Golden Nugget: Collect E-Mail Addresses
Perhaps more than any other tip I write about in this blog, I wholeheartedly, without a doubt believe that collecting e-mail addresses will be the most valuable to you over time. E-mail addresses represent someone who has offered you something of value: Their contact info, usually in return for something of value you offer them. I’d like to first discuss why collecting e-mail addresses and building a list is so important, then I will share a few tips and tricks on how you can start to grow your list. Finally, I will lay down some warnings regarding the collection and use of e-mail lists that you would do well to heed.
By: T. Eldidge, creator of Marketing Tips For Authors.
In my former life, my main focus in the company was to implement ways we could collect new subscribers and prospects. These were the people that we marketed to. These were the people we sent out e-mails to when we launched new products or had sales coming up. We had that list divided into two main groups: Prospects (those who had not bought from us) and customers (those who had bought from us). We could tell you everything about the people on the list, down to the cost to us to acquire each name.
Now, for the purposes of selling your book, you won’t have to take your marketing skills and reports to that extent, though I am sure some die-hard marketing types reading this are cringing at that thought. No, but what you need to do is to walk away with some big-view strategies that you can apply that will make you more and more successful over time.
Any contact info you collect will be worth something to you, but an e-mail is inexpensive to collect and use when you want to send a message to someone. We spent thousands on collecting e-mail addresses because we knew we netted tens of thousands from them. Or, as my former boss is fond of saying, he’d trade dimes for dollars all day long.
Before you quit reading because you literally have only dimes to trade, and not thousands, don’t lose heart. This blog is aimed at the author living on a shoestring budget, remember? I just wanted you to see the value of an e-mail address.
What we have to do is find the good ones, right? It doesn’t help us if we collect a million e-mail addresses but only 50 are interested in our book, right? In fact, if you spend your time and resources collecting the wrong e-mail addresses, you will always come out the loser in the end. It’s called collecting qualified e-mails.
What makes an e-mail address qualified?
Your definition can be as strict or as loose as you want to apply to it. Make it too strict, and your list will stay small, and you will probably miss out on its power. Make it too loose and you will probably collect a lot of e-mail addresses of people who will not buy your book. Then you incur whatever cost it is to find and use the e-mail address.
Let’s see, which would be the most likely to be a qualified e-mail address for an author: someone who says they read a book a week or someone who says they watch a movie a week? That’s pretty straight forward– the reader. So does that mean you should gear up a marketing campaign to collect the e-mail addresses of those readers?
Let’s say your book is about residential landscaping in the American southwest. How many of those people who read a book a week are college students, cramming for class? Or how many are James Patterson and Sue Grafton fans? You get the point. What you need to do is target your search for e-mail addresses to those who are more likely to buy your book, American Southwest Landscaping On A Shoestring Budget. Hmmm… Catchy title.
Using your best currency, your elbow grease, you can set out to find out where people who have an interest in American southwest landscaping are and go to them. This may be gardening clubs, nurseries, homeowner associations, and the list goes on. Then, do your community service and volunteer your time and expertise, as a published author, to speak to their groups. You may also find e-zines, blogs, and website that need content and volunteer to guest write for them. With a little ingenuity, you can find ways to uncover those illusive e-mail addresses and craft a plan to claim them as your own.
Tips on acquiring the qualified e-mail addresses.
OK, once you are in front of qualified people, you need to find a way to convince people to part with their e-mail address. You could say something like, “I am passing around a piece of paper. I’d like you to give me your e-mail address and name so I can contact you later.”
You may get a few names and e-mail addresses, but you may be surprised at how many are bogus. People get enough SPAM already. The last thing they want is more. So, how do you get someone to part with their e-mail address? You need to offer something of value you can trade for it. It may be an instant download of an e-book (“Ten Tips To Green Up Your Grass While Living On A Shoestring Budget”). It may be a contest where you give away signed copies of your book. I just ended a contest where I will name characters in my next book after the winners. Maybe it’s a free Q&A; session with every 100th subscriber. Be unique, be creative, but most important of all, be useful to your subscribers.
You can also create a white paper or e-book made available only to people who refer a friend to your list. Chances are, if you have a qualified person in your mailing list, they know other qualified people they can introduce to you. This can be a special way to say thanks to those who help you find more people who may be interested in your book.
You can also approach someone and suggest they write about you in their blog. This is a spin on the guest blogger approach only you are not doing the work. You can make something available to the readers of the blog if they sign up for your newsletter. If you have listened AM radio lately, it’s the same concept as when the host says something like, “And XYZ company will give a free bonus to the listeners of my radio program. Just enter my name and click on the microphone button at the top of their web page.” You get the idea.
Be creative about how you can acquire e-mail addresses. Just don’t forget the cardinal rule if you want to be successful. In order to get something of value, you will need to be willing to give something of value.
Dangers and pitfalls to guard against.
There are some dangers in collecting e-mail addresses you need to guard against. If you don’t, you may not only find it hard to discover e-mail addresses, but to keep them as well.
1. The legal requirements. I am not going into this much because a whole series of blog articles can center on this. But just know that there are legal requirements you need to be aware of if you send out e-mail for commercial purposes. They have to do with providing an opt-out of your list, no lying, no cheating… you get the picture. You can read up on the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 at this Wikipedia page.
2. Not-so-legal-but-just-as-bad requirement
Simply put- don’t go hog wild sending e-mails like you do tweets from Twitter. If you send too many commercial e-mails to subscribers, they tend to complain by marking your messages as spam. If enough people do that, then the server will potentially block your e-mails from getting through (blacklisted) and getting white-listed again can be very difficult. Actually, your e-mail service provider may be threatened to be blacklisted unless they reign you in. If you are responsible about sending your messages, then you should have nothing to worry about.
3. Keep the junk out, the gold in. It’s a tough pill to swallow to put all that time and effort into collecting e-mail addresses only to have someone click a button to unsubscribe. You can minimize your unsubscribe rate by following these three pieces of advice:
a. Deliver what you promised. If you offered a free e-book, or weekly posts on your blog, then deliver it. If not, you will lose subscribers.
b. Stay on topic. If you are sending out weekly tips on landscaping in the American Southwest, you may be able to get by with occasional articles on landscaping in other areas. But if your blog spends more time talking about tips on playing MySpace Mobsters, then you will lose your initial subscribers fast. Of course, you may luck into a new, more profitable list. Who knows…
c. Keep the content fresh, up to date, and accurate. No one is perfect 100% of the time, but if you constantly put out old, inaccurate info, you will soon develop a bad reputation that will crumble your credibility. Now, that’s not the same thing as giving your opinions on areas of opinion. If you make a strong argument why you are bucking against the accepted norm, your reputation as a cutting edge authority may even be enhanced. People like to hear many different ideas before choosing the path they will take. Dare to be different, just not flat wrong all of the time.
I hope I have helped you see the power and potential of cultivating a great mailing list, one that’s targeted and well fed with valuable information on a timely basis. Do this, and you will see your list grow. And when it’s time to feed you, you will have developed the trust you need when you let your subscribers know about your new book, appearance, or speaking engagement. You may start off slow, but if you do it right, you will have a list that becomes the envy of your fellow author friends.