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June 4, 2012

The Money is in the List: 16 Ways to Build a List From Scratch

You’ve started a new business or you have an existing one that you would like to be selling products to regularly. Either way, let’s suppose you have no customer list, no group of interested people who have asked you to stay in touch. According to most marketing experts, you’ll be struggling to sell much of anything until you build a list and begin contacting that list regularly with information and offers.

Where to start? Make sure your web site has a prominent signup box on every page. Then use at least six or seven of these 16 methods to build that crucial list.

1. Bait Piece. Create a free item that will tempt your ideal client to click to your site and request it. Whether that’s an audio, a written report, a video or something else, within the item make sure there’s a brief description of what you do and what you sell. People need to provide their email address and join your list to receive the giveaway item.

2. Online Article Distribution. Write useful, informative articles that are 400-600 words long and that have titles using keywords that the kind of people you want to sell to are looking for. End the article with a biographical paragraph that describes who you are and offers your free item. Post these articles at article distribution sites, many of which cost nothing to use.

3. Squeeze Page and Pay-Per-Click. Post a web page describing your giveaway item and inviting people to opt into receive it. What makes this a “squeeze page” is that it contains no general information about your business and no links to other pages for your business. Then send traffic there using pay-per-click ads.

4. Press Releases. Write press releases about the launch of your business, the availability of your giveaway item, useful tips and tie-ins with trends or breaking news. Distribute these through press release distribution services and email them to your local media as well as specialty magazines related to your industry. Getting coverage in newspapers, magazines and online news sites brings traffic to your site and should increase the size of your list.

5. Guest Blog Posts. Contact bloggers in your subject area, offering to write a blog post on a controversy or a set of useful guidelines. You’ll get a valuable link back to your site with each post along with coming to the attention of the bloggers’ established audiences.

6. Online Videos. Create one or more funny, opinionated or practical short videos, up to three minutes long, and post them at YouTube and elsewhere. At the end of the video, show your URL on screen. Be sure to tell friends and colleagues about the video, too, to get word-of-mouth publicity going.

7. Survey. Ask members of your target market for their opinions or experiences, using an online poll or a paper-and-pen survey sheet where you have a large group in one room. Tabulate and publicize the results with a press release and by contacting bloggers about the survey results. This positions you as someone who is contributing to your industry, in addition to generating curiosity that will get prospects checking you out online.

8. Free Teleclass. Announce a free teleclass on a popular topic using the other methods in this list. Let everyone know that when they sign up for the teleclass, they’ll also be added to your list (but can unsubscribe at any time). This is especially good for someone trying to grow a reputation as an expert. A teleclass also enables people to get to know and trust you in a way other methods don’t.

9. Online Forums and Discussion Groups. Find gathering places where people interested in your topic area communicate on message boards or email lists. Join these groups and participate in discussions when you have something relevant to add. This is free, but requires a time commitment and good communication skills.

10. Postcards. If you know exactly who your best prospects are and can obtain a low-cost list of them, postcards may be a great way to contact them. Invite them to visit your site and request your free bait piece.

11. Ezine Ads. If companies or individuals have an email newsletter or marketing list that reaches those you hope to sell to, buy ads there. Repeated ads work better than single-shot ones.

12. Your Own Blog. Start this only if you’re disciplined, enjoy writing and have a lot to say. Pay attention to the keywords in your blog post headlines, which gets you traffic through online search engines.

13. Content-Rich Web Site. Post resources, original articles, tools and other items people in your target market will search for, link to and recommend. This traffic-building method works slowly and gradually over time.

14. Radio Ads. It may sound crazy to advertise on the radio for Internet visitors, but I have one client who did this successfully. He ran repeated ads during commuting hours that invited listeners to download his free report, which had a very controversial title. He had carefully researched the audience of the radio station he chose and reached a group that was otherwise difficult to pinpoint.

15. Public Speaking. When you’re on the podium giving a talk to a local or industry group, you have great credibility. People who have seen or met you in person are more likely to remain on your list long-term. You can insert a list signup invitation on a handout for your talk, pass around a signup sheet or collect business cards from those who want to be on your list.

16. Networking. Use your business card as a signup tool when you hand it out at trade shows or conferences. This works best when you don’t simply list your web site on the card but specifically say something like, “Go to www.someplace <http://www.someplace>. com to receive a free whatever.”

Which of the methods above best fit your personal preferences and are easiest to implement? Get started today on the all-important task of building your list.

The author of 16 books and nine multimedia home study courses, veteran copywriter Marcia Yudkin has been selling information in one form or another since 1981. She has developed and sold more than a dozen multimedia home-study courses on publicity, writing, web site structure and personal branding. Download a free recording of her answers to the most commonly asked questions about information marketing by entering your information into the privacy-assured request box at .