know you, hear about you and see you around, when they do need some help, you will be top of mind. That’s where a lot of your referrals can come from as well.
You don’t need to be writing them constantly via email for you to be on their radar.
3) Targeted outreach
Create your dream list of clients and get in contact with them. It’s an excellent way to level up and work with who you want to work with. The same goes for reaching out to strategic alliances. People who work with the same kind of people you want to with different services. Some entrepreneurs have built strong, profitable businesses with a consistent pipeline using that tactic alone.
4) Website chats
And finally (and this is a biggie!!) website chats are changing the way businesses are communicated with their leads. If you’ve ever landed on a site using Drift or Intercom you’ve probably experienced how easy it is to engage with the company in real time. Every doubt and question you have gets addressed on the spot. These live chats keep you in the funnel and give you an experience without having to sign up for anything. And they really do work.
Personally, I believe it’s the future of sales, chatting live vs. giving away email addresses. It may not be viable or valuable for every single business but it’s revolutionary. If you are the kind of person who needs to be on the leading edge of marketing and you have the volume and support to keep it active, you might want to give it a try.
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How are you approaching list-building and marketing in general? Know that you’d benefit from a focused marketing strategy designed to convert? Click here to meet with me.
Lisa Princic is a Business Strategist & Membership Expert who helps thought leaders & niche experts build wildly successful memberships. She's dedicated to helping impact-driven entrepreneurs scale their businesses with powerful positioning and profitable programs designed around their zone of genius. A staunch believer in simplicity and intention, Lisa helps her clients accomplish their goals by focusing on what to do AND what to ignore.