I was asked a question this week on the subject of list-building – specifically building a list of email addresses – for marketing purposes. Before I answer though, here’s a précis of what I was asked:
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I have a question on your take of things re: list building. Do you agree / disagree with listing building via:
1) Swapping lists with another person, where there is an obvious synergy with the product etc
2) Finding an ideal list of people and just adding them to your list, be it
a. paid for
b. ‘found’ lying around by chance
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My personal feeling is that the only kind of list I want is one where the recipients are pleased to receive my emails because they are expecting them, looking forward to them, will open them, will read them, and will (hopefully) act upon what I’ve said.
That’s the ideal, although obviously not every email I send gets a 100% response rate (and if it did, I’d be a multi-millionaire by now).
The best way that I know of to achieve this is by actively striving to build a relationship with your list – so that they know, like & trust you – and that all begins by inviting them to join it in the right way. Note that word “inviting” because it’s important, I’m specifically not talking about your suggestion of “finding an ideal list of people and just adding them to your list”.
But why not?
Firstly, if you do this you may indeed end up with a very large list in a very short period of time, but the only person you’ll be fooling is yourself: everybody on it that receives an email from you will consider you a spammer, nothing more. In some parts of the world that’s illegal, and you certainly won’t get even a half-decent response rate. Consider how you treat spam yourself: would you ever buy from a spammer?
Secondly, if many of those people decide to press the spam button on their emails and that filters back to the ISPs (as it assuredly will with many recipients) you may well find your email address, or even entire domain, black-listed by various ISPs …with the result that even business-critical emails that you personally type and send one-to-one may get bounced!
So that’s something not to do!
I’m less clear on what you mean by “swapping lists with another person” but if you are suggesting that you find somebody with a list in a similar niche (vertical market) to you and then give them a copy of your list in return for a copy of theirs, once again it’s something I’d advise against.
I’d then politely point out to you that I don’t want a copy of your list! Sorry, but it’s true. The people on it may, or may not, eagerly anticipate receiving email from you, I don’t know …but I’m pretty sure they’re not expecting to receive it from me! See my earlier waning about sending spam; I will not reduce myself to becoming a spammer.
But I’m not going to be that generous to you, of course. That list has cost me time, effort and money to build and maintain, so if you want me to email it on your behalf then it’s going to cost you something!
And that’s just scratching the surface of ethical list building, but it’s also all I have room for here.
In a future blog post I’ll look at what I would put in an email you send out on my behalf to get the maximum return from it, opt-in email lists, list maintenance (including unsubscription requests), opt-in incentives (sometimes referred to as ethical bribes), auto-responders, and a whole lot more that will help you rapidly build and profit from a good-quality list that actually wants to hear from you.
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