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Online Marketing Advice | direct-to-market

Archive for the ‘Online Marketing Advice’ Category

Building a List of Email Addresses

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:

——————————— snip ———————————

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

——————————— snip ———————————

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.

Let’s say you approach me with such a proposition in connection with one of my many websites, e.g. my Summit Finance blog. The first thing I’ll tell you is that I have worked hard to build my list there, that it has a lot of people on it, and that they all trust me not to spam them (which is why it grows rather than shrinks). I’ll also point you to the Privacy Policy on that website which very clearly states: “E-mail addresses will not be sold, rented or leased to 3rd parties”; it’s a promise that I have made to all of my subscribers; I have given them my word, and I intend to keep it.

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.

So how can you grow your list then? There are lots of ways in truth, and the clue is in that same Privacy Policy on the very next line where it says: “E-mail may be sent to inform you of news of our services or offers by us or our affiliates.” What this means of course is that I can happily email my list telling them about something that you are offering, because I implicitly have their permission to do so (as it was in the privacy policy before they signed up).

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!

One option is that, assuming you have built your list in a similarly ethical manner to me, and your list is broadly the same size as mine, then you can similarly email them with an offer of mine in return for me emailing your offer to my list. That’s a sensible deal and it works well. Alternatively, if you don’t have a list, or if it’s much smaller than mine, I may simply charge you money to send an email out on your behalf (it’s called a CPM deal and it’s coming from me, not you), or if you’re selling something I may promote it for you without charge but in return for a commission on any sales you make (see the “our affiliates” part in the Privacy Policy).

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.

In the meanwhile, if you’d like help with building a list of email addresses then click here.

If you’d like to leave a comment, please use the comment facility below. And if you’d like to share this blog post, feel free to use the relevant social media icons.

Bracknell Business Directory – GotBracknell – pre-launch Announcement (PRESS RELEASE)

A new Bracknell Business DirectoryGotBracknell – was ‘leaked’ to listeners on Radio Bracknell Forest yesterday morning.

Andrew Pearce, who presents the internet radio station’s weekly Business Briefing, told listeners that his company has been working quietly in the background on this project for some time now and gave them all an opportunity to get a free entry in, and ‘backlink’ from, this local business directory.

Andrew Pearce, who runs the locally-based firm Direct-to-Market (a direct-response marketing consultancy that focuses heavily on internet-marketing strategies and technologies) often advises in the show about how businesses can better leverage the internet to assist with their local marketing efforts. Listeners are also able to email questions to the radio station to be answered on-air.

In last week’s Business Briefing, Mr Pearce explained about the importance of topically and geographically relevant inbound links – known as back-links – to a business website and promised all loyal listeners the opportunity to get a valuable backlink that is both geographically and topically relevant for free.

In yesterday’s Business Briefing (to be repeated later this week) he invited all listeners to visit the GotBracknell website and create up to 5 entries for themselves, each with a backlink that would normally cost £30, for free. He went on to explain that at present the website is still in development and not being actively promoted, and that if Radio Bracknell Forest listeners were to “skip through” the payment process without paying, then Direct-to-Market’s administration staff would manually approve any entries made pre-launch.

In addition to a comprehensive Bracknell business directory the GotBracknell website also features free classified advertisements for local people, whether business owners or private, and topical news derived straight from Radio Bracknell Forest’s news team. The aim is for the Got Bracknell website portal to become “the place to go” for local people, and in this way Andrew Pearce hopes to give something back to the community in which he lives.

The website will launch formally in the near future, and while basic business directory entries will remain free those that include a URL (for a powerful backlink) will become subject to a fee, so anybody wanting a free entry to assist their business is advised to visit the Got Bracknell website sooner rather than later.

You can find the Bracknell business portal website, Got Bracknell, at:

You can find Andrew Pearce at:

Radio Bracknell Forest is at

Adding Video To Your Website

Why would you want to add video to your website? For a business the most obvious answer is either because it will help to generate additional traffic, or that it will help to better convert existing traffic into customers. A short ‘head & shoulders’ clip of the business owner can work exceptionally well in this respect, because it helps to create a sense of familiarity in the prospect before they ever visit your business. As a bonus, if it’s hosted somewhere like YouTube, it can also create an additional inbound link to your website …and that never hurts!

So how easy is it to do? That’s the question I was asked on Radio Bracknell’s Business In Berkshire programme yesterday morning. The answer…

If you’re halfway handy with a camera, and not afraid of a bit of basic HTML editing on your website, it’s actually pretty easy.

To start off with take your mobile phone, digital compact camera, DV camcorder or similar and film whatever it is that you want to show on your website. Now follow the maker’s instructions to download the short movie to your PC. If you want to edit it, do so with any of the editing software that is available. There’s an example movie later that was filmed on a mobile phone, in a noisy room, at the end of a marketing workshop that I ran when a delegate wanted to leave a testimonial: even though the image quality is far from good, it does get the message across very powerfully.

Alternatively use something like Windows Movie Maker to create your own short movie from a collection of still images that you can zoom-in/out, pan, rotate etc. and narrate over afterwards. You could perhaps use this to make a short movie from a collection of still catalogue photos of some of the products that you sell.

In any event: keep it short and to the point, make it interesting to watch, and try to ensure that your company name and/or contact details are clearly shown in your movie so that if somebody finds it other than through your website they’ll know how to get hold of you.

With your movie now ready, it’s time to upload it from your PC to a server somewhere. You can host it on your own web-server (but beware that it can have a massive impact on your download bandwidth consumption for which you may have to pay), or host it somewhere free such as YouTube: If you decide to go down the YouTube route you’ll need to create an account first: that doesn’t take long if you follow the instructions, and is very easy if you already have an email account on

When your video is uploaded and tested, you’ll be able to obtain a URL (address) for it. This will look something like and while you can email that link to a friend to watch, you need to do a little more work to get it shown on your website.

First of all decide what webpage you want your movie to appear on, and where on the page. Open up the source code for that webpage in your favourite HTML editor (DreamWeaver & XSitePro are popular choices) and embed the video in the appropriate place. In simple terms that means placing a block of code that looks like this…

<object width=”210″ height=”178″ align=”left” hspace=”15″ vspace=”15″>
<param name=”movie” value=”″ />
<param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” />
<param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” />
<embed src=”″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”210″ height=”178″ align=”left” style=”margin-right:35px;  “></embed>

…wherever you want the video to appear. Obviously you’ll also want to replace the YouTube URL in this example with the one for your own movie, unless you especially want to show your visitors a delegate testimonial from an online marketing workshop that I ran earlier this year! You may also wish to change some of the other parameters, e.g. to alter the size and what happens when the video ends.

Now simply save the HTML source file, upload it to your website, and you’re done.

It really is as simple as that, but if you get stuck at any point (e.g. you’ve made your movie but aren’t comfortable editing your website) give us a call and we’ll try to help you out. If you get stuck at the movie-making stage, and/or want more commercial hosting than YouTube offers, then contact me and I’ll put you in touch with another company we use that specialises in making and hosting business videos for websites.

I hope you found this short article interesting, and if you’d like to be kept updated when similar things are posted please sign up using one of the facilities on the right. Do please also leave a comment if you wish, and of course share this article with others by using the social media links provided below.

And don’t forget that you can listen to me on Radio Bracknell at around the following times:

  • •    10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, live broadcast
  • •    08:50 a.m. Monday morning, repeated
  • •    3:50 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, repeated
  • •    08:50 a.m. Saturday morning, repeated

Getting Your Webpage Found by the Search Engines

A Radio Bracknell listener wrote in asking for advice, saying that he has a “hidden webpage” on his website and wants to ensure that it is found by the search engines. I dug a little deeper and answered the question during yesterday’s “Business In Berkshire” radio slot.

It transpires that the listener’s webpage isn’t so much “hidden”, as simply “not obvious” but it does contain information that he wants the search engines to find, and hopefully add to their index.

The first thing for me to say here is that search engines (like the “bots”, “spiders” and “crawlers” that roam the web doing their work for them) aren’t miracle workers, they are simply algorithms running on a big server somewhere. Or to put it another way, if you want them to help you (by crawling and indexing your web page) it’s a good idea to help them by making that page reasonably easy to find! If it’s a really important page to you, include a link to it on your homepage. If it’s not that important, then put a link to it on a second or third level page or similar, but consider that if you can’t find it through the navigation structure you provide there’s a good chance that the search engines won’t either.

You can go further than that though and provide a sitemap to help the search engines too. Don’t mistake this for a sitemap designed to help human visitors because it isn’t, the one I’m talking about is really designed to help search engines. By convention it’s called sitemap.xml and sits in the root directory of your website, i.e. the same directory as your homepage. If you want to read all about sitemaps here’s a useful URL:

But what if you don’t want the search engines to crawl a certain area of your website? One way is to create a file called robots.txt and put that in the root directory of your website, alongside your sitemap.xml and homepage. Using robots.txt you can manually specify certain directories and even files that you do or do not want to be crawled. You can learn more about robots.txt here: This will work well for the ‘respectable’ search engines.

The only problem however is that following robots.txt is optional, not mandatory, and if there’s a spider out there that fancies ignoring it then it can and will. Indeed, some rogue spiders may even look for things that are expressly disallowed and then try to find ways to crawl them on the basis they may be more interesting to them! If you have sensitive data you need to take steps to protect it, and that is outside the scope of this article. Phone me though, and I’ll try to help.

You can also try to stop webpages being indexed on a per-page basis if you wish, when the bot gets there, by including a special instruction in the page’s meta-data, up in the HEAD where human’s don’t see it. It looks like this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
Sounds complex? It can be, just like robots.txt, especially if you get it wrong, but 99% of webmasters get by without knowing about things like this.

Finally it’s important to realise that just because a spider has crawled your website (i.e. wandered around and taken a look at the contents) it doesn’t mean that it will appear in that search engine’s index (a decision made later) let alone be retrieved in the SERPs (search engine results pages – i.e. what people see after typing in their query). And this of course is what the vast majority of website owners want: to be found.

The inter-relationships here, and ways to manipulate them, are complex at best and far outside the scope of a book let alone this article, so if you need help with your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Search Engine Local Optimisation get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you out.

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SEO – What it means to be in Position 1 on Page 1 of Google

OK, so your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is doing pretty well and you’re on Google’s front page, but what position are you in and does it really matter anyway?

I recently stumbled upon a blog publishing figures that, it claimed, were the results of Google’s research into users’ “click patterns” on the result sets derived from 20,000,000 search queries. Setting aside the fact that many search engines handle more search queries than this per day, so it’s a comparatively small sample in real terms, it’s still worth taking a look even if simply because it’s the only set of figures we have available and any indication is worthwhile!

The figures (below) show that, in the sample, more than 40% of people click on the first result that Google offers them.

So if there are 1,000 searches per month for a keyword or key-phrase that you are targeting, these figures suggest that on average you will get 422 clicks if you are in position 1 on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) but a much lower 119 clicks if you are in position 2, and by position 5 barely one tenth of the click-throughs in position 1! Notice too the dramatic drop in click-throughs between positions 10 and 11, i.e. the first result page versus the second.

Take a look at the numbers below to help you understand how important search engine optimisation (SEO) is to your business:

SERPS Position Percentage Click Through
1 42.25%
2 11.93%
3 8.46%
4 6.04%
5 4.87%
6 3.99%
7 3.38%
8 2.97%
9 2.96%
10 2.82%
11 0.65%
12 0.55%
13 0.51%
14 0.48%
15 0.46%
16 0.38%
17 0.35%
18 0.33%
19 0.33%
20 0.31%

So it’s clear enough that you want to move yourself as far up the SERPS as you possibly can, ideally into the first position. That much is definitely true.

But as always raw statistics can be misleading if you don’t understand how and where they were created. For example, the ratio of click-throughs to SERPS positions could vary with:

  • Geographic location in which sample was taken;
  • Time of day at which sample was taken;
  • Day of week on which sample was taken;
  • Niche in which the sample was taken (if any);
  • Niche in which the website actually sits;
  • Number of keywords in search string;
  • Etc.

The ratios may also vary between different search engines, but in this case we know they all came from Google so at least that’s a constant. But did you realise that Google naturally tends to bias click-troughs towards Position 1? Take a look at Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button sometime, that you can click as an alternative to “Google Search”, and then consider that this takes you straight to the top-ranking result without even displaying the others.

But the figures are still highly relevant because most of our own UK-based websites, and those of our UK-based clients, derive around three quarters of their search-engine traffic from Google with Yahoo and MSN/Live/Bing (or whatever MS are calling it by the time you read this!) having a roughly equal share of what remains.

Note too that even if you can’t quite make the first position on Google, perhaps only number 2 or 3, there are still things that you can do with your webpage title & description to influence your click-though rate, and if you do it well and your competitors above you don’t, you may still get more click-throughs than them.

And to get a sense of perspective, even if you’re only in 20th place with a lowly 0.31% of the traffic, if the search volume is 1,000,000 searches per month then those 3,100 clicks you’ll get will still be worth having (although there’s no denying that 400,000+ would be better still).

Above all though do bear in mind that getting people to visit your website is only part of the story, albeit a very important part, because if they go there and you then fail to either turn them into customers or at least capture their details so you can build a relationship and turn them into customers later …your efforts in getting a great search-engine ranking will have been substantially wasted.

But it doesn’t matter how well your website can convert visitors into customers if nobody goes there in the first place! So you need traffic! And one of the bays ways to get that traffic is through good SEO. If you are targeting a specific geographic area, then what you need is well-aimed search engine local optimisation.

So now you know exactly how important SEO is to your business, click the appropriate link below and let us help you get more visitors to your website:

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Local Optimisation

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Top of Mind Awareness – Brand Awareness

You may not have heard the expression Top of Mind Awareness before but I’m prepared to bet that you’re familiar with the idea of Brand Awareness. In simple terms, it’s about making sure that whenever your prospect thinks of a particular product or service they automatically think of you as their most-likely (and first choice) supplier.

One of the best examples of this for many years was the vacuum cleaner, as manufactured by the Hoover company ( How many times have you said “we need a new hoover” or “I’ll just hoover the carpet” without even thinking about it? Their name, and thus the word, has become so common in the English language that we have even started to use it as a verb!

Hoover is 100 years old this year, so it’s taken them a while, but they have definitely achieved top of mind awareness. Dyson is pretty much there too now, of course, but not so ingrained that we use their name as a verb, as in “I’ll just dyson the carpet”!

As a business owner you should strive to achieve this same top of mind awareness with your own prospects and customers to ensure that, when they need to purchase whatever you are selling, you are the first person they think off. It doesn’t matter if you are an accountant or run a beauty parlour, an estate agent or provide a septic tank emptying service, sell newspapers or the fish & chips that once used to go in them …the principle is the same.

Whenever somebody thinks of whatever it is that you are selling, you must ensure that you are right there – at the top of their mind – as the most obvious, and first realised, solution to their need.

You do this by keeping your name – your brand to be precise – in front of them, at the top of their mind, hence the term top of mind awareness. And it really is as simple as ensuring that your brand is the first one they think of: i.e. brand awareness. If you run a large company then obviously the company name is the brand, but if you are a sole trader or small partnership it may well be that your own name is the brand of which people should be aware: “Bodgit & Scarper Builders” for example.

If you have a huge advertising budget then it’s easy enough to keep plastering your name and logo in front of people, but we’re in a recession at present so for most people throwing money at advertising isn’t as easy as it once was. The answer then is to use effective and well-targeted advertising (as should really have been the case all along anyway).

For most small businesses the most cost-effective advertising by far is to keep in touch with your existing customers: build a list of them and then stay in touch. Your current customers are almost without doubt your business’s most valuable asset (I’ll cover the psychology behind this in another post) so don’t neglect them; keep yourself, and your brand, at the top of their mind. After all, you don’t want them saying “I know that the last time I bought XXX from YYY I was really happy with the product and the service, I just can’t remember who I bought it from!” …and then going to your competitor, do you?

So stay in touch with your customers.

The same principle applies to prospects too (you know, those browsers that take up your time and then leave without spending any money). They expressed an interest in you, your brand, your company and what you sell. You have spent time and money educating them; you have begun to build a relationship. So don’t now sit back and let them go and buy from one of your competitors.

Stay in touch with your prospects.

Achieve Top of Mind Awareness – Brand Awareness – with all your prospects and customers by making, and maintaining, regular contact. And if you use direct-response marketing to do this, your messages are laser-targeted and thus very effective (a high ROI).

Does this need to cost you a fortune? Absolutely not! Certainly postage is now becoming expensive and by the time you have printed a letter, folded it, stuck it in an envelope and (the most expensive part) stuck a stamp on it you can easily find yourself approaching a cost of £1.00 per letter. If you need to contact 1,000+ people each month, that can become very expensive, very fast.

But how much does it cost to send an email?

The answer is nothing if you do it yourself, but you do need to ensure that you don’t spam people (send them unsolicited email they didn’t ask for and don’t want), handle requests from those that wish to unsubscribe from your list, manage those that want to stay subscribed but change their email address etc. So while it’s cheap, it can take up a lot of your valuable time, and time is money!

The good news is that we have systems in-house that can do all this for you, and as we’ll even write the sales-letter (sorry, monthly newsletter :)) for you if you wish, achieving and maintaining that vital top of mind awareness with your prospects and customers can take as little as 15 minutes of your time each month, for the phone call to tell us what you want in the email.

Our prices are very reasonable too, and I can practically guarantee that you won’t find a cheaper way to stay in touch with 1,000 (or whatever) people each month, or achieve a higher ROI on your advertising spend. To learn more about how we can help you cut your advertising costs and simultaneously increase your sales, either phone us on 0333 444 0340 (and leave a message if you get voicemail as we are often busy with clients but we will always call you back) or send us an email through our Contact Us page.

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