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Creating an email list

September 10, 2014

Question: One trick I have learned that really helped our business is to create and use a valuable e-mail list. We do it with our e-newsletter. This allows us to know who wants to hear from us. We don’t abuse the list, but we sure do use it. – Maggie

Answer: You are preaching to the choir, sister!

Capturing your website’s visitors’ email address is one of the smartest things you can do to create new customers. Why? Because if they give it to you (also known as opting-in) then you begin to create an e-mail list of people giving you permission to contact them again. Down the road, you can use this list to offer them discounts, sales, special promotions, and much more. 

There are several ways to do this. Here are four of the best:

1. Opt-in to get your vote counted or share your opinion: The idea here is a simple one, but very effective. How many times have you gone to a website and seen an online poll or survey in which you would either like to participate or at least see the results? But you know the drill: Before getting to do either, you first have to login and/or register. As often as not probably, you do so because the issue intrigues you.

Similarly, there are thousands (nay, millions) of sites out there in which people comment on an article or chat on discussion boards about an infinite variety of subjects. And again, before you can even post a single comment, you have to register. 

Making people share their name and email address in order to use these user-generated content tools is popular because 1) it works, and 2) they are easy to add to a site. Here’s how:

  • For user polls, first check to see whether it is a tool that is already part of your website software package. If so, there you go. If not, then it is simply a matter of finding a free polling tool that you like and adding a little code. You might want to check out SurveyMonkey or Polldaddy.
  • For user forums, the process is the same. If your software does not offer a forum function (and if you are using WordPress, just find a good plugin), check out FreeForums or MyFreeForum.

2. Opt-in for contests, games and quizzes: The idea here is to add even more interactive tools to your site. The benefit is two-fold: First, if people like your offerings, they will opt-in and stay and play. That alone is good, and is why these sorts of interactive tools are called “sticky,” because they make people want to stick around. Second, of course, is that they will register so as to get to participate, and that is the idea.

Adding this sort of content to your site need not cost a fortune, indeed, often it can be had for free:

  • Contests: You can create any contest you want. Say that you sell candles online. You could have a contest where people send in pictures of your candles in use and the winner receives a free gift basket of your products. The added bonus is that you can use the pictures on your site. The idea is to be creative, give people an incentive to enter the contest, and have them register in order to enter.
  • Games: There are many sites on the Web that offer games for your site for free. Check out Free Games for Your Site or Flyordie. 

3. Opt-in for content: No matter what sort of site your have – whether you sell products or simply market your business – people who visit it will be happy to find related content. It could be an article, an e-book, a how-to guide, a tip of the day, whatever. 

Once they find an article they like, the key is that in order to read it (or at least keep reading it after a paragraph or two), they need to register. The risk here is that they may decide to surf on instead of registering, so test this. 

4. Freebies: Our final trick for making your site stickier, and therefore more likely to induce visitors to give you their email address, is to use the most powerful word in all advertising and marketing: Free! Here, you are going to offer visitors to your site freebies in exchange for registering. The number of free things that you can offer is almost staggering. You could offer free trial products, graphics, jokes, business tools, and so on. Just check out this site. 

You could also write an e-book or some other similar industry info and offer it to them for free for “simply signing up!”  

Hmmm, that gives me an idea. You might like my e-newsletter, Small Business Success Secrets! You can get it for free, by, well, you know how!

Today’s Tip: What’s in a name? Could it be almost everything? PR agents pitch me all day long, wanting me to write about their clients, so it takes something special to catch my eye. And that’s just happened with a place called The Protein Bakery. The clever name piqued my interest. So I tried out some of their goodiess, and man were they good. 

Given my penchant for sweets, the idea of a protein infused treat sounded too good to be true, but it wasn’t. The cookies, brownies, etc. combine natural ingredients like heart-healthy rolled oats, light brown sugar, and the finest chocolate and are trans-fat free, preservative free, and wheat-flour free. Steve says check them out online. Mmmm!

(And the lesson is – have a great name.)

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