Why You Should Start Building Your Email List Now
Every writer wants her words read. Every speaker wants to be heard. Every artist wants his art to change something. Right?
But so many communicators don’t get the attention they deserve. Their messages fade into oblivion and irrelevance. Why?
Because they neglect the single most important element to building a tribe. They forsake one simple, but essential marketing asset: the email list.
How big is your email list?
I was talking to my publisher the other day about marketing strategies for my next book, and do you know the first question they asked?
How big is your email list?”
Not: “How many RSS subscribers do you have?”
Or: “How many ‘hits’ does your blog get?”
Nope. None of that. Just email — the most important tool you need to get your message heard.
- Musicians use it to get word out about their next tour.
- Writers use it to announce an upcoming book.
- Retailers use it to share special deals and drive sales.
It’s all about the list.
The “death” of email
Wait a second. Isn’t email dead? In a word: no.
The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
If email is dead, then why does every major social network ask for an email address before you can create an account? Why do most people, despite what productivity experts say, still check email first thing in the morning?
Because email is still the most powerful way to communicate online.
Every day, people check their inboxes (often multiple times per day). They sit in front of a screen, glued to Outlook or Gmail, refreshing until they get that gratification of knowing someone else in the world cares about them..
No, email is not dead. It is very much alive. And being almost as old as the Internet itself, it’s not going away anytime soon.
In spite of bogus predictions, email continues to stick around, outlasting many of the fads that have come to replace it.
An evolution of email
According to a 2012 study, email is still an important part of many people’s work lives, with the average person spending up to 50% of their time in the inbox.
Some other interesting facts about email:
- The average worker receives 11,680 emails per year with an average of 32 per day.
- 42% of all email in a person’s inbox is considered essential or critical.
- Email is still considered by most to be the best collaboration tool for teams and individuals.
- People use email for more than sending messages: 76% use it to exchange documents and 50% to archive important messages.
Although far from perfect and ever-changing in this world of new and innovative technology, email still plays a critical role in a most people’s lives. Barry Gill from the Harvard Business Review says this:
Email is not dead, it’s just evolving. It’s becoming a searchable archive, a manager’s accountability source, a document courier. And for all the love social media get, e-mail is still workers’ most effective collaboration tool.
With nearly 3.9 billion accounts in the world (according to Radicati), three-quarters of which are consumer accounts, email is far from dead. That number is projected to reach 4.9 billion by 2017.
If you’ve been spurning the idea of building an email list because it seems like an outdated technology, it’s time to face the facts. Email isn’t going anywhere.
The benefits of an email list
Email is king. It’s the best way to build an engaged audience, sell a product online, or create hype around your next big event or service project. Without it, you will really struggle to get the kind of traction your message deserves.
As a writer, I get more “mileage” out of my newsletter than any other platform I have — including this blog.
When I send an email to my list, I often get hundreds of replies — far more engagement than many of my blog posts get. If I send a link to my email list, people click it. If I ask a question, people answer. If I talk about my new book, people buy.
Why is email so powerful? Three reasons:
- Email is personal. It’s casual and friendly — a great way to build trust with people.
- Email is direct. No middlemen. Your message: delivered straight to your audience.
- Email is private. People can be themselves and openly share what they’re struggling with, what they want, or questions they have (unlike public comments on a blog post, for example).
If you haven’t tapped into the power of a good email list, you’re missing opportunities to engage with people who want to hear from you.
Building your list and what comes after
Now that you’re motivated and see the benefits of building an email list, how do you get started? Here’s what you need to do:
- Get a good email service (like Mailchimp or Aweber). If you are on a tight budget, you could use Feedburner, but it has limited tracking. (Note: Mailchimp is free up to 2000 subscribers, and Aweber offers a $1 month-long trial.)
- Create an awesome signup form. It needs to be obvious and not hideously ugly. If your website doesn’t have a clear opt-in form, then you’re missing out on a lot.
- Offer an incentive. This can be an eBook or a free MP3 download — whatever your readers would find value in. It’s an “ethical bribe” that allows you to reward subscribers with something other than just your content.
And then what? Now that you’ve got the right tools and have started building a list, where do you go from here?
Hopefully, forward. Instead of seeing your email list as “yours,” what if it was ours? Something you shared with the community. Something you stewarded instead of hoarded.
When people give you permission to talk to them, you have a great opportunity — and an important responsibility. You can choose to invite or interrupt. To exchange ideas or blast out information. To give or take.
As marketing expert, Seth Godin says:
If your email promotion is a taking, not a giving, I think you should rethink it. If you still want to take the time and attention and trust of your 4,000 closest friends, think hard about what that means for the connections you’ve built over the years. There are few promotional emergencies that are worth trading your reputation for.
It all comes down to trust. If you build it, they will, indeed, come.
Have you tapped into the power of an email list? Share in the comments.