Traditionally, there are two main ways to get permission to contact someone: online, with web forms and squeeze pages; and offline, at the point of sale or through some other form or direct contact. You can also use advertisements, telesales and other marketing methods to seek permission instead of, or as well as, making a sale
Mobile technology and social media have now added even more opportunities to gain this permission. Obtaining permission and adding people’s contact details to a database is known as “list building”.
Offline List Building
Traditional face to face selling and low-technology marketing can be very effective in building a list of people you can sell to. If anything, real-world contact and permission gained in this way will form a stronger connection with your customers and make them more responsive to your marketing messages.
Point of Sale
Whether someone is already buying from you or just making enquiries, the point of sale is an excellent opportunity to “capture” their details and get their permission to contact them again. Contact information is easily gathered when you make a sale, and offering more information by email or post is a good way to get people’s contact details when they just make an enquiry.
Exhibitions and Displays
You can think of exhibitions and displays much the same as you would your point of sale, except here you will be promoting more than selling. This means the focus will be mostly on collecting people’s contact details or giving them something to take away that will encourage them to contact you.
You can also run competitions (draws or sweepstakes) from your display or stand, and collect people’s details when they enter. Note that people must still give permission for you to contact them with offers, etc, and you can’t make entry into a free competition conditional on them doing so. If they say no to joining your mailing list you must still let them enter but NOT add them to your list. Most people will be quite happy to be added, though, so competitions can be a very good way to build your mailing list.
You can also add people to your list when they respond to your ads to get more information – which is a lot easier than trying to sell them something right away. People can call a special number (even a recorded message), write to a specific address, or visit a website. To give them this information you will need their contact details so you can call back, post an information pack or send them an email.
Business Cards and Printed Literature
There are two ways you can use business cards, leaflets and flyers:
1. Include a call to action; that is, tell people to call, write, email or visit a website (including a reason to do so)
2. Collect other people’s cards, etc, and contact them first
All business literature aimed at potential customers, clients or partners should include a clear and enticing call to action. In this case you want people to contact you so they can be added to your database. They will usually need an incentive to do this, though they might just anyway an interest in hearing more about your products or services.
When you take a business card from someone or pick up some printed literature, always consider adding them to your database. If you’re face to face you can ask them if they are happy to receive more information from you. If you’re not face to face, you have to consider whether to add them or not.
Sending one speculative email to a potential customer is not usually thought of as spamming, as long as you make it clear how they can easily remove themselves from your mailing list. Most of us receive direct mail with our post and think little of it. A personal phone call can be more welcome or less, but remember the rules are generally stricter on these things for private numbers and addresses than they are for businesses.
The rule is; if people are happy to be added to your list, then add them, and never be afraid to ask.
Online List BuildingBy online list building we mean using a website or the Internet in some way to attract and interest people, to collect their contact details, and then to add them to a database.
There are four distinct ways to use the Internet for list building, with an almost endless number of variations and innovations. Four ways to build a list online are using:
• Squeeze Pages
• Web Forms on Other Pages
• Mobile Pages
• Facebook and other Social Media Sites
Squeeze pages are dedicated pages designed to do nothing more than extract people’s contact information by means of an online form, with some text or perhaps a video explaining the benefits of completing the form. Usually, there will be an incentive of some kind. In this example, it’s a free report:
Fig 1 A simple sign up form added to a web page
When people sign up through these forms, they are automatically added to your mailing list. We’ll look at how to create this automated list builder later.
Other Website Pages
Forms can be added to every page on a website, either in the side bar or the main part of the page, or they can be added as floating forms, pop-ups, etc. They should include a concise call to action and an incentive on each page or pop up.
With as many people accessing websites from their mobile devices as with computers, mobile websites can also be very effective in collecting viewers’ contact details. This might just be their mobile number to make it easier than trying to key in email addresses, etc, on a tiny screen or keypad.
Facebook and Social Media
Forms can be added to Facebook Business Pages, links can be added to tweets and it’s likely other social media sites like
Google+ will add more functions like this soon.
Fig 2 A sign up form can be added to a Facebook Page
Meanwhile, you can also send messages and updates with links to offers, etc, to your followers, fans and “Likers” through the social media sites. In other words, your lists of followers and fans are also databases you can use for permission marketing.
Getting Social Media Contacts onto Your Database
Apart from adding sign up forms to Facebook you can also point people towards your squeeze pages and offer pages and so add some of them to your main database. Twitter is widely used for this, or it can be used to ask people to Like a Facebook Page. Ideally, every tweet and update should include a link and a reason to click it.
People need a good reason to give you their contact details and in most cases this means you need to give them something in return. This is sometimes called an “ethical bribe” and it’s established practise to persuade people in this way.
Incentives can include:
• Useful Reports
• Additional Information
• Club Membership
• Discounts and Offers
• Exclusive Access to Services, Expertise or Training.
The purpose of all these incentives is to persuade people to join your mailing list. As a side-benefit you can also demonstrate your expertise, the quality of your products, or your brand.
Reports are welcome information, often aimed at helping people with a particular issue: saving money; making money; improving their health and so on. A report will usually focus on one aspect or method and when it’s done well it can be a useful resource and might well be passed on.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to include a link to your squeeze page (in the footer or at least on the last page) to encourage people to sign up for the latest version of the report.
Courses Courses can be a very good incentive for some types of business, especially those selling training, business opportunities or other information products. They are usually delivered by email or by post and can be delivered:
• All at once
• In a few parts delivered over the course of a few days
• Regular weekly or monthly lessons
Emails are much cheaper than post, of course, and can easily be automated.
For a free course it’s usually best to offer a good amount of content quickly so people feel they will soon be able to put it to use. After this, more information can be sent at longer intervals, keeping people interested and encouraging them to stay on your mailing list.
More information about a subject they’re interested in is a good incentive for many people. This can be information about your product or service, more general information about the type of business you’re in (eg, property investment methods if you’re a property company), or information about a place, occupation, hobby or anything else relevant to your business or area of expertise.
Additional information can be sent by email, in print or on a CD or DVD, or you can give people access to the information online through a secure web page.
Giving people access to a club, especially an “exclusive” club can be a good incentive for them to sign up. The club has to offer some benefits, of course, but these can be varied and not too specific.
A membership can be run online, using a membership website, or it can be run by post or could include telephone access or teleseminars. Since it will be free for members to use, choose whatever option gives maximum value at low cost to you. Of course, you can always offer a paid version as an upsell.
Discounts and Offers
If someone is interested in your products and services, or related products and services, they should certainly be interested in your discounts and special offers.
Collecting people’s contact details means you can sell more to these people, which covers the cost of discounts and offers. It’s likely they will stay on your list for as long as you offer them good, exclusive deals and especially when you make ordering from you as simple as possible.
Exclusive Access, Training, Trials and Samples
One thing that no one else can offer is exclusive access to you and your company. Although you need to be careful how much you give away for free, a taste of what you offer can be a good way to sell more of your services.
Some examples are: a free consultation; a no-strings quote; one month’s free membership or some other trial or sample in exchange for being added to your mailing list.
There are a few factors to consider when you obtain permission to add someone to your database or mailing list. It’s important to comply with regulations and local laws, although these are mostly simple and straightforward, and it’s good practise to be completely open with your prospective customers about the kind of information you will be sending them.
This is especially true with email marketing, where the four main things to consider are:
• Double opt-ins
• Spam Regulations (and perceptions)
• Unsubscribe options
While it’s not compulsory in the UK to use a double opt-in system, it does reduce the risk of complaints. Sometimes people forget they have joined your mailing list or misunderstand what this means – that is, that you will be emailing them. Ask them to click a link in your first email to confirm they really want to hear from you – opting in for a second time, in effect – and they have no reasonable cause to complain.
Double opt-ins like this are recommended for most businesses building a mailing list, most of the time. Although the double opt-in isn’t mandatory in the UK, it is in some other countries, notably the US. To minimise the risk of complaints from people who don’t remember signing up or don’t understand what they signed up to, a double opt-in is thus usually wise. Asking people to confirm will mean fewer people joining your list but they will be people who definitely want and expect to hear from you – potential customers, in fact.
SpamSpam is unwanted and unsolicited email, and spamming is what you might be accused of if you don’t use the double opt-in we’ve just discussed. You will also be spamming people if you send them messages after extracting or “scraping” their contact details from another source, and especially if you do this repeatedly.
Although it might seem quite reasonable to most of us to send a single unsolicited email to a business, just as you might send a letter or make a phone call, many people feel differently, and especially when the email, letter or call is to a private household. Even if sending one email or letter or making a single call still seems reasonable to you, be aware that there are people who will complain if you do.
Many people subscribe to a service that blocks unwanted sales calls and junk mail. Emails are easier to smuggle through but you don’t want to be labelled a spammer, since you could find yourself banned by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Unwanted and unsolicited contact very rarely leads to a sale anyway, so don’t bother. If you do send a speculative email to a business, always make it clear to the recipient that they can easily remove themselves from your mailing list and you won’t bother them again.
Every message you send to your subscribers should include an “unsubscribe” option – a clear message telling people they can unsubscribe and a simple way for them to do so. With automated email systems this will be a simple link in the email that unsubscribes them from the database when they click it.
This link will be added automatically (and you can’t delete it) by systems like AWeber, Constant Contact, MailChimp and others, and will usually be found at the bottom of the email. They will look something like this:
Fig 4 Unsubscribe links added automatically to email messages
If you send messages manually (using Outlook, Windows Mail or others), you must include a statement in every message saying that the recipient will be removed from your list on request. This statement can be as simple as a line in each message that says, “To stop receiving messages from us please reply to this email with the word ‘Unsubscribe’ in the subject line.”
The two most important things are that people CAN unsubscribe and that they know they can. It’s obviously very important that subscribers are removed from your list when they ask to be. Sending messages after people have unsubscribed is another form of spamming.