A colleague recently said to me, “No one has found the winning formula for successful online direct marketing yet.”
I disagree. A number of companies—including ETR, Agora Publishing, and Weiss Research—know exactly what works and are making small fortunes with it.
The primary concept is that online marketing works best when you e-mail to people who already know you.
Therefore, successful online marketers build their “house file” or “e-list” (lists of prospects and their e-mail addresses) using the process outlined below, and then sell to those people via continual e-mail marketing:
First, build a website that positions you or your organization as an expert, guru, or leader in your field or industry. This is the “base of operations” for your online marketing campaign.
Next, write a short special report or white paper relating to the problem your product or service addresses, and make this available to people who visit your site. They can download it for free, but in exchange, they have to register and give you their e-mail address (and any other information you want to capture).
Consider also offering a monthly online newsletter, or “e-zine”. People who visit your site can subscribe free if they register and give you their e-mail address.
Now, your mission is to drive traffic to your site where you get them to sign up for either your free report or free e-zine. Once they register, you have their e-mail address and can now market to them via e-mail as often as you like at minimal cost.
How do you drive people to your site to register and get on your e-list? There are about a dozen methods that work, including free publicity, e-mail marketing, postcards, banner advertising co-registrations, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, direct mail, and online ads in other people’s e-zines.
The key to success is to try a lot of different tactics in small and inexpensive tests, throw out the ones that don’t work, and do more of the ones that are effective.
And now for the secret: The bulk of your online leads, sales, and profits will come from repeat e-mail marketing to this “house” e-list of prospects.
Acquiring new customers by sending e-mails to rented opt-in lists—as many marketers do—almost never works. Therefore your goal is to build a large e-list of qualified prospects as quickly and inexpensively as you can.
Once you have built your in-house e-list, you have an incredibly valuable asset: A database of online prospects you can market to, as often as you like, for almost zero cost and who will be highly responsive to your offers.
These twin virtues—high response and low/no cost—make your house e-list a goldmine of profits for your business.
Continually e-mail them—free content, articles, new messages, new products, and new offers. You almost can’t e-mail this list too much (if you do, you’ll notice an increase in the “opt-out” rate—the percentage who “unsubscribe”).
One of our colleagues, for example, publishes financial newsletters, primarily online. He offered his online customers a hardcover investment guide he sells for $100 (his printing cost is just $2 a book).
He told us he sold 4,000 copies, with all the sales generated by sending e-mails to his house file. That’s an extra $400,000 in gross sales, with zero direct mail printing, postage, or list rental costs.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.