For our most recent Facebook chat, we were pleased to have Phil Hollows stop by as our special guest. Phil is known by many for his work at FeedBlitz and is the author of List Building for Bloggers. In January, Phil will be presenting at NMX; his session is “The 7 Deadly Sins of List Building.”
If you missed our weekly Facebook chat, you can see the transcript below to see what Phil has to say about email lists.
New Media Expo Phil – Let’s start with something basic. Why does a blogger or podcaster, or anyone who creates content online need to build a list?Patti Hosking What is the most effective outreach when marketing to PR firms, Phil?Phil Hollows To build a list you can sign up with a service like mine, FeedBlitz, or you can run with plugins or other solutions for your site. You should always have an opt-in form, even for a brand new site – you never know who’s going to stop by.Megan Enloe Can’t agree more with the concept of controlling your own list as apposed to one controlled by Facebook or Twitter. If you are going to put all or most of your eggs in one basket, at least make it one you have control over.Phil Hollows Think of capturing email subscribers as the flip side to SEO. Your SEO gets the visitors *to* your site; email subscriptions enable you to *capture* them once they arrive. Else your SEO efforts may be largely wasted.Phil Hollows Hi Carol – Email address required, obviously. After that as little as possible. The more friction you add to the process the less likely a visitor will convert. For example, if you want to run a birthday promotion, don’t ask for date of birth – too personal,might put people off! Ask for birth *month* and send a mailimg to everyone that month with their birthday surprise.Phil Hollows Hi Megan: On frequncy your list will tell you when you’re getting it wrong! Too often, people will leave. Too little, people will leave. It varies for some people how much they want to hear from you, so you can offer multiple versions of your list – say a daily and a weekly digest – and offer people the choice when they sign upPhil Hollows It varies – but if you’ve a good engaged list then getting in the 20% range is very possible. For larger or more stale lists the open rate might be less – and I’ve seen large lists with 2% open rates. While that sounds bad – and it kinda is! – there’s still enough activity from that group to generate revenuePhil Hollows Dave – Start writing great content. Have an email subscription service on your site so that you get the visitors engaged and wanting to hear from you. Secondly, having a relevant incentive to join a list is a fabulous idea – there’s a trade in return for them giving you their email address.Carol McElroy McHolland Hi Phil – thanks. Yes, the conventional wisdom now says as little as possible and I tend to agree. But, that doesn’t provide for much “mining”. Would you mine information with later surveys, questions, etc.?Phil Hollows Bob: Popups work – they’re really effective – but they must be used respectfully. You need to be on the 2nd or 3rd page view of the session before you pop one up, because at that point you know the visitor’s interest has been piqued and they’re exploring more. The popups that slam into your face before one has even had teh chance to tread the first page show that the site owner doesn’t respect me as a prospect. I always bug out.Phil Hollows Carol: For mining you can always ask for more information when you move the visitor down the funnel. So for a blog subscription you migth just want email address. For an e-book or white paper, perhaps name and (for corporates) job title, company etc.Phil Hollows OK so what gets the best response? The content that’s the best fit for your audience! But if you’re writing a post with an action in mind, make sure that you have a clear, explicit call to action.Phil Hollows And I’m a big believer in making calls to action imperative and to the point. get the download. Buy now. Don’t be like me and be all English and say “please”! Be the boot camp drill sergeant and TELL THEM what to doPhil Hollows LOL Bob! That 20% rate should be a unique rate – at least per day. But if you see a recipient engaging multiple times with a piece, that’s a great “tell” that you’ve written something they’re very interested in.Allison Boyer ” I’m a big believer in making calls to action imperative and to the point” – love that advice, I think a lot of marketing via email (and otherwise) is just too wordy. Any advice for self-editing? I’m bad at that personally and my communications always seem to go on too long.Phil Hollows And if your actions end up being say a purchase or a download, what you want to maximize is the # of people taking that action at the end of the day. So you might want to consider testing more focused subject lines or calls to action if that yields better desired activity. I mean, everyone loves kittens, right? So lots of opens for cute kitten emails. Pretty poor impact if what you want to do is sell a book on oil drilling.Phil Hollows The other great thing you can do is build lists based on activity. So if soneone’s downlaoded an ebook, say, or already bought from your store, they’re MUCH mroe likely to repeat that activity. So target them with mailings – they will be much more effective than a general broadcast.Phil Hollows So for example, if you download the FeedBurner Migration Guide from FeedBlitz, our goal is to have you start a trial. So the autoresponder you get when you download the Guide helps explain all the good things you can do at FeedBlitz thaht you can’t at Feedburner. Then, when a trial starts, we start you off on a training course sequence to help you be sucessful. We’re trying to nurture the prospect into being a trial user, and then a trial user into becoming a successful customer.Phil Hollows OTOH Copyblogger’s are typically longer because the agenda is much more educational. If you’re posting about food, perhaps it’s better to have the whole recipe in the email. So longer is better.Phil Hollows I know that I’ve sent several thousand-word emails out because I was writing my book (ListBuildingForBloggers.com) one hapter – one blog post! – at a time. But the interesting thing was, those who did read all the words were really engaged with them anbd bought the book. So it really does vary! See what works best for your audiencePhil Hollows Carol – I tend not to subscribe to much beyond what I need for the mission here at FeedBlitz. I think one example of what NOT to do (although it was creative!) was American Apparel’s crossing the taste line with their Hurricane Sandy email promotion.Phil Hollows For example, many of feedBlitz’s customers happen to be coupon / deal bloggers. Coupons expire and their subscribers want the best deals *now* – so these guys often have “express” mailings that mail out multiple times a day – it’s what works for their audience.Phil Hollows For some people though a daly mailing starts to feel like they are being “bombarded” – and that’s a quick way to low engagement, unsubscribes and spam complaints. You don’t want that. That’s why we recommend creating a weekly digest variant of yout blog subscription, where you can mail out a summary of the week’s activities autoamtically.