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Phil Hollows: Chat Transcript


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 Hi! Several reasons: Because email is the most engaging subscription mechanism available because it is the most engaging
Phil Hollows So compare an email update to a tweet or an FB post – it’s much richer and more appealing for readers, which yields much greater engagement
Phil Hollows Seth Godin says that his email readership engages 10x more than any other mechanism
New Media Expo All – don’t forget to refresh your page to see responses and new questions.
Phil Hollows Secondly, you own and control your list. That’s a big deal when Facebook and other social sites change the rules, hide updates etc.
New Media Expo How does one even begin building a list?
Phil Hollows So if the rules change or your Google rank tanks, your email readership will be there for you and your business
Phil Hollows @Patti I don’t know – not my area of expertise ;)
Carol McElroy McHolland Generally speaking – what are the minimum stats/pieces of info you would ask for in an opt-in email form? Which would you require and which would be optional?
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.
Megan Enloe How often should an email go out to your list? How much is too much or too little?
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.
Rick Calvert that’s a good tip Phil!
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 up
Phil Hollows That way they self-select into the time frame they’re comfortable hearing from you – greater engagement, fewer unsubscribes.
New Media Expo What is a good open rate, Phil Hollows?
Mary Jo Manzanares I like the birthday example Phil. I’m of that age where I’m offended when it asks for a year.
Dave Cynkin Phil, for content creators who don’t have a handle on content marketing yet, what advice would you give them for inviting visitors to join their list and providing something of value?
Phil 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 revenue
Megan Enloe Unless you’re my doctor you don’t get to ask for my birthday.
Phil Hollows What you really need to do, whatever the open rate, is work on improving it. Looking for patterns.
Phil Hollows So short, SEO-optimized keyworkd rich post titles translate really well into email subejct lines
Phil Hollows Get the important information at the start of the subject line
Phil Hollows Because on a smart phone in portrait mode you only have about 35 characters and the blink of an eye to persuade the owner to open the email. Make it count!
Phil 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.
Phil Hollows It helps establish trust and value from the very beginning.
New Media Expo Phil Hollows – Please share some common mistakes people make when building their lists and also in marketing to those on their lists.
Phil Hollows Great questions! Let’s see on common mistakes…
Phil Hollows 1) Hiding the email subscription option below the fold or behind an ambiguous icon.
Phil Hollows 2) Not offering incentives to enncourage new signups
Phil Hollows 3) Being too aggressive with popups! <– Pet Peeve
Phil Hollows 4) Writing rambly subject lines and / or redundantly repeating site name / company in the subject line
Phil Hollows In terms of errors when building a list:
New Media Expo Phil Hollows Please also share some ways we can entice our communities to join our list.
Phil Hollows 1) Not mailing enough or mailing too often
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 2) all “20% off, free shipping” and not providing content / value
Bob Dunn oh, I hate popups … but question back on the open rates, do open rates show just the first time that it’s opened, or is it counted if they go back and open again, as I usually get around 60%
Phil Hollows 3) Not creating targeted lists for different content categories
Phil Hollows 4) Going too far off topic!
Phil Hollows To join a list make sure your form(s) are clearly visible, above the fold
Phil Hollows Use social proof (x,000 readers) to help visitors realize that they are not alone and that they can trust you
Phil Hollows Incentives!
Phil Hollows Use email signup links in your email signature, business cards and printed / offline collateral.
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.
New Media Expo What type of newsletter or email content receives the best response , Phil Hollows?
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.
Bob Dunn Yeah, I grumble because they are effective, like you, it’s a pet peeve :)
Phil Hollows There’s no point asking for information if it isn’t relevant to the mission or if you’re never going to use it.
Phil Hollows So the deeper in you get, the viasitor is that much more engaged and willing to part with more information to get the more valuable item you’re offering.
Phil Hollows Bob – don’t get me started ;)
Carol McElroy McHolland I realize all industries are different, but can you give an example or two of fresh/creative/useful execution you’ve seen recently?
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.
Bob Dunn did you see the other part of my comment questioning open rates? … should have known better to start if off with a comment on popups
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 do
New Media Expo Phil Hollows Which brings us to – how can you tell what gets the best response?
Phil 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 how to tell? Metrics, metrics, metrics. Track what subject lines delivered the most opens. Figure out why. Test!
Phil Hollows Vary calls to action – what happens to your click through rates?
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 hey Allison :) Practice! Think SEO keywords.
Carol McElroy McHolland Hey Allison – I read this book once a year – it’s a classic and I promise it will help. :) See below…
New Media Expo When it comes to the short attention span, Phil Hollows, should email communication be brief or do people generally read through?
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 Also use autoresponders to nuture people based on what they have done.
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 Tough to keep up! Great questions :)
Phil Hollows OK so mostly brevity is the soul of wit, so if you can get your point across quickly, so much the better. Seth Godin’s emails are ytpically very brief – learn!
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 audience
Carol McElroy McHolland Excellent example re: FeedBlitz/FeedBurner. “and then a trial user into becoming a SUCCESSFUL customer.”.
New Media Expo Is it bad form to send out more than one email per day – if they all tout something different?
Phil 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 Sending more than one email ad day is OK *if* that’s what the subscriber list expects and *if* it’s relevant
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.
Phil Hollows Five minutes! Have I missed anyone?!
Phil Hollows (LOL – Facebook is asking me to slow down – hope they don’t block me from this chat!)
New Media Expo Phil Hollows Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your lunch hour with us. I hope you won’t be a stranger to the NMX community and we’ll see you in January!
Phil Hollows Join me at my talk in January at NMX “The Seven Deadly Sins of List Building”
Dan R Morris Oh man. . . I get here right at the end.
Phil Hollows You can also follow me on Twitter as @phollows email me phil@feedblitz.com
Carol McElroy McHolland Thanks, Phil. Cheers! :)
Phil Hollows THANK YOU so much for inviting me here to chat – it was a pleasure and a privilege :)
Megan Enloe Thanks for stopping by Phil.
Megan Enloe No problem Dan. Phil Hollows will be at the Expo in January. You can ask your questions in person:-)
Bob Dunn Thanks Phil a lot of great stuff here… now have to go and get my next newsletter ready to send out via Feedblitz :)
New Media Expo Also, I’m sure Phil Hollows won’t mind coming back to respond to any late questions. We’re always open on the Facebook page!
Allison Boyer Thank you, Phil! See you in January!
Our next Facebook chat will be tomorrow, Wednesday, November 7 at 10am PT/1pm ET. Our special guest will be Chris Ducker who will discuss outsourcing. Chris will also be presenting his session, “45 Things New Media Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business” at New Media Expo in January, so be sure to see him live at the event!


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