Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quick guide to building an opt-in list

Stage 1

In the first stage, you have identified a target audience. Let’s stay with dog owners. I prefer Old English Sheepdogs myself, but let’s stay with the more generic category, dog owners. I’ve suggested a cumulative total of 3,000 dog owners that will be targeted in three different media. Obviously, there are far more than 3,000 dog owners out there, but we’ll be conservative.

Stage 2

Next, find places where these folks would normally be drawn to for information. Your own content-oriented site would be my favorite, or an e-zine that focuses on the needs of dog owners. You can also find numerous free places to advertise. Ruth, in Vestal NY, has a website where she categorizes and catalogs all the ezines that are available. She tells you who the readers are (ie, dog lovers, teachers, etc) and the average number of readers. For $100, you can get a year’s subscription to this site.

As well, you want to optimize your own destination or home page so that people can find you on the search engines. A great place to learn more about search engine placement is Robin Nobles’ and Susan O’neil’s, Maximize Web Site Traffic: Build Web site Traffic Fast and Free by Optimizing Search Engine Placement, or Fredridk Marckini’s book, Search Engine Positioning: Grow Your Web Site Traffic by Achieving Top 10 Search Engine Rankings.

Again, we’ll assume that the average monthly readership or visitors to each place is 1,000. Let’s assume a click-through response rate of 1%, so that each location yields 10 prospects, for a total of 30.

Stage 3

Here’s where you really start leveraging your time. An autoresponder is nothing more than a sophisticated email address. Think of it as your automated electronic employee, working for you 24/7/365. At predetermined times, the autoresponder automatically sends out your pre-formatted messages to people that have responded to ads, search engine inquiries, e-zine placements, web site articles, referrals, etc. Let’s say your advertisement was for a free canine-related newsletter you publish. If the respondent replies, they’ll also receive a free report on the care and feeding of miniature, small, medium and large breed dogs. When they click, the autoresponder automatically sends the report as an email.

Stage 4
One of two things also happens. The first might be that a web form pops up immediately to collect their name address, telephone, email address and other qualifying information. A form is nothing more than an electronic version of a piece of paper where you gather information. For example, see the form I use to collect information on business opportunity seekers at

The second possibility is that the respondent is redirected to your own content rich web site, or even someone else’s. This is a “softer” direct approach because not only are they getting a free report, they also just discovered a great information packed site to come back to. They get more bang for their click. At your web site, they can browse around and read to their heart’s delight on every conceivable topic related to dog owners. Here is also where they would fill out the same type of form mentioned above.

Stage 5
The autoresponder collects, stores and puts into database fashion format every name that is submitted. That database then contains your opt-in list of names of like-minded people, in this case dog owners.

The autoresponder also keeps track of when messages have been sent out and when to send any follow up messages. Marketers know it takes somewhere between 7 to 10 communications with a prospective client before the prospect will buy. That’s what the autoresponder does with those preformatted messages. The first message was the free report. You preprogram the autoresponder to send out another message in, say 3 days, then 5 days, then 2 days, then 7 days. This is what I call following up on a “regular irregular” basis. In other words, don’t make the delivery of the message an expected event. It’s that follow up that will generate profits.

On a ratio of three to one, send out three informational messages to one “soft-sell” message. The “soft-sell” message is primarily informational, but couched inside the message is some promotional content. For example, you might have sent out three messages about the grooming habits of various breeds. The fourth message might also be about grooming, but it suggests a site where they can go to get grooming tools. Maybe that’s your site or an affiliate’s (see number 4 below). It’s a soft sell, but one that educates as well. Be sure to include you name and email on each letter that is sent. In this way, you make yourself more accountable and earn the trust of those that are receiving your email.

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