In the last article in this series, we introduced the three elements of a successful marketing campaign – the compelling offer, and the presentation and the list of interested people to buy it. We went into detail about creating a persuasive offer, which includes the product, the pricing, and timing.
Today, we’ll talk about your List.
You want this to be a large number of people, sure, but even more importantly than that, they need to be people who are likely to buy your product.
Grow Your Own List
I advise our clients to keep their own lists. You can advertise to these people as many times as you want, and you can build a relationship with them over time. Of course, when you’re starting out, you have very few people on your list – just personal contacts that you know might be interested in this particular product.
That’s okay! When you have a small list, it’s much less expensive to keep people updated and excited about your product. You can send 100 people a video on DVD illustrating your product and a 3-ring binder full of exciting sales materials less expensively than you can send postcards to 100,000. Do what you can with the list you have.
Growing your list is a lot like growing a garden- it takes patience and persistent effort. And the good news is that few companies do it well – so you’ll stand out by putting forth the effort.
Have a Referral Program
Give current and prospective customers an incentive to refer other people they know that might be interested. Whether it’s formal or informal, it’s good to have an incentive plan for referrals. You could offer a discount off your product, or a first month free on a subscription product. I send fruit baskets or Omaha steaks to clients to refer other clients.
Use Other People’s Lists
To grow beyond your present list, you may need to use “other people’s lists.”
When you run an advertisement in a magazine, “the list” is the people that read that magazine. You can usually find out about the demographics of this group from the magazine’s circulation department, or listed on their rate card. If you’re selling accessories for 172s, you’re not likely to find many of them buying a magazine about military aircraft. You might have a few takers, but no matter how big the circulation or how good the rates, you’d be better off finding a publication where the demographics are people who are likely to own trainer aircraft.
You can “rent lists” from organizations or list brokers. NBAA will allow you to send snail mail (not email) t0 its list of members (or a subset of members in a geographical area or particular part of the industry) for a fee.
List Brokers are also an option – they allow you to direct mail or email a list based on demographics you specify. I’ve found that emails to purchased or rented lists have a very low rate of success. You can improve that by having a great offer and great presentation; but some people simply won’t open an email coming from someone they don’t know. Get statistics on past performance and “click through rate” with a particular list before shelling out the cash.
A more reputable option to use “other people’s lists” is with a joint marketing agreement between your company and another company that sells a related product. As an example, if you sell covers for a 172, you might offer some incentive (products or money) to a flight school in your area to advertise your product to their instructors and students.
Joint marketing agreements are also a great way to save money on postage, since you either send your offer in your list owner’s bills or packages (mail that they’re sending anyway.) Use your imagination!
Another very effective way of growing your list is to have a form on your website that prospective customers can fill in. It’s amazing how many websites don’t have a way of interacting with customers, other than a phone number. This is like having a beautiful showroom full of products with no salespeople and no cash registers. Customers now expect you to make it easy for to interact in some way.
Of course, when you collect information on your website, be sure you outline how their information will be used.
Offer An Incentive to Opt-In
Once someone has requested something specifically from your company, they have “opted-in” to your own list and you can send marketing materials to them as often as you like. (Or as often as is effective, since they always have the option of opting back out again if you’re bugging them!)
So, whether you’re using a magazine, a direct mail list, an email list, a joint marketing effort, or a form on your website; the first step is often just to get people to establish a direct relationship with your company. It may not be realistic to ask them to spend a lot of money on their first contact with you – you just want them to take one small step that has very little risk involved.
Offer a small product at a small, attractive price. Or offer something for free – a free report, a DVD or video describing your product, a free 15-minute consultation, or a free issue of a publication. Something that doesn’t involve a huge expense for you, but that offers them enough value to be worth their time, and worth the perceived risk of giving you their contact information.
Once you have a good list, it’s important to be a good correspondent. Contact people at least once a month, ideally once a week, but don’t bombard them with sales messages. Provide information that you know will be valuable to them – our 172-cover-manufacturer could provide tips on winterizing your airplane, information about ADs for Cessna models, profiles of customers who use their products, and so on. Find a good ratio of “informational” to “sales” messages, or sandwich sales messages at the end of an informational message. You want your direct mails, emails or other messages to be “welcome guests” rather than “annoying pests” to the people on your list.
Manage and Protect Your List
I’ve often said that you should manage and protect your customer list as carefully as you manage and protect your bank account.
As your list grows, you may find that you need help managing it. There are some great programs from Constant Contact, MailChimp, and InfusionSoft that manage your opt-ins, opt-outs, and give you excellent statistics on who’s opening your emails. You can use this information to fine-tune your messages- send more of those that get opened, send less of those that are less popular.
These programs have different advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs. If you have a small list, Constant Contact and MailChimp are effective an inexpensive. If you have a larger list and also want to manage faxes, phone calls and direct mail, InfusionSoft has the features you need.
In any event, your list of customers is as valuable as your product inventory. Protect your list, pay attention to it, don’t abuse it, and back it up regularly! If you had to restart your business after a computer crash, your list is probably the most important thing you’ll need.
Need Someone to Do It For You?
Many of our clients are too busy running their businesses to grow and manage their client list themselves.
Some just need help getting started.
Either way, we can design a follow up package for you!